Yala National Park is an amazing area full of a diverse variety of wildlife in Sri Lanka. If I had one choice of a park to visit, this would be the one. I saw crocodiles, elephants, leopards (including some adorable cubs), a sloth bear, jackalopes, eagles, peacocks, deer, water buffalo and so much more. It was so nice to be with the animals in their natural setting. If you have time to visit a second park while you are there, I also recommend Udawalawe National Park. It has the most elephants in Sri Lanka, and they are a joy to watch.
If this is the main attraction that you want to see in Sri Lanka, the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) (also known as the Hambantota International Airport) is much closer than the airport in Colombo. The unfortunate part about this airport though, is that it is so close to the animal sanctuaries that it has driven a great deal of the animals away. It is sad to me, that the planners weren’t more thoughtful of the animal’s natural habitat in such a sacred and special place. Tissamaharama is a good place to base yourself out of when looking for a hotel room, as it is halfway between both Yala National Park and Udawalawe Park. You can usually arrange for your hotel to book you on a safari tour with a tour operator. You will usually be under a Land Rover’s covering, but I still recommend bringing sunscreen and a hat. Binoculars will also add to your experience to see the eagles and peacocks that are in the trees. I also recommend the early morning tour as the sunrise is just beautiful and the light for capturing great photo’s of the animals is the best then. In Udawalawe National Park, it is also mandatory to hire a guide, so make sure you bring money not just for the park entrance, but, also for the guide as well . The guide will also expect a tip, so come prepared, and enjoy the natural beauty that these parks and their animals have to share.