Yala FAQ & Tips

Nearest town to Yala –

Tissamaharama is the nearest town to Yala and the distance is 22Km.

Driver from Colombo – 

It takes about 6-8 hours.

Park opening hours – 

6a.m to 6p.m

Mode of game drive – 

By Jeep

How we can arrange the transportation from hotels away in Yala?

We can arrange taxi for you. Don’t worry if you are staying far away from Yala, we can pick up from your hotels for safari. Our friendly drivers will pick you up and drop you off from air port, any hotel or anywhere inside the island. Please contact us for arrange taxi service.

Can we definitely see leopards? 

Yala Block 1 – Where we run our Yala safaris – has the highest density of leopards in the world, so there is no better place on earth to see leopards. This being said, there is no guarantee in the wild. We cannot promise you a leopard sighting, but your best chances of one are in Yala.

Is the Sri Lankan leopard a subspecies?

Yes, the Sri Lankan Leopard (panthera pardus kotiya) is a subspecies, and it is actually the largest leopard in the wild.

Why is it easy to see leopards in Sri Lanka?

Because in Sri Lanka they are the top predator (Because there are no tigers, lions or cheetahs they have to hide from).

Why don’t the Sri Lankan elephants have tusks?

Only 6% of male Asian elephants have tusks, which is why it is rare to spot a tusker in Sri Lanka

What should we wear on the safari?

Light clothing in natural colors is best for the safaris. A jumper for the early morning drive can also be useful as sometimes it can be a little chilly. Don’t worry too much about shoes, flip flops will do just fine since you will be in the jeep the whole time

I’m traveling with children; will it be too boring for them?

We find that children generally enjoy their safaris as much as adults. Experiencing the jungle can be a fascinating and educational experience for kids and we try to make it as fun as possible for them.

What is the maximum number of people in each jeep?

The maximum number of people in each jeep is 6.

Are there any do’s and don’ts whilst on safari?

 

Don’t wander off by yourself, don’t wear perfume or perfumed products as the smells can really affect the animals, do have fun!

Are we allowed to smoke at the Park?

No, smoking is prohibited inside the park.

Tips for Photographing Wildlife in Yala by ” Bruce Colin “

I’ve been photographing wildlife for over 31 years and I have been fortunate enough in my travels to have had, for the most part, wonderful guides and drivers who knew my needs concerning  the basic requirements for obtaining exceptional wildlife images.

My booking with Ajith Jeep Safaris was certainly a positive experience and my driver/guide Anushka was more than knowledgeable and helpful.

However I too have the responsibility of being prepared so everyone is on the same page concerning my wildlife photography goals.

Weather, lighting, other vehicles vying for a position, to get shots of that leopard, camera angles, dust, these are some of the variables that have to be taken into consideration. But aside from predicaments that are beyond my control, here are a few things that I’ve learned to make my job easier in order to obtain decent wildlife images.

1. Equipment Preparation: Before an early morning shoot I test all camera batteries, flash equipment, lenses. I make sure I have lens tissue, back up batteries and empty flash cards and it is all packed and ready to go in my camera case before I traipse out the door in a blurry haze at 5:30 in the morning.

2. Camera and lens support: I use sturdy bean bags for lens and camera support. Before a safari,  I practice where I’ll be sitting in the jeep so I’ll have a fairly good idea as to where to place my beanbag once wildlife sightings begin.

3. Shake rattle and roll. If there are more than several photographers in the jeep,  have strategies whereby everyone should try to stay still while you’re taking crucial photographs. We’re only taking about a few minutes while, for instance, a leopard is in front of the vehicle.

Try to remain as still as possible when photographing.  Have all the photographers take turns while shooting. This is easier said than done, but if this plan is discussed beforehand it saves a lot of frustration and blurry images.

4. Stock Still: Above all use slow and methodical movements when raising your camera to take a shot.The jeep’s motor should be turned off to prevent camera shack. A state of Zen has helped me focus literally on the subject so that I am totally absorbed in the moment, with no distractions, just a wonderful image in the viewfinder of a truly wildlife subject.

5. Direction of Light:  Experienced photographers eventually become aware of how vital an understand of lighting is in order to achieve the highest standard of images.

Yala is tricky in terms of the direction of  light. You are constantly weaving in and out of jungle roadways where the sun appears in front of you one minute and behind you in the next. The best lighting for photography is usually when the subject is illuminated from the front and the sun over your shoulder.

In the case of back lighting ( when the  sun is facing you) there are some excellent shots that can be achieved as well but this requires a knowledge of proper camera settings which will allow for the correct exposures that work with backlit subjects

6. Biodiversity: Sometimes less is more. I know that in Yala everyone wants to see a leopard but someone truly interested in Yala’s biodiversity does not necessarily want to wait in a line of many cars to take grab a snapshot of the cat when there is so much more  extraordinary wildlife to photograph.

If you are traveling the roads just before dusk, chances are you might spot a leopard and without the crowds. This happened to us three times in Yala and it happened because of an experienced driver/guide, some luck and the fact that we were still in the park driving around just before closing.

7. Along side the road: Most of your wildlife sightings will take place alongside the roads. Bee eaters, for example, will often land on the branches right next to your vehicle, actually within touching distance. They are quite skittish and react to the slightest movement , so it is best,  as I suggested before, to raise your camera slowly and methodically.  This has become a vital technique for me whenever I’m photographing wildlife subjects. If you stop the jeep and wait quietly, with cameras ready to go, chances are the bird will return to its perch and you’ll have another chance of getting a decent shot.

8. Respect the needs of wildlife:This goes without saying and Yala is run very efficiently in terms of wildlife protection and the protection of visitors.

9. Savor the Experience: The sights and sounds of Yala are truly memorable. Hearing the calls of birds, the rustling of an elephant making its way through the foliage along the side of the road. Listening to the surf from the Bay of Bengal; watching a Yala sunset. These  sensations are many of the natural ingredients which lead to inspiring nature photographs.

10. Photo Briefing: Ajith and his staff are only too happy to plan the highlights of your safari beforehand. They will  assist you in obtaining fairly decent images. Wildlife sightings are unpredictable however  I found that I was offered a worthwhile and unforgettable excursion into a magnificent ecosystem which is raw, beautiful and rare. By the way, I saw and photographed leopards on three different days.

Weather

Yala National is situated in the dry zone of Sri Lanka and the climate is hot and humid.
The mean annual temperature is 27 degrees Celsius, although in the dry season temperatures can reach 37 Celsius during the hottest part of the day. Rains bring relief to the fauna and flora during the North east monsoon from November to January. Rains are frequent but usually last only for an hour or so a day, bringing respite to the heat of the day and quickly giving way to sunny skies. Some of the best photographic opportunities present themselves when the jungle takes on a richer color palette during the monsoon with seasonal flowers and lush green vegetation. Unpredictable inter-monsoonal rains occur in March or April. This period from October to April can be the best time of year to view elephants and migratory birds. The birds fly thousands of kilometers to avoid the harsh winter conditions from as far north as Siberia to Yala, one of the most southern points of their migration.

The main dry season spreads from May/June to October. The park is particularly dusty during this time of year and many water holes dry up and others become concentrated with fish allowing the birdlife and crocodiles to make easy pickings. Leopards and other mammals with distinct ranges can be forced to come to specific waterholes to get a drink. This time of year is ideal to spot elephants, buffalo, spotted deer, wild boar, eagles, owls and kingfishers whilst you are on a safari.

Leopards and other wildlife can be viewed all year round in, we recommend visiting Yala at any time of the year. Unlike parks in India and Africa it is possible to visit and travel around Yala during the wet season. The possibility of rain should not dampen your spirits.
Should it a heavy rain you will be protected from fully covered covers on our Luxury jeeps. During sunshine hours after heavy rainfall many animals such as leopards may come out into the sun to dry themselves. Please be aware that the weather in Sri Lanka can be erratic and the seasons here are continually shifting. No weather is predictable.

What to pack

Soft, lightly colored clothing that blends with nature
Sunscreen
Jumper for Morning drives
Good camera
Binoculars
Extra memory cards, batteries
Sun glasses
Sun hat or cap
Scarf or Dust mask for dust protection
Swimwear (For Full day safaris and choose to swim in the river)
Personal items

Do’s and Don’ts

Avoid wearing white and other bright colors while on safari
Don’t take anything from the park
Use water sparingly
Never leave your vehicle except at designated get off points where it is permitted to do so
Whisper at sightings, a loud human voice may disturb animals and cause them to charge their behavior and movements
Be conscious of wrappers and other litter flying out of your vehicle
Always keep children under strict supervision and never allowed to wonder away
Never feed the animals and always keeps a safe distance from them

Every time you enter to a nature reserve you’re stepping to a world of discovery a place where beauty, enchantment, and wonder are everywhere. Here the unexpected can always expected, an unforgettable journey waits for you. Enjoy the adventure with us.