Yala National Park
Yala is the most visited National Park in Sri Lanka and is home to a variety of fauna. Yala National Park is the largest collection of area that is protected in the country. Yala is also considered as one of the 70 most Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka; expected since it is home to about 215 bird species which includes six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The dry season falls between May and August. The Kumbukkan Oya and the Menik Ganga provide a source of water to animals during the entire year, keeping the Park healthy.
Yala National Park has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.
Yala National Park is geographically located in Sri Lanka at latitude 06°16′ – 06°42′ North and longitude 81°15′ – 81°42′ East. The Park can be visited via the town of Tissamaharama in the Hambantota District of the Southern Province. The Block I boundaries of the Park, take in 19 kilometers of sea coast in the southeast from Amaduwa to Yala, 19 kilometers from Yala up the Menik Ganga to Pahalahentota, 19 kilometers from Pahalahentota to Bambawa, and 3 kilometers from Bambawa to Palatupana.
Being located in one of the dry regions of Sri Lanka, the climate of Ruhuna National Park is usually hot and dry. The area receives its annual rainfall during the north-east monsoon from November to January, and unpredictable inter-monsoonal rains in March/April and September. The annual temperature near sea level is 27 C, although in the dry season a daily maximum of 37 C is not uncommon.
The earliest inscriptions discovered in the Southern region date back to the 2nd century B.C. Prior to this the Indo-Aryan settlers from Northern India was in full control of the area. Earliest monastery’ wherever there was human habitation and in suitable rock caves. These caves are spread into many in the areas and it is a tourist attraction now.
Yala National Park is situated in the kingdom of Ruhuna which had an advanced civilization by evidence of the remains of dagabas and reservoirs built to irrigate large extents of cultivable land.
In 1938, Yala Game Sanctuary was declared as a National Park. Records shows that the first Game Ranger of the Sanctuary was H.H. Engelbrecht, a prisoner of war who was not returned to South Africa on account of his refusal to swear allegiance to the British monarchy came to the nearby coastal town of Hambantota. The Government Agent of the district made him the custodian of the Game Sanctuary around 1908.
Several irrigation tanks are still visible, together with natural water holes. These sources of water are helpful for the survival of the wildlife. Several natural rock pools contain water throughout the year.
In the southeast, the Park is bounded by the sea. Unspoilt natural beaches and sand dunes provide a beautiful environment. This is surely one of the most spectacular seascapes of Sri Lanka. Far out at sea are two lighthouses which are named as the great and little basses. The extensive parkland that surround the lagoons offer visitors superb locations for viewing animals and bird life.