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Wildlife Photography in Sri Lanka: A Guide to Yala Safari at Yala National Park

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We all know that Sri Lanka is a great destination to visit. The people are friendly, the climate is lovely and it’s blessed by nature; the rich flora and fauna of the country. That being the case, the question that probably brought you in this direction is, ‘Is Sri Lanka a good destination for Wildlife Photography?’

Sri Lanka is a great country to visit, there is much to see and experience on this small island in the Indian Ocean. When it comes to wildlife photography, Sri Lanka does have some places you can visit to spot wildlife. One of the best places to catch the native animals in action is the Yala National Park. 

Located in the southeast part of Sri Lanka, the Yala National Park is about a 5-hour journey from Colombo. 

Sri Lanka is home to many animals. In fact, it isn’t rare to catch monkeys on trees, peacocks wander the streets and of course elephants who are encountered near the wild on a very frequent basis. Due to human activity and expansion, these animals are finding themselves lost amidst the roads and constructions of the developing country. This is why national parks such as the Yala National Park has so much value to both the people and animals of Sri Lanka. It creates a safe space where the animals can wander free, making for a great safari experience in Sri Lanka. 

Yala National Park takes up a large area of the southeast of the country. The park is composed of five blocks ranging from jungles to beaches. However, only blocks one and five are open to the public, so as to conserve as much of the natural habitat of these animals as possible. 

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About Yala Safari

Covering an area of 378 sq miles, the Yala Safari at the Yala National Park is done by jeep. You have the chance to be escorted by a local guide, who is great at spotting and tracking animals. 
With the climate dry most of the year, you should remember to carry your safari hat, because it can get quite sunny on these trails. You aren’t allowed to get off the jeep, and will only be allowed to do so in select locations, where they consider it safe to do so. Otherwise, you will be in constant motion, slowing down and often stopping to capture the beauty of the animals who call the park home. 
There are three entry points to the park, Katagamuwa, Palatupana and Galge. The park is open to the public from 6 in the morning till 6 in the evening. 
The best time to visit Yala for the Yala Safari is between June to September. 
Most hotels in Yala offer either private or group tours of the national park. The usual costs per person are around $65. For this price, you will get a guided tour by jeep, covering a great trail where you can spot lots of wildlife. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a leopard. It usually takes the safari 4 hours to complete, and the jeeps enter the national park two times of the day, at 6 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon.
However, it is worth noting that Yala National Park usually closes for maintenance in September. Hence if you are visiting Sri Lanka and are looking to visit the national park, make sure to keep this in mind. 

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Wildlife Photography in Yala

If you a wildlife photography enthusiast and is looking for the best opportunities that the country has to offer, then Yala National Park should be the best place for you. 
You will encounter herds and herds of elephants who roam the jungles of the national park. Regardless of any other wild animal that you may or may not capture, you will surely spot a herd of wild elephants during your safari in Yala. It isn’t surprising that you would spot elephants in your safari, considering that you could probably spot an elephant or two roaming the streets of the country. 
Another common animal that you are more likely to see is the deer who wander the jungles at Yala. These peaceful creatures often travel in packs, which make for some beautiful pictures. 
Monkeys are quite common in the area too, however, monkeys are common in almost any part of the country. You can even spot monkeys in the city of Colombo. 
What makes Yala so spectacular and a safari not to be missed is the exotic birdlife. Yala is one of the 70 Important Birds Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. There are over 215 species of birds in the region, seven endemic to Sri Lanka. You have a chance to capture the Sri Lankan wood pigeon or the blue-tailed bee-eater during your safari in Yala. There are even water birds such as the little egret and the painted stork, making this safari a spectacular choice for wildlife photography enthusiasts. 
There are also crocodiles who swim the waters of the jungles at Yala, which is also a common sight during these safaris. 
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Harder to spot are the sloth bears and the leopards who do not usually wander closer to the safari trails. If you are lucky, you may spot a leopard sitting on the lower branches of the jungle trees, however, these are rare sights. You could be wandering around in the jeep for hours and still have no chance of catching these beautiful creatures in the wild. Hence, if you are after the leopards, be prepared to extend your stay at Yala. Though Yala National Park is one of the best places in the world for spotting leopards, there are only 40 to 50 leopards in Yala. Taking into consideration the size of the park, it goes without saying that spotting a leopard is rare; there is certainly an element of luck involved. 
The jungles are also home to many species of frogs and insects, who usually fly below the radar of safari visitors. It is the rich wildlife that the national park boasts which makes it a great location for wildlife photographers. You have a chance to witness these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.
The wildlife for certain is quite rich in these parts of Sri Lanka, hence a ride on a jeep through the grassy plains will surely make for some amazing praiseworthy pictures of wildlife. 
It goes without saying that if you are looking to capture these animals in high-resolution pictures, you should have a good zoomable lens with you. 

When it comes to spotting the animals, the guides are your friend. They are great at spotting animals and are often connected to each other via phone. Hence if one spots a leopard in one part of the park, the other’s get informed via phone. Though you don’t need a guide to escort you on this safari, if you are trying to spot as much of the wildlife as possible, it is best to have a guide with you. Plus, you can ask them various questions about the animals, which they will gladly answer with a smile on their face. 

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Is Yala Worth Visiting?

If you are after wildlife and experiencing the beautiful flora and fauna of Sri Lanka, then Yala is a must-visit for you. You will get the chance to experience the beautiful wildlife of this island nation, with many visitors to Yala every year. 
Regardless of which times of the year you visit Sri Lanka, the Yala Safari is a rewarding experience and is the ideal location for wildlife photographers. Peak season runs from December to April with leopard season being February and March. 
You will not be the only jeep on the tour, and will surely spot large herds of elephants and baby elephants. Though difficult to spot, you may be lucky enough to even spot a leopard on your safari. 
The climate is perfect and is well suited for the safari and the beautiful flora and fauna of the area makes it an experience not to be missed in Sri Lanka. 
It is best to visit the Yala National Park during the dry season from February to June. Since there is less water in the ponds, it is more likely you will see more animals who all gather near the various watering holes of the park. 
The prices to the park are usually lower during off-peak season.
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Accommodation at Yala

There are plenty of places to stay in or around Yala. If you are looking to visit the national park, you can find lodging in one of the many hotels and resorts of Tissamaharama. The national park is about 20 km from Tissamaharama. 
You will find many budget-friendly options in Tissmahrama with prices ranging from $5 to $60 per night. 
If you are looking to stay within the park itself, there are various options for you. The more popular option called glamping instead of camping, where you will find yourself in a cocoon-shaped tent. You have the chance to camp amidst the wildlife, between elephants and monkeys. You can choose a cocoon pool suite, which has a pool. The insides are beautifully decorated. You will find yourself walking within a dream as you enjoy your stay in these comfortable lodges. 
Or you could accommodate yourself in a jungle chalet, which is eco-friendly and offers a great deal of luxury to the visitors. Cinnamon Wild is a popular jungle chalet. 
Based on the time of year and the level of luxury you seek, a night could cost you upwards of $700. 
However, you get to nest within the jungles of Sri Lanka, amidst the wildlife that you aim to photograph during your stay. 
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Wildlife Photography in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a rich biodiversity and a thriving pool of animal species which makes it a great location to visit for wildlife photographers. If you are looking to capture these beautiful creatures wandering wild in their native habitat, then the Yala Safari can offer you some rewarding photographs from your trip to Sri Lanka. 
From the wild herds of elephants to the buffaloes and monkeys, it is a great trip to make, especially if you are travelling with children. The experience is rewarding and the sights are amazing. If you had been wondering as to whether Sri Lanka is a good location for wildlife photography, we hope after reading this word to word, you are certain that it would make for some amazing pictures. 
Happy Travels! 

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