Yala National Park is the premier wildlife reserve of Sri Lanka, and home to almost all of the species of the island, including the Sri Lankan Elephant. Not quite as historically isolated as Madagascar, Sri Lanka has both its own fauna as well as species related to those of nearby India. Yala is famous for being home to one of the world’s largest populations of Leopard, as well as large colonies of sea turtles which nest in the coastal areas.
The southeastern side of Sri Lanka has historically been the least populated and least affected by the impact of human habitation. Thanks to this isolation the area that is now Yala remained relatively more pristine than other areas on the island. It was treated as a reserve as early as the beginning of the mid-19th century, and was made a full-fledged national park in 1938. Yala is currently recovering from substantial damage caused by the 2004 tsunami.
Yala is home to hundreds of reptile and bird species, and is an important migratory destination for the latter. All five major sea turtle species can be found on the island, which nest in the coastal areas. The park is well known for its larger mammal species, including the native species of Elephant, Sloth Bear, Water Buffalo and Leopard. Although the number of the latter is small, it nevertheless represents one of the densest populations of such cats anywhere in the world.
Yala National Park is located in the extreme southeast corner of Sri Lanka, approximately 100 miles east of Colombo. Although somewhat isolated, road access to the park is good. Yala is open year-round, though access may be restricted, especially to areas that are still recovering from the tsunami. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.srilankaecotourism/yala (official website).