Sri Lanka has one of the highest biodiversity density in Asia with twenty-six National Parks spreading across the country. It makes it one of the best place to visit the wildlife in their natural habitats.
Yala National Park is known for its wide variety of wildlife. It is best known for leopards sighting as it has the highest leopards density in the world. It is only second to the largest national park, Wipattu but it is shining on its own.Yala National Park is split into 5 different blocks (plot of land) with 2 blocks accessible to the public while the other 3 remain protected. Through one of those tour agencies with the license to operate safari drives, one would be able to access block 1 and 5.
With many travel agencies offering different tour packages, I decided to go with Yala Safari Camping for my maiden safari experience. May is considered a low travel season in Sri Lanka which explained why I was the only guest and I had a line of people waiting in line for me. Oh boy, I was pampered. 😀
I had two game drive, one in the afternoon and one in the morning the day after. I was jeeped away to Block 1 after lunch at the campsite.
The afternoon game drive was kind of slow because it could be the heat or I was recovering from my food coma. Perhaps those animals felt the same way too.
I had the whole team of experts with me, they had eagle-eyes to spot those birds and animals. Binoculars were provided to make sure that I do not miss those birds and animals from afar.
I was able to capture some wildlife with my camera, putting my zoom lens to good use. In fact, I felt kind of rude poking my lens into the not so private life of those animals. It was cool that they did not seem to mind at all.
One of the highlights of my afternoon drive was an elephant that we spotted up-close and personal. It was chomping on grasses along the road we were driving on.
The next morning, I visited Block 5, which was the one further away from the campsite when the sky was still dark. The park only open at 6 am and our jeep was the first in line. Other jeeps started to join the queue as the sky started to turn bright.
The guard was punctual. When the clock struck 6, he opened the gate and all the jeeps started driving into the park in an orderly manner.
As we were driving in, I caught one of the most spectacular sunrises. The sky turned into shades of orange and the sun creeps up from those trees. It was surreal to start a brand new day in the wild.
As we drove deeper into the park, the first animal or rather reptile that greeted us were two huge crocodiles. I found myself hoping that they were still deep in their sleep and the sound of the engine will not wake them up. I mean, I did not want crossed crocodiles to give me death stares!
My breakfast time was well-entertained by troops of playful monkeys. They were swinging from one tree to another, playing or fighting with one another. Some dare-devils actually climbed on to some of the jeeps parked nearby.
After my driver and I filled up our tummies, we continued the hunt for leopards. Of course while we were on a lookout for leopards, we saw many other animals wandering around too.
It was another round of waiting game. Patience is key because you aren’t gonna win when you fight against nature.
It was a long wait… trust me. It can be frustrating. More often than not, it is waiting for the right moment for the animals to appear rather than ‘hunting’ them down.
We drove around for a little more in hope to spot those leopards but to no avail. By noontime, we had to call it a day for the morning game drive and head back to the campsite. I was lucked out!
I was a little disappointed but I made a silent pact that in the event if I don’t see the leopards, I will make it to Colombia this year (which I did! YAY!) It’s a silly pact but hey, that did make me feel better.
At least I still manage to see a variety of animals except for leopards of course!
I was living in luxury all the time in the wild. It was a five-stars experience living right next to the national park. Each stilt tent consists of a double bed, complete with mosquito net. What impressed me most was a westernised toilet, hot water, jacuzzi and an industrialised fan. Soon I realised there is no need for the fan because when nightfall, it was cool enough and the fan will disrupt the sound of nature.
Being the only guest in the whole place, I was not even scared for a bit. I enjoyed the tranquillity of nature which of course involved some unwelcoming bugs. But hey, I am in nature, what am I to complain about. I got rid of every single one I could lay my hands on or at least keep them away from my safe haven, the bed. Mahesh, the owner passed me a mobile phone. Just in case I had some sort of emergency or needed to call them since there was no wifi in my room and I am not getting any signal from the telco I bought my sim card from.
Food and Beverages
When I first arrived, I dug into to a scrumptious Sri Lankan meal complete with 10 different dishes for lunch.
Trust me, I was spoiled silly!
Dinner was a 4-course meal with a bowl of soup, entree, main dish which was chicken and steak. The dinner was complete with a bowl of dessert. The setup was romantic outdoor dining under the stars. In that moment, I wish I had someone special to dine with. Nevertheless, the evening ended well as I was chatting with Mahesh to get to know more about the country.
The mention of Lee Kuan Yew came into our conversation. I don’t know why but every time I speak about him, I get overwhelmed with emotions, a sense of gratitude. I may or may not agree with everything he has done but I am thankful that he put us on the world map despite the size. That night I learnt that his words made an impact to the people in Sri Lanka. When he visited Colombo, he commented that Colombo has the potential to be like Singapore, to progress into a developed country. People held on to his words, I hope it comes sooner to the country and the people.
As for my breakfast, it was pre-packed sandwiches with hot beverages at a pit-stop in the park. There was a proper toilet for me to relieve myself too.
Drinks are all free flow as well which include beer too which made my stay with Yala Safari Camping a happy one.
I was in a sanctuary, well fed and awed with my experience.
One of the woes of a solo traveller is that often we will be charged for single person supplements. There were plenty of tour agencies that run safari game drives in Yala National Park. Some provide equally luxurious experience but the prices were ridiculously expensive.
I decided to pick Yala Safari Camping because they charge by per person, so it is a plus point for solo travellers! It has modern facilities, such as comfortable bed, hot water shower and westernised toilet. The price was reasonable since it covered all meals, beverages and entrance fee to national park.
If you are keen to have a taste of the wildlife without travelling to Africa, Sri Lanka is for you. If you want to do it without compromising on your comfort, I would highly recommend Yala Safari Camping.
Here are some of the wildlife I have captured on my expedition.
Have you visited a safari and which is your favourite animal?
** After my good experience, I decided to work with Yala Safari Camp as part of a collaboration for all Pam Goes Travelling readers. If you are keen to experience safari with Yala Safari Camp, you can quote ‘pamxyalasafari’ for a 10% discount when booking your tour package with them. Click here to visit their website to find out more!
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed above are my own.