Yala National ParkRuhuna National park or more affectionately known as Yala, has been the most celebrated wildlife park in Sri Lanka for over a century, along with its first self appointed Boer prisoner of war game warden H.E.Engelbrecht, quiet a story in itself. “Yalagama” as it was known at the turn of the century, was in effect the “Resident sportsman’s” shooting reserve! A wild country reserved for the “Sporting pleasure” of the British residents in Sri Lanka. It is located in a tract of land covering approximately 1260 km2, between Kumbukkan River & Menik River, and shares its borders with Yala strict nature reserve, Kumana, Kataragama, Katagamuwa and Nimalawa sanctuaries. The climate is semi-arid and dry with scrub jungle unique to this area along with rocky outcrops like kotigala, Jamburagala & Patalungala (Pattangala) strewn about the park, while several fresh and brackish water lagoons dot the park.
Yala is an ideal place to spot the “big four” of Sri Lankan wildlife, the elephants, the sloth bear, the illusive leopard and the wild buffalo, the unsung denizen of the park, if nothing else dangerous to the extreme. The roaming elephant herds can be easily seen during dry spells at the small scale reservoirs like Butuwe (derived from the word “Wana Butewa”) and Mahaseelawa while Uraniya is best known for its aquatic avifauna, wild buffalo, mugger or mash crocodile & salt water crocodiles. The black sloth bear is more difficult to spot as it’s more of a solitary animal of nocturnal habits and sightings tend to be a seasonal occurrence.