Leopard spotting in Yala National Park

1032 Reviews

Star Travel Rating


Review type

Things to do

Date of travel

January, 2022

Product name

Yala National Park

Product country

Sri Lanka

Product city


Travelled with


Reasons for trip

Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park consists of five areas, known rather boringly as blocks. Whilst staying at Ceylon Wild Safaris, we enjoyed game drives in 1 (the most popular), 3, and 5. 2 was said to be rarely visited due to its remoteness and 4 was never mentioned. As the drive to the park entrances took 45 minutes along the main road, the pace was pretty full on. We set off for morning drives at 5am and returned around 11.30am, and then after a short rest and lunch, we were off again between 1.30pm and 2pm, not returning until after 6.30pm.

However, journeys to the park entrance were not boring and we spotted elephants on the roadside which have obviously been conditioned to know they’ll be fed by passers-by. Whilst the considerable paperwork was being done at the entrance, we were entertained by the antics of grey langurs and macaques.

Everyone visits Yala to see leopard, and on the first of three drives, it was slightly ironic that after lots of elusive searching and messages over the radio which culminated in false alarms, we literally came across a leopard sunning itself in the middle of the track. We were the only vehicle and, turning off the engine, we simply sat and admired, silently snapping away. Eventually, the handbrake was taken off and benefitting from being on a slope, we inched our way closer until we were only 20 foot away. We continued to snap away, until she shot up a nearby tree with alarming speed. Fortunately she hung around in the y shaped branches to allow us to get more photos before charging down and wandering off rather nonchalantly down the track. We then spotted her leap into another tree with a land monitor lizard in her sights, which fell down with a bang closely followed by the leopard. Other jeeps started arriving and we left them to enjoy. It was an incredible sighting, particularly as no one else was around.

Elephants were plentiful and included a family group with a baby and a huge male with twisted tusk. Our final sighting was watching a tusker decimate a tall bush. Other animal sightings included DLTs (deer like things – our collective name when we don’t know the type), a mongoose trying to drag a dead land monitor into the undergrowth and wild pigs.

Bird life was also plentiful, with peacocks being particularly abundant: our guide explained the term ‘train rattling’, which is when the male displays its feathers and vibrates them to attract the peahen. Another wonderful sight was around 50 bright green Bee Eaters on the ground,

The undergrowth in the park was relatively dense but the bushes were colourful and included: red and orange lantana; the poisonous flame lily; and the most prevalent, ranawara, a yellow flower used to make a herbal drink before tea was introduced into the country.

Breakfast was taken on our drives and although it had to be eaten in the jeep, we enjoyed coconut sambal and egg mayonnaise sandwiches, jam jars with chopped fruit and yoghurt and tea. Likewise mid-afternoon we stopped for cold drinks and biscuits.

The Sri Lankan safari experience is nowhere near as polished as those we’ve been on in Africa, but if you want to combine culture with wildlife and beaches, the country can offer all three.

Helen Jackson

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.