Over the last couple of years, Yala has gained fame as the Leopard capital of the world, as in Sri Lanka leopards are the apex predators, with no real competition for food. This means they are generally not shy and you can even find leopards walking along the road during daytime, or simply escaping from the heat by sleeping relaxed on a shady tree.
Hence, Yala has gained a lot of popularity as a tourist destination and a Yala safari is probably on every traveler’s bucket list to try and catch a glimpse of the famous spotted cat.
While Yala National Park actually covers a large area (total 979 sq km) and is divided into 5 blocks, typically a ‘Yala safari’ means entering Yala Block I area from the main entrance and doing a couple of sightseeing rounds, together with many other tourist safari jeeps. Despite still having some good chances of seeing wildlife, you might leave disappointed, having seen more jeeps than animals, which in our eyes is not a “wild” experience, and we recommend carefully researching your safari operator beforehand.
Hence, our top tip: Stay away from the main entrance and look for an operator who does safaris in the quieter areas of the park
Our recommendation for an Ethical Safari experience:
Leopard Safaris Yala
Leopard Safaris Yala is your best choice for an all-inclusive sustainable safari experience.
The family-run boutique campsite is set up in a convenient location bordering the electric fence of Yala Block III and was set up on a semi-permanent basis in par with the owners’ strong eco policies. They mainly used recycled and natural materials to build, mainly rely on solar power to run their operation, including their air-conditioned Luxury Tents, as well as to heat water for the luxurious bathrooms and to water to the camp from their deep well. When the camp was set up 10 years ago, the land used to be an abandoned plot of farmland with not many trees around, however through their re-forestation project in which their guests can get involved, they were able to regrow the natural forest on the 10-acre property, offering added undisturbed habitat for the wildlife around (and they all do come to visit). Every guest is warmly invited to plant a tree during their stay!
The camp consists of 6 Luxury Tents and 2 Classic Tents, fully fitted with all comforts to complete a luxurious and comfortable camping experience, a saltwater-eco pool, lounge/chill-out area and dining space for bad weather dining. Meals are served alfresco in different dining spots throughout the campsite, letting you soak in the beauty of the natural surroundings. At night, drinks from the jungle bar are served around a magical campfire.
As part of the all-inclusive safari package, safari tours are done twice daily, during early morning and evening hours. Leopard Safaris use their own customized Toyota Landcruiser safari jeeps for the tours, accompanied by their highly qualified and passionate safari guides who will share their knowledge about the local fauna and flora with you.
The convenient location of the campsite offers the advantage quick access to the back entrance to Yala Block I, but also the option to visit Yala Block III and Block V, some beautiful areas with different scenery, which are not much visited and offer good chances of seeing wildlife – undisturbed and away from the crowds.