Yala National Park is the most visited and the second largest National Park in the country. Situated 260km South East of Colombo, the park covers an area of 378 sq miles, in a climate that is dry most year round. Yala national Park can be reached from several destinations. These include Colombo via Thanamalvilla and Tissamaharama to Yala Block 1 (243km), From Kandy, via Nuwara Eliya to Tissamaharama Yala Block 1 (245km), Galle via Tissamaharama Yala Block 1 (169km), Arugam Bay via Buttala, Kataragama to Yala (36km).
The park is mainly made up of dense jungle in addition to unspoiled beaches, freshwater lakes and rivers, scrubland, and rocky outcrops, all of which makes the location a comprehensive habitat for the many species of wildlife who call it home.
The Yala National Park with its varied ecosystems such as the moist and dry monsoon forests, thorn forests, grasslands, wetlands, and beaches is home to 44 species of mammals, which includes a herd of about 350 Asian Elephants, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Wild Water Buffalo, Toque macaque (an old world monkey endemic to Sri Lanka), Golden palm Civet (also endemic to Sri Lanka and listed as vulnerable by IUCN), Red Slender Loris and the Fishing Cat (A wild cat of South East Asia classified as endangered by IUCN in 2008).
There are also 47 reptile species of which six are endemic, this includes Sri Lankan krait, Boulenger’s keelback, Sri Lankan flying snake, Painted and Fan throat lip lizards and Wiegmann’s agama. 18 species of amphibians of which two, Bufo atukoralei and Adenomous kelaarti (species of dwarf toad) along with 21 species of fresh water fish namely Mozambique tilapia and the stone sucker are endemic. A variety of butterfly species such as the common bluebottle, common lime butterfly, crimson rose, common Jezebel, and common mormon can be observed here. Still further it is known as one of the 70 most important bird areas in Sri Lanka with 215 bird species of which six, namely Sri Lanka grey hornbill, Sri Lanka jungle fowl, Sri Lanka wood pigeon, crimson-fronted barbet, black capped bulbul and brown-capped babbler are endemic. In addition there are number of water birds, most of them migrants and many rare species.
Nevertheless Yala National park is best known for its leopard population, which is believed to be one of the highest leopard densities in the world and is the key attraction among the thousands who visit the park.