A visit to the Yala National Park not only affords travellers the chance to enjoy a stay at Jetwing Yala but also opportunities to explore other wildlife hubs in the surrounding wilderness. Here are some of the best parks and nature reserves holidaymakers in Yala can explore with ease.
Occupying the Ridiyagama area, the Ridigama Safari Park is a one of a kind safari hotspot on the island. Sprawled across an impressive area of more than 500 acres, the sanctuary first opened its gates to the public in 2016. Divided into six separate zones, each area of the park is dedicated to either carnivorous creatures or plant-eaters. One of the most impressive highlights at the safari hub is its African Lion Zone, which is spread out over 35 acres while the Sri Lanka Elephant Zone is a whopping 54 acres. The World Zone is by far the largest with 80 acres devoted to it. Some of the best experiences travellers have on a safari tour of the park are face to face encounters with tigers, lions and the elusive leopards of Sri Lanka.
Established in 2013, the Dry Zone Botanical Gardens is another point of interest that’s within easy reach of those based at Jetwing Safari Camp and holidaying in Yala. This horticultural attraction is contained in a massive area of no less than 300 acres. Entering the ranks of the more than 5 botanical gardens in the country, the Mirijjawila Dry Zone Botanical Gardens as it is officially known is one of the few that were not set up by British colonizers. A veritable oasis for nature lovers, the plant life in these picturesque gardens not only includes herbal plants but also ornamental bushes. A butterfly garden is also part of this landscape where a plant conservation centre, a student park and a plant nursery are also found. Ideal for those who love long strolls surrounded by nature, the walking paths of the Dry Zone Botanical Gardens are as long as they are winding. Open from 7.30 am to 6.00 pm, the park is even open on public holidays.
Dubbed the most expansive bird park and research centre in Asia, the Birds Research Center in Hambantota is another wildlife reserve that Yala vacationers can tour during a getaway. Bird watching fans will marvel at the sheer variety of winged beauties occupying this verdant parkland of 35 acres. More than 3200 birds belonging to 180 species call this lush area of Hambantota home.
Often described as Sri Lanka’s first-ever birding paradise, the Kumana National Park is the stuff of dreams for bird watching enthusiasts. Located near the Yala National Park, Kumana is no less impressive with its vast population of endemic and migratory birds which comes up to 255 species in all. The best time to visit this bird watching hotspot is from April to July when most of the migratory birds are also visible. Some of the most frequently spotted and celebrated inhabitants of Kumana National Park include white-breasted waterhens, black-necked storks, Eurasian spoonbills and Pintail snipes, while Indian pond herons and purple swamphen are also part of the park’s eco-system.
Set up in 1995, the Lunugamvehera National Park was first established to safeguard the catchment region of the Lunugamvehera reservoir and the many wild inhabitants that call it home. The Lunugamvehera National Park is renowned as a great safari hub for spotting elephants and water birds in the wild. A total of 43 mammal species and 183 bird varieties and 33 types of reptiles are found at this sanctuary which is also home to 21 fish species.