Safari in Sri Lanka with kids (Yala National Park)

Safari in Sri Lanka with kids (Yala National Park)

Sri Lanka is a very diverse and rich country.

There are many ways to explore it and safari is one of the best ways to learn about country’s nature and animals.

While there are a few national parks to choose from, like Udawalawe, Wilpattu, Minneriya, Yala, Kumana, – we chose the most popular at Yala National Park as the safari here can be done all year round.

It was a first wild safari for everyone. My main goal is the adventures to be fun and educational at the same time. It is better to learn having great time after all. This safari delivered what we were looking minus seeing a leopard.

About Yala National Park

Yala combines a strict nature reserve with a national park. Divided into 5 blocks the park has a protected area of nearly 130000 hectares. The land consists of light forests, scrubs, grasslands and lagoons. Yala is home to 44 mammals and 215 species of birds.

Yala is also home to the most dense population of leopard so this safari is the greatest chance to see one. This was reason why we chose to do a safari in Yala National park even though we did not get to see a leopard.

How to book a safari?

While you can do a safari with your own 4×4 vehicle (if you have one or rent one), we booked a safari jeep through a park- just via Whatsapp. While this is a great option and you can book one in advance if it is a busy season, we would opt out to get a safari jeep rental locally, as the park also get the same local jeeps and local drivers, but they charge way more and also take a cut. I personally believe that local people should be supported. Additionally, you would save a hefty 20$ US if you choose to support a local driver.

If you want to secure a jeep with local, you may as well message in the Sri Lanka Travel group that you can find on facebook – there you will get a huge umber of people suggesting their services. And never pay up front. Never.

The tickets to enter Yala National Park can be purchased at the entrance of the park (there are 2 main entrances for tourists) but check in advance – there are national holidays that may affect park’s operations.

Ticket and safari jeep prices

For 3 adults we paid 100$US, that included local driver (that is 150 rupees and also 300 rupees for the vehicle). kids 6-12 are half price, 6 and below- free. Someone the park did not charge for any of our children, so we saved around 20$ US. interestingly they charge in US dollars but then convert into rupees for the daily exchange rate they seem to be fit. And anywhere we went, tourists pay at least 10 times more (to enter parks or even waterfalls) than the locals so be prepared.

If you rent a jeep through a park – it costs 45-60$ US for a half day tour which takes 4 hours and you can do it in the morning or afternoon. For a full day safari jeep costs 75-100$ US. IF you rent it from the local – it costs 12000 rupees for a half day tour which is around 36$ US.

The Safari experience

We chose to do a half day safari- more than that would have been too long for the kids. Although full day gives you greater chance to spot a leopard.

Make sure you have plenty of snacks and water as there are no restaurants or stores in the park. And it is hot all year round- around 32 degrees. Have your cameras and phones charged (even have a power bank just in case) in order to be able to film and photograph all the cool animals you spot.

I also have to mention that while we chose to do an afternoon safari – I would do a morning instead. Afternoon one starts at 2 pm and ends at 6 pm, but in October it starts to get dark around 5 pm so you actually have only 3 hours of actual safari. Next time we will do a morning one.

What did we see?-

We saw a lot of animals and birds since Yala is home to thousands of them. We saw Sri Lankan elephants, tapirs, wild water buffalos, crocodiles, chitals, deer, grey langurs (monkeys), hares, many many different colorful birds, lots of peacocks and other wildlife that our guide could not pronounce in English.

The safari was a highlight for the kids and us, as we encountered wildlife just a few steps away from us and it was very raw. The safari jeep is a must, as you sit high to see everything, the seats are comfortable and it adds up to the whole experience.

In conclusion, we think that it is a must safari to do when you are in Sri Lanka. It is a lot of fun for the children as well as great education day to learn for the endemic wildlife of the country.

The official website for Yala National Park:

Yala Official Site

Love love Sri Lanka. Hope you enjoy it too!

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