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Safari camp in Yala, Sri Lanka: everything you need to know.

You may not know that Sri Lanka is a top destination for safari expedition. In fact, there are plenty of National parks located all around the island which are considered sanctuaries for wildlife activity. 


Yala National Park elephant
Yala National Park

Wilpattu, Uda Walawe, Yala, Minneriya are the biggest and most known. Although Wilpattu is larger and wilder, Yala is considered the most visited. This because it lays on the south west of the island bordering the Indian ocean and close enough with the highly touristic surfing cities of Weligama and Mirissa. But this is not the only reason. 


Yala national park is home of 44 different mammal, (including leopards, elephants and sloth bears), and over 200 bird species. 

Now, if you are wandering which is the best time, the best operator or the most efficient way to get your safari, I got you covered. 


In 2024 I joined the Mahoora Safari camp, located just outside the national park. The camp offers the possibility to rent a jeepney just for yourself or to share it with other guests. Safari can be arranged either early in the morning at 6 am or in the afternoon at 2.30 pm. 


Safari at Yala National Park
Safari at Yala National Park

But when is the best time? As I did, You are probably prompted to pick the early morning one, however it may not be the best choice. 

Since early morning is technically the best time for spotting animals, all the guided tours are reaching the national park around 6 am, the opening time. Therefore you will find yourself with at least other 10-15 jeepneys waiting and rushing inside.


So I woke up at 5.30 and headed towards the safari camp gathering point to start the day off. During the 5 hour-long safari, i did not encounter many animals. Plus, the other people I was in the car with were not interested in getting explanations by the naturalist that was guiding us, and were making a lot of noise. 


Luckily I did not booked a day tour from other location around Sri Lanka, as most of the people do, but I was staying basically at the entrance of the park. This gave me the opportunity to go for another safari right after a fulfilling lunch. 

Mahoora safari camp - bonfire night
Mahoora safari camp - bonfire night

In the afternoon everything went very smoothly. We did not see other vehicles for the first hour and encountered 2 elephants and a sloth bear straight away. Plus, we stopped for 20 minutes in front of a lake because a curious event was taking place. A crocodile was trying to catch a buffalo calf. Luckily for the calf, the mother was scaring enough and the croc decided wisely to come back in the pond. 


The naturalist also gave me many explanation about native birds and plants and ordered to stop the car as soon as I was interested in something. 

Sloth Bear, Yala National Park
Sloth Bear, Yala National Park

This is basically why you should not book a day tour (if you have enough days) but give yourself a bit of time to spend in the safari camp. The safari can be different from morning to afternoon, but also from jeepney to jeepney, therefore the more attempts will translate into better experiences. 


The safari camp offers also Sri Lankan cooking classes, night walks and afternoon walks around the camp. So a couple of days are definitely not a waste of time. 

Sri Lankan cooking class
Sri Lankan cooking class

For the whole experience check my youtube page

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