10 March 2020
A day in Yala. Yala National Park is the second largest but far away most visited national park in Sri Lanka. The park is split into a number of blocks some of which can be visted and some which cannot. The vast majority of visitors to the park take a safari in Block 1, the coastal part of the park, the reason being that you supposedly stand the best chance of seeing Leopard which, for most people, appears to be all that they are interested in. The result of this is that Block 1 is frankly over-run with jeeps which does tend to somewhat spoil the experience.
As we had allowed plenty of time in our schedule to explore Yala we decided on out first day we would avoid Block 1 but instead visit the much quieter Block 5, perhaps foregoing Leopard sitings for an allround better experience ( we had of course had very good Leopard sitings in Wilpattu earlier in the trip).
So at dawn we were at the Block 5 entrance gate waiting for the park to open, us and just one other jeep ! – we had already seen an elephant on the road in the dark as we headed to the park entrance.
Yala Block 5 (also known as Lunugamvehera National Park) has a variety of habitat with forest, scrub, large areas of water and rivers/canals, like Wilpattu it is an interesting and attractive place to look for wildlife.
We spent the full day in the park, with a lengthy lunch break at the hight of the heat of the day, and had good sitings of a variety of birds and mammals, unfortunately no Leopard although we did see fresh tracks.
Some subjects were distant requiring use of my MC 20 2x converter giving a FF equivalent of 1,200mm – in the case of the Stork-billed Kingfisher this was hand held at a shutter speed of just 1/60s in very poor light.