Updated on February 13, 2018
Day 11 of Sri Lanka Trip, Yala National Park on July 21, 2017
Eleventh day of our tour of Sri Lanka as we planned to visit Yala
wildlife zoo National Park today.
The images in this post are hosted on Imgur. Email me should there be any display problems.
It’s said that there’s “best time of day” to visit Yala National Park so that animals are most visible, and that’s early in the morning or late in the afternoon. For this reason, we had to get up at five and pack our cameras and meet our jeep driver outside our hotel for a thirty-minute ride through quiet villages in darkness to the ticket station of Yala National Park. But the reality I believe was that, in this manner the safari jeeps could carry two groups of visitors each day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon while giving each group maximum possible amounts of tour time in the park. There’s nothing wrong with this business cunning, but I just felt the “best time of day” theory was made up, as during our brief visit I didn’t notice any change of animal spotting probabilities.
By the way, it’s called “Jeep” in Sri Lanka but it’s actually modified pickup trucks where seats were mounted in the back of the truck, which was enough for Yala’s unpaved but even roads.
And for reference, the morning jeep safari for four people cost us 22,000 LKR (~145 USD), half of which were presumably tickets. If I remembered correctly, tickets for Yala and Horton National Park were the same price.
Yala National Park
At the ticket station, there were swarms of jeep cars the drivers of which were waiting in presumably inefficient ticket lines, just like Horton National Park. The difference was that, Yala did have a two-lane entrance gate later (that tracks time of entrance and departure) that resembled a highway toll gate, making which into a ticket station would be much better than the chaos at the actual ticket station.
So after 45 additional minutes of waiting, we finally made our way into Yala National Park.
Once inside the park, our jeep driver drove us around while showing us where the animals were. Unfortunately, we were not as good as an animal spotter as our driver. So here’s the usual situation going on in our jeep
(five seconds later)
Driver: (still unbothered) There’s a buffalo.
(five seconds later)
Driver: (unbothered) There’s a crocodile.
(ten seconds of silence)
Driver: (You stupid!) Give me your camera, I will take a photo and show you.
That is, until he spotted a puma, for which it was like winning a lottery for him.
So in the following part I will display photos based on different categories of animals. I’m not an animal expert, so I may not label some of these correctly.
Mustelidae (not sure)
Crocodiles often submerged most of their bodies under water, which made them very hard to spot.
Puma and Wild Boar
For other animals, you are almost guaranteed to see all of them during any safari trip. But this couldn’t be said about puma. It’s said that there was only about a couple hundred of these left in the park. Our driver seemed pretty unbothered pointing at other animals for us, but when he spotted this puma, I could literally saw his eyes light up as he pulled out his camera and joined us in photo taking.
By the way, we spotted a (large) group of wild boars drinking by the water first. Obviously, this large group of prey attracted this puma, as he sneaked his way in behind the bushes. Unfortunately, one of the wild boars spotted this looming predator and alerted the rest of the pack. So in the end, this puma returned empty, though in my mind, I was expecting a scene of carnage which would make better photos.
In the middle of our tour we took a brief break in what looked like a campsite by the sea. Our tour guide guaranteed us that the nearby grounds were crocodile-and-puma-free, so we took a walk.
After more than five hours in Yala National Park, we went back to downtown Tissamaharama where we took a shower in our late-check-out hotel to wash off dusts from the morning’s jeep ride, and made our way East along the coastline.
For these bats, our hotel maintained a rooftop terrace for residences to watch bats flying at dusk. But for our only night in Tissamaharama, we chose to watch sunset on the other side of Lake Tissa instead.
We had this lunch in a restaurant just outside Tissamaharama, after which we headed West towards Mirissa.
On the way there we passed Weerawila Airport, which was one of the handful airports in the country and our driver proudly pointed that out for us. It was a half-military airport, where a small soccer field was located at the end of the runway presumably for soldiers’ recreation. I was sort of curious as they never seemed to worry about balls hitting airplanes, so I did a little search online and found that the entire Sri Lanka Air Force consists of four fighter jets, among many things.
After that, we approached the city of Hambantota, a port city located on the Southern shore of the country with heavy Chinese investment. So for the first time in ten days, we saw roads with more than one lane per direction, which the locals would call “highway”. Obviously these highways were built by the Chinese and only covered the span of the city. On our way past the city of Hambantota, our driver pointed out the a modern roadside convention center and the distant port of Hambantota which was built by the Chinese, a brand-new Shangri-La hotel, things looked good on the outside.
However, we didn’t need to leave the highway to see the truth of Sri Lanka lives. The truth was, this highway was so scarce in traffic that there were more cows than vehicles on it. And if you bothered to look on Google Earth, more than half of the Hambantota port were empty concrete sitting with nothing.
Hummanaya Blow Hole
On our way to Mirissa we made a brief stop at Hummanaya Blow Hole, the geological structure of which I didn’t bother to cite from Wikipedia. Basically, it’s a hole that intermittently explodes with sea water, of which Hummanaya Blow Hole is one of the largest.
A notice to potential visitors, that Hummanaya Blow Hole was most visible in high tide, of which (judging by online review) the ticket officer won’t tell you in advance. We didn’t check tide before we visit, but we did watch some spectacular water blasts.
It took patience waiting for Blow Hole blasts, but not too much that day as we witnessed several explosions. It’s nice to play game of chickens with my friends by the hole, the result of which was expectedly for all of us to get drenched after several explosions.
Hummanaya Blow Hole was not a very popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka, probably because it’s not close to any major city and only those that hired a private driver like us would pay it a visit. So apart from four local younglings who were laughing puzzled at us as they probably couldn’t figure out why people would deliberately get themselves drenched, there was nobody else. But strangely, the narrow street leading to Hummanaya Blow Hole was lined with shops selling dried fish, the strong smell of which I guess wouldn’t attract foreigners. Is there such a high local demand?
After that, we were on the road again.
As we passed the city of Matara we paid a brief visit to Paravi Duwa Temple, which was a temple on the sea that’s said to resemble Bali’s Tanah Lot. (No, the Bali one is much better.) It was close to dusk so we just took a few photos and left.
For the first time during our trip, we didn’t plan a specific city or town to spend the night. We just wanted to spend the following night in Galle (which ended up to be Unawatuna). Our driver suggest the town of Mirissa and to be honest we didn’t care, and that’s it. Of course Mirissa is famous for its whale watching activity and if it’s winter it’s got to be it, but summer is not the whale watching season in Mirissa and to be honest, spending the night in the bigger city of Matara would also be nice.