Tissamaharama is the major starting point for wildlife safaris in Sri Lanka’s most famous national park, Yala, officially known as Ruhuna National Park. However, Tissamaharama is an attraction in itself. It is known as the 'Anuradhapura of the South', as it has been the capital of the a southern principality or kingdom during most of the time of the Anuradhapura period. Although not many ancient remnants can be seen that are of interest for sightseeing, Tissamaharama is an important excavation site for scientists. For tourists, several large stupas are worth noting, although theor appearance is that of modern reconstructions. Due to the several reservoirs in the surroundings, Tissamaharama is a good place for bird watching, too.
Ruhuna National Park, also known as Yala National Park, in the south-eastern part of Sri Lanka is a must-see for every nature lover visiting the island. Ruhuna is the ancient name of the region, whereas Yala is the name of a former coastal village within the national park boundaries.
Sri Lanka’s most beloved national park is famous due to the enthusasiastic reports of many impressed visitors and excellent TV-documentaries about its leopard population. The vastest area is covered with dry scrub and woodlands as well as moist monsoon rain forest, whereas the most visited part, Block 1, has lots of rock bolders, open grassland and small freshwater lakes and marine wetlands. Ruhuna National Park harbours 44 mammal species, 46 reptile species and 215 bird species, including 6 that are endemic. Common birds are Brahmini Kites, Bee-eaters, Painted Storks, Asian Open bills, Black-headed Ibises and Sri Lankan Jungle fowl, the national bird. Chances to observe wild elephants and salt water crocodiles are high. The density of leopards is, besides Wilpattu, the highest in the world. Nevertheless, leopards should not be expected to be spotted on each and every safari.
Ruhuna National Park safaris
Most visitors book a tour of three hours in the morning or in the late afternoon. Full day safaris are easily managable, too. Overnight stays are possible in bungalows. After some public debate in 2013, only very few tour operators are permitted to organize camping tours for guests with special permission.
Ruhuna block 1 standard safaris
Most tourists visit block 1, which indeed is the most scenic and ecologically rich part of Ruhuna National Park, with two dozens of leopards roaming or often relaxing on trees or rock bolders. Don’t expect to have block 1 reserved for yourself when visiting it by jeep. This wilderness is not loneliness. The mammal species you will watch most frequently are human beings, because in Block 1 you will probably share the sandy paths with dozens of other jeep sometimes driving in columns and assembling wherever a leopard is spotted. But it’s really worth it, particularly for those who cannot spend more time or money for a wildlife experience. Very few guests of block 1 are disappointed due to the tourist hurly-burly. Most guests are amazed by the beauty of the landscape and the variety and density of wildlife. But do not expect large herds, Sri Lanka is not Africa.
Real safaris in Ruhuna
Real safaris in other blocks are usually not managable and the prices are high. Indeed, there are tranquil areas with even good or higher chances to observe leopards than in block 1. The classic is the offroad safari starts from block 1, crossing block 2, which is situated between the rivers Menik Ganga and Kumbukkan Oya, arrives in e neighbouring Kumana National Park in the east. But be aware, this rarely permitted real safari is not possible after heavy rainfall, because there are no bridges crossing the river.
Beyond doubt, real Ruhuna National Park safaris including Kumana are the most amazing adventure highlight Sri Lanka has to offer for wildlife enthusiasts. But they are expensive due to the charges of the Wildlife Department. For those travelling on a smaller budget we can arrange an alternative in another wildlife area, which is close to Ruhuna alias Yala, with overnight stays in Lunugamwehera National Park.
Read more about Ruhuna National park here...
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka