Sri Lanka is known for its high biodiversity, making it an excellent place to go on a safari for wildlife observation. It was also one of the factors that drew me to Sri Lanka in the first place and I knew I want a safari experience.
Yala National Park
With 22 National Parks spreading across Sri Lanka, Yala National Park is well-known for its wide variety of wildlife which contains the highest density of wild leopards in the world. It is also one of the best places for wildlife spotting in the country.
The entire park is split into 5 different blocks (plot of land) with only block 1 & 5 are accessible to tour operators while the remaining 3 are closed.
I was overwhelmed with information in the beginning because many travel agencies were offering different types of tour packages. Ultimately, being a solo traveller, I want a wholesome experience without being charged with a single person supplement. After my extensive research, I decided to go with Yala Safari Camping for my first safari experience as it fulfilled my requirements.
Onward to Yala
Departing from Galle, I took the local bus to Tissamaharama and arrived after nightfall and stayed for a night. The next day I was picked up at about 11 am on a jeep to begin my 2D1N safari experience in Yala National Park.
It turned out that I was the only guest in Yala Safari Camping as May is considered a low travel season in Sri Lanka. Thus, I had the personalised service from everyone from the driver, the chef, the server and also the boss.
Afternoon game drive
I whisked off for my first game drive at block 1 after a late lunch at the campsite. The game drive was kind of slow, it could be the heat or the food coma. I had a feeling that those animals felt the same way too.
Being the only guest, I had a whole team of experts with me. The driver and also a couple of eagle-eye guides. I was also provided with a pair of binoculars so I would not miss out on any wildlife from afar.
When the guides pointed out those perched birds to me, it would take me forever to locate them. At times, I would just give up after a minute of scanning the area. My eyesights are not made for nature. One day, if we had to go back to the cavemen era, I would definitely be one of the first to be sacrificed to the animals. Sigh~
One of the highlights of the afternoon game drive was an up-close and personal encounter with a wild elephant. It was grazing the grasses along the road we were driving on.
Despite camping outdoor for hours, we did not spot any leopards. Thus, we had to continue our mission the next day.
Morning Game Drive
At about 5 am, we begin our morning game drive to block 5, the furthest block from the campsite. We were the first to arrive, our jeep was the first to get in line with others following behind us.
The guard standing by the guard post opened the gate punctually at 6 in the morning. Not wasting any time, we drove into the park in an orderly manner.
While driving, I caught one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever set my eyes on. The fiery orange sun crept up behind those trees piercing through the mellow sky. It was surreal to start a brand new day in the wild.
As we drove deeper, two huge sleeping crocodiles by the riverbank greeted us insight. I found myself hoping that they were still deep in their sleep, and the sound of the jeep’s engine would not be waking them up. After all, I did not want crossed crocodiles to give me death stares!
While I was enjoying my breakfast that my guide had packed for me in the park, I had a troop of playful monkeys entertaining me. They were swinging from trees to trees, playing or sometimes fighting with one another. Some dare-devils would climb onto some of the jeeps parked nearby.
After breakfast, my driver-cum-guide and I continued our hunt for leopards. Meanwhile, we saw many other animals wandering around doing their daily business too.
The leopard hunt continues…
Although Yala National Park is considered one of the places with higher chances for leopard sighting but being in the wildlife, one can only leave the chances to nature.
This is the time where patience is a virtue. Sometimes it is about waiting for the right moment for them to appear rather than “hunting” them down. The leopards will only appear when all stars are aligned. We drove around, stationed ourselves at various spots where leopards were known to have appeared before.
Unfortunately, I was lucked out! We ended our morning game drive by noon and had to head back to the campsite.
Though I was a little disappointed for not seeing any leopards, I was more than happy with the safari experience for I have seen a variety of animals. I put my zoom lens into good use capturing the wildlife. In fact, sometimes I feel like a rude intruder, poking my lenses into the not so private lives of those animals. Though it was cool that they did not seem to mind at all.
I was leading the high life with this splurge, five-star experience in the wild.
The stilt tent comes with a double bed, complete with mosquito net. What impressed me was the westernise toilet, hot water and jacuzzi.
They also provide an industrialised fan in each tent which was very useful in the day time.
At nightfall, the temperature dropped to a comfortable level and I could tuck myself nicely in bed without the need to use the fan. I was secretly glad because the sound from the fan would disrupt the tranquil sound of nature.
Although I was the only guest at the camp, I was not terrified for one bit. I enjoyed the serene nature. Despite my best effort, I was not able to evade the unwelcoming bugs from my tent. The best I could do was to make sure none get onto my safe haven, the bed.
There was no WiFi in the room and somehow I was not able to receive any signal from the local telco I was using at Yala. The owner of the camp, Mahesh, learnt that was very thoughtful. He passed me a mobile phone in case I ran into any sort of emergency and needed help, he would be just a phone call away.
Food and Beverages
When I first arrived, I was spoiled silly with a scrumptious Sri Lanka cuisine that comes with 10 different dishes.
It was just too much for one person to finish everything.
My dinner was a 4-course meal that comes with a soup, entrée, a main dish of chicken & steak and a dessert. The setup was outdoor dining under the stars. For a moment, I wished I had someone special to dine with because it would be awkward and classic #foreveralone to eat alone in such a romantic setting. Mahesh was kind enough to entertain me over dinner where we chatted where I learnt a little more about the country from him.
Somehow, Singapore’s first prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, came into our conversation. Sometimes when I spoke about him, I would get overwhelmed with emotions and a sense of gratitude. I may or may not agree with everything he has done, but I am certainly thankful that he put us on the world map despite our size.
That evening, I learnt how Sri Lankans viewed Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore as a country that they hope to model after. I hope that with the tragic of the civil war behind them, the progress would come sooner for the country and its people.
Breakfast was pre-packed sandwiches with hot beverages where they had prepared earlier that morning. I enjoyed the simple breakfast at a pit-stop in the park. At the pit-stop, there was a functioning toilet for me to relieve myself too!
They offer free flow of water, soft drinks and my favourite of them all – beers which made my stay with Yala Safari Camping a happy one.
My maiden safari experience in Sri Lanka was awesome! Yala Safari Camping was a sanctuary and I was kept well-fed and awed.
With many tour agencies running game drives in Yala National Park, some provide similar luxury experiences. However, their prices were simply too ridiculous for solo travellers.
One of the primary reasons why I chose Yala Safari Camp was because there was no single person supplement which was a win for solo travellers. Their all-inclusive price includes all meals, free flow of beverages and entrance fee to the national park was very reasonable.
They have modern facilities such as comfortable bed, hot water shower and westernised toilet. I also like the fact that they have an in-tent jacuzzi that I soaked myself in.
Plus, the service staff are excellent, they are all very attentive and helpful.
For a taste of safari without travelling to Africa, Sri Lanka is the place to go. And, should you want to experience wildlife without compromising on your comfort, I would highly recommend Yala Safari Camping.
Here are some of the wildlife I have captured on my expedition and scroll down to see the good news for all Pam Goes Travelling readers!
**Good news to all Pam Goes Travelling readers. I have worked with Yala Safari Camp to offer something special for you! You can now book your safari experience and quote ‘pamxyalasafari‘ to receive a 10% discount off your booking! Click here to visit their website and find out more!
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions expressed above are as always, my own.