Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. The park consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public. The blocks have individual names such as, Ruhuna National Park (block 1) and Kumana National Park or ‘Yala East’ for the adjoining blocks. YNP is situated in the southeast coast of the country, and lies in Southern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometers (378 sq mi) and is located about 300 kilometers (190 mi) from Colombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals and in particular the dense population of Sri Lanka’s top predator, the leopard (Panthera Pardus Kotiya).
There are six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries in the vicinity of Yala. The park is situated in the dry semi-arid climatic region and rain is received mainly during the northeast monsoon. Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Yala is home to 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.
The area around Yala has hosted several ancient civilizations. Two important pilgrim sites, i.e Sithulpawwa and Magul Maha Viharaya are situated within the park. The number of visitors has been on the rise since 2009 after the security situation in the park improved.