After being cooped up within the four walls of my house, speeding off to Yala the first chance we could was exhilarating and freeing. Our first stop was at Leopard Trails, second at Wild Coast Tented Lodge and final stop at Jetwing Yala. We were ready to get completely lost in the jungles!
Colombo to Yala
The drive was around 4 hours – after leaving home by 8am, we reached our pickup point a little after noon. Krishan from Leopard Trails, our host and ranger picked up us in the safari jeep as we navigated through rugged terrains leading up to Leopard Trails.
Note – if you’re driving a low car, chances are you’ll have to park your vehicle in a local’s garden (we had to pay LKR 500 for this – was slightly weird since you don’t expect to pay parking fees at a hotel, but oh well.)
Leopard Trails, Yala
Mid-range tented camps for a complete safari experience – with giant geckos too! The rooms were a little run down and the room amenities were minimum. There was no mini bar and the property doesn’t serve alcohol, so you have to bring your own and use their fridge to keep it cold. But the room was clean, comfortable and spacious enough. The lake which faces the seated deck area was dried up – possibly due to the season or some genius blocking the natural water ways that feeds the lake. It’s Sri Lanka, so it could be both!
Let me start by telling you, the safari experience changes dramatically based on your guide. Anyone can take you on a safari as you speed through the jungles of Yala National Park. But a very few can actually get you excited enough on the journey. After all, the journey is half the fun.
We spotted a leopard walking through the shrubbery and in a few seconds, she disappeared into the jungle. We learnt from Krishan that her name was ‘Mali’, or more specifically ‘Agil Wala Two Two Female’; which is based on her face markings.
Krishan’s great conversational and ranger skills was an absolute joy to be around. We knew at every point where we were going and what we were looking for. We learnt the ins and out of speeding in yala (done cautiously), tracking animal prints, listening for bird calls and more with him. It was an enlightening safari experience; quite a rare one from all the safaris I’ve been on in Sri Lanka!
On our way back, Krishan organized to have our beers ready along with a cold towel to refresh us as we got off the jeep – which was such an amazing touch, because there’s nothing more refreshing than an ice cold beer, a refreshing towel on your face and watching the sunset from a deck.
After sunset, the camp lit bonfires on the dried-up lake and set a table for us under the stars with our bottle of wine. Krishan sat with us and continued sharing his stories until we were ready for dinner. After a night of star gazing, good wine and company and drinking in the silence of life in the middle of a jungle, we crashed onto bed and woke up bright and early for a hearty western and local breakfast.