Sri Lanka – Tissa / Yala

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Early start 🙁

Leaving Ella our shared van turned up and was issue free getting us direct to our guesthouse in Tissa – which was in a beautiful location surrounded by Paddy fields.  TIssa itself was a bit meh but we were only here for the Yala safari, so an early 4:15am start (!).  The guesthouse run tour was a private one with just us to for 13hrs – getting to Yala early as the gates opened.  The internet is full of conflicting information saying half day is plenty, nothing to see during 9 and 2 etc etc.  But some other comments saying the “full day” is better as its slower.  The internet also says all you see in Yala is other jeeps.

Beautiful views over Yala

Our experience was fantastic, the full day meant we got deeper into the park than the morning/afternoon groups, and I think there were only 8 jeeps for the full day.  So most animal sightings were not overcrowded at all (except for the late ones where we clashed with the afternoon groups).  Also, a full day meant when we were watching a herd of elephants (families with babies) eating, swimming or bathing, we had time to watch and enjoy rather than tick a box and move on.  Well worth it.

Wild Elephants playing in water
The elephants get close, but totally ignore us

In the morning we saw crocks, elephants, buffalo, hawk, and a bear (very briefly).  Lots of animals about, but no real bonus sightings.  After the enforced 2hr lunch with the other all day people (regulations) we went out again and then managed to find a leopard which can be quite elusive.  The all-day jeeps worked together to find and track, and we were all fortunate to see the leopard out and about taking a stroll crossing road just between the jeeps.  (We were lucky, sometimes people only see part of the animal sleeping in a tree for instance)

Leopard stretching and walking across the road
Family of elephants

The final afternoon spot was the rare Yala Sloth Bear – which was out and about on a walk!  Rare site and lovely to watch – but by now the afternoon group were in the same area, so 30-40 jeeps from all directions causing chaos. 

(I have to add, all animals TOTALLY unphased by the jeeps.  Jeeps kept to tracks, no one got out, and no interaction with the animals, so the animals just ignored us).

Had we only done half day, we’d never have seen a leopard, barely seen a bare, and not had time to watch the wildlife being wild. 

So from us – recommend 2 night stay in Tissa and a long safari day.  Much better than expected.

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