When we visited Sri Lanka, we did a safari at both Yala and Udawalawe, which are the most popular national parks in the country. The reason why we decided to explore both parks is because we just couldn’t choose between one or the other. Online research led us to believe that Yala is the best park for a safari in Sri Lanka, especially for spotting leopards. However, we also found a few forums where people raved about their experiences at Udawalawe, which included spotting leopards.
Therefore, based on our experiences visiting both parks, we’ve put together our comparison of Yala and Udawalawe National Parks side by side, to answer a simple question: which is the best safari in Sri Lanka?
And the answer might surprise you!
Yala vs. Udawalawe: a Few Facts!
Yala National Park is the most visited park in Sri Lanka and also one of the biggest in terms of size. It was the first national park created in Sri Lanka in 1938 along with Wilpattu. It covers an area of 979 square km (378 square miles) and is divided in 5 blocks. Only blocks 1 and 5 are open to tourists, with number 1 being the most popular for sightings (and the most crowded by jeeps). The other blocks cannot be accessed by the public because they are used for research and documentaries.
Udawalawe National Park on the other hand is smaller, a third of the size of Yala, covering 308 square km (119 square miles). Nonetheless, given its smaller size, Udawalawe has a greater density of animal to size ratio, particularly with Sri Lankan elephants. Being a less popular safari destination than Udawalawe, it is also quieter, which makes it a more enjoyable safari experience in our opinion.