Yala National Park
Yala National Park, the second largest in the country, is one of the most popular destinations in South Asia for tourists, naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Home to the elusive Asian leopard, sloth bear, elephant as well as hundreds of endemic and migratory bird species, Yala is a biodiversity hot spot like no other. The 378-square-mile park is divided into five blocks, two of which are open to the public. Given its location in the dry semi-arid climatic region of southeastern Sri Lanka bordering the Indian Ocean, with rainfall limited to the northeast monsoon, Yala is home to a variety of ecosystems – from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. The sanctuary is considered a conservation haven for a number of endangered species including the Sri Lankan leopard, the Sri Lankan elephant and some aquatic birds. Yala is a highly sought after destination for birdwatchers from around the world. Of the 215 species of bird found here, six are endemic to the island. Apart from the animal attractions, Yala is also home to at least two pilgrim sites whose origins can be traced back to ancient Sri Lanka.