Yala (Ruhuna or Ruhunu for this part of the park, Yala East or Kumana National Park for the part accessible from the east coast) is the most visited national park in Sri Lanka. Ruhuna is divided into 5 parts (blocks I to V), of which only block I, in the south-western part, is open to tourism.
Yala Park is renowned for the variety of its wildlife, characteristic of the dry tropical forest zone. Some 400 elephants, including several tuskers (tusk bearers), about 40 leopards and some lippus bears are the main attractions of the site. In addition, there are many birds, deer and hinds, monkeys, crocodiles, mongooses and other animals. However, be careful with leopards: although leopards in Yala are more accustomed to human presence than elsewhere, their observation is not always guaranteed: remember that the park is vast and that you will only have access to part of it. There are also remains in the park that demonstrate the occupation of Yala by an ancient civilization that would have been part of the kingdom of Ruhunu. Thus, Situlpahuwa, located in the south-western zone of the park, is said to have been home to up to 12,000 inhabitants, including several thousand Buddhist monks. Its temple, now restored, is the object of an important annual pilgrimage. Nearby are Magul Vihara and Akasa Chaitiya, dating from 87 BC and the 2nd century BC respectively.
Yala National Park, severely damaged by the 2004 tsunami, has gradually and naturally regained all its beauty. Despite the reopening of several other national parks in the country in recent years, this large park remains one of the most popular visitor attractions in Sri Lanka.
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