Yala, Sri Lanka’s most famous national park, consists of 5 blocks and a strict nature reserve. Yala Block 2 is a dream destination for Sri Lankans and foreigners nature lovers alike, who are seeking the real safari adventure. We are now telling you why.
The most visited area of Yala National Park is Block 1. Block 1 is the southernmost part of Yala, situated between the coast and Kataragama, and can easily be reached from Tissamaharama. Yala Block 1 has an exceptional diversity in land forms. Leopards can often be seen sleeping on rock boulders. But many nature lovers complain, block 1 has more tourists than wild animals and it’s crowded with jeeps for half-day safaris. Nevertheless, Yala Block 1 is worth a visit. But real wildlife enthusiasts will take their time to explore the less well-known parts of Yala in order to avoid the crowds and experience the real safari feeling.
Blocks 3, 4 and 5 are situated north of Yala Block 1, they belong to the Uva Province, whereas Yala 1 and Yala 2 form the easternmost part of the Southern Province. Yala National Park Blocks 3, 4 and 5 mainly consist of dense scrub jungle. Even more leopards live here than in Block 1, but in this densely forested inland area it’s not as easy to spot them as in Block 1.
Yala Block 2 has large areas of of open grassland. This is why it’s an ideal place to observe wild animals in general and leopards in particular. But in contrast to Yala Block 1, Block 2 cannot be reached on half-day safaris and not without special permission. Furthermore the roads are much more hard hitting than those of the much frequented Block 1. This is why this remote part of Yala National Park is still a genuine wilderness offering best opportunities for real safari experiences, a dream coming true for those who are fond of Sri Lanka’s natural beauty.
Like Yala Block 1, Block 2 is bordering the ocean. Yala Block 2 is situated east of Block 1, connecting Block 1 with the Kumana National Park further east. Indeed, Yala Block 2 is a narrow stripe of land along the coastline. The Yala Strict Nature Reserve is just north of Block 2, only 10 km further inland. You cannot come closer to the most protected wildlife zone of Yala than in Yala Block 2.
Yala Block 2 stretches between the rivers Manik Ganga and Kumbukkan Oya, which are the borders to Block 1 and Kumana respectively. It is at the river mouth of the Manik Ganga, where the name-giving beach of Yala is located. Entering Yala Block 2 is only possible by crossing the river close to this Yala camp. The area of Yala Block 2 is about 25 km long. and measures 289 square kilometres.
Some of the very isolated and remarkable places of Yala Block 2 are Miniha Gal Kanda, Pahala Poththana, Uda Poththana, Walaskema, and Boer's Tree.
Uda Poththana Modara and Pahala Poththana (also known as the Navaladi wells) are fresh water wells of particular significance for the wild animals during the dry period. Uda Poththana and Pahala Poththana are surrounded by open areas, making them perfect places for wildlife observations. Both wells traditionally also served as resting places for Pada Yatra pilgrims during their annual pilgrimages from the East Coast to Kataragama.
At Walaskema there is a large rock with several water holes, which are called Kemas, most of them have water even during the dry season.
Pilinnawa Eliya consists of dunes and vast open sandy sections, another open stretch of land. A lagoon called Ethiliwela Kalapuwa is situated close to it.
To reach Miniha Gal Kanda visitors have to start at the sand dunes near the Araga Ara (also spelt Aragara) and walk 2 kilometres along the beach into eastern direction. „Miniha Gal Kanda“ means „Man Rock Mountain“. The rock is said to resembling a man with his hands on the hips. looking towards the ocean. “Miniha Gal Kanda” is an eroded remnant of a former coral reef. The immediate surrounding of Miniha Gal Kanda is a fascinating geological formation, too. Wemi-circular craters with vertical walls are nicknamed “amphitheatres”.
Safari tours to Miniha Gal Kanda and the sand dunes of Pilinnawa Eliya need prior permission from wildlife department.
“Boer’s Tree” is a lonely Dan Tree (Syzgium carophyllatumnear) at Pahala Poththana. It was at Boer`s Tree that Henry Engelbrecht, the first park warden for the Yala Game sanctuary, used to camp when he visited Pahala Poththana on his field tours.
"Boer" refers to the Dutch speaking South African settlers ("Boer" is the Dutch word for "farmer"), who were defeated by the British colonial army. Henry Engelbrecht was one of 5000 Boer prisoner of war who were sent to Ceylon. When the war in South Africa ended in 1902, they were allowed to return to their homecountry after declaring an oath of allegiance to the British rule. But Engelbrecht was one of five Boer prisoners who refused the oath, thus he was forced to stay on the island in exile. When Engelbrecht did not manage to pay the rent for the house in Hambantota he was living in, the British Gouvernor, in order to help him, appointed Engelbrecht game warden of the coastal area between the Kumbukkan Oya and Manik Ganga, which had already been declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1899. It’s the very same area is today’s Yala Block 2, which therefore can be considered to be the core area of today’s much larger Yala or Ruhunu National Park. The first park warden, Henry Engelbrecht, managed to protect the animals effectively, the game populations were soon observed to be increasing. "Boer" Henry Engelbrecht’s gravestone can still be seen on a cemetery in the district capital of Hambantota.
As already mentioned, Yala Block 2 expeditions are of special interest for nature lovers, the few visitors here really get to experience the great outdoors without the presence of other safari visitors. But a Yala Block 2 safari is not recommendable without spending at least one night in the wilderness and making comprehensive preparations.
A special permission is required for access to Yala Block 2. Normal one-day visitors of Yala National park must not visit Yala Block 2. Nugasewana Camp Site near Paranaganthota should be reserved in advance from the Wildlife Department, too. Starting at the park office you first have to cross Block 1 along the Yala main road B499 to the Manik Ganga, the river marking the border between Yala Block 1 and Block 2, the river can be crossed near Paranaganthota (also called Parana Thotupola). Paranaganthota is the designated resting place for overnight stays in Yala Block 1. There are some more camp sites on the either banks of the Manik river. Other of Yala Block 2’s rivers, which are difficult to pass, are Katupila Ara and Aragara Ara.
For safety reasons, a safari tour into Yala Block 2 has to make use of two 4WD vehicles, because a wildlife department permit requires travelling with a back-up vehicle, due to the remoteness of this wilderness. Driving with 2 vehicles and 2 drivers plus Wildlife Department charges for overnight stays inside National Park boundaries make Yala Block 2 safaris much more expensive than half-day excursions in Yala Block 1, of course.
After heavy rainfall, water leveld of the river can be too high for vehicles to cross it safely. This is why Yala Block 2 safaris cannot be guaranteed when booked for a fixed date.
Compared to Block 1, where animals are used to see plenty of jeeps and visitors every day, the wildlife in Yala Block 2 is more shy and thus will flee frequently when noticing a vehicle. However, the sizes of herds of deer, buffalo and boar can be larger than in Yala Block 1. The landscape generally is of the bush type, interspersed with large open plains and lagoons, allowing to overview vast areas.
A national park is not an adventure trail for offroad enthusiasts. Speed and noise must be avoided in order to protect the wildlife heritage of Sri Lanka.
So, if you are looking for the real safari experience in Yala National Park, don't miss a Yala Block 2 expedition. In order to prepare it, please don't hesitate to contact us.
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