5 Experiences Your Family Will Love When Camping in Yala
The crisp morning air, a cool river bath, a crackling fire and a sky full of stars…
These are a few things that come to mind when thinking about camping in Yala. Situated on the south coast of Sri Lanka, Yala National Park hugs the golden shoreline and is the country’s most popular national park. Camping is certainly the best way to experience nature, and the park has a few campsites which you can pre-book, so that you can fully immerse yourself in the wilderness. Here are five unforgettable things you can experience when camping in Yala.
The Safari Drives
Amazing game drives will certainly be the highlight of your trip. Yala’s green jungles not only house elephants, leopards and sloth bears, but also a myriad of other mammals, reptiles and bird species. The park is actually one of the most important bird areas in Sri Lanka and 215 species of birds nest here, seven of which are endemic to the country.
One of the best things about camping within the park is that you will get a head start on beginning your safari without having to wait in line at the park’s gates to enter. You will also have a higher chance of spotting animals in an interrupted setting. Your accompanying park ranger will spot the smallest of details whether it be paw prints on the dirt roads or animal droppings, and help you understand the behaviour of the wildlife. It will feel as though you are a detective trying to solve a mystery, something the kids in your group will definitely enjoy! Just remember to keep your eyes peeled and cameras ready at all times.
The River Baths
Nothing can beat a freshwater river bath in the middle of the jungle. In Yala, most campsites are placed close to the banks of a river or another body of water. Menik Ganga, Sri Lanka’s 13th longest river, winds through the park till it finally reaches the sea. Menik Ganga translates to ‘River of Gems’ an apt name for it, as precious stones lie beneath the murky river bed. Swim in a shallow area of the river, but just to be safe, always ask your accompanying park ranger to show you the best bathing spots. The cool water is a great way to freshen up after your safari drive on the dusty roads.
The Bonfire Nights
Nothing says ‘camping’ quite like a bonfire! After sunset, when it starts getting darker you should light a campfire and huddle around it while you eat dinner and wind down for the night. Even though Yala is quite hot during the day, at night the heat rises and you are left with a rather cool and pleasant chill in the air. Bask in the warmth of the glowing fire and reminisce on the activities of the day, or listen to the many interesting stories about the jungle that your park ranger will be happy to share – it is guaranteed to be more interesting than any TV show!
The Cool Early Mornings
If you are a nature lover you know that everything seems more beautiful early in the morning, and Yala is no exception. Morning safari drives are the best time to spot animals, and you will have a head start before outside jeeps come and clog up the roads with traffic. The only possible downside is that you will have to wake up early, between 5:30 and 6:00 AM (not an easy feat when you are travelling with kids!).
It will be quite chilly in the morning, so be sure you pack a jacket or a scarf. The whole park has a dewy freshness and you will be sure to have some great sightings. Return to your campsite around 9 am for some breakfast and maybe a quick nap.
The Picnics for Every Meal
Finally, when you go camping almost every meal you have will be a picnic! This is a fun way of approaching mealtimes and genuinely, nothing can beat having a meal when you are in the middle of one of Sri Lanka’s largest jungles and by a flowing river.
Some Useful Tips
- The best time to visit Yala is between January and May.
- Yala can be quite hot and dry during the day so make sure you pack plenty of water, sunscreen and hats/sunglasses.
- You will be within the jungle so pack all necessary medications eg: motion sickness tablets, mosquito repellent and paracetamol.
- Since you are camping you will need to take everything along with you, from camping gear to the food. It is unlikely that you will find places to rent tents close to the park so it is best you make arrangements ahead of time. Also, pack food that is easy to prepare.
- There won’t be sophisticated sanitation facilities, so if you do not feel like roughing it, but still want to stay within the park, try one of the many government-owned bungalows that you can rent out.
- Finally, make sure you leave the park the same way you found it. Be respectful of the home of the wonderful wildlife that you enjoy seeing.