Once we decided we were going to visit Sri Lanka, a safari to Yala National Park was right up there on our must do list. Initially we didn’t even know that you could do safaris there! We’ve done a couple in Africa pre-kids and thought it would be an amazing thing to experience as a family.

There are a number of beautiful national parks in Sri Lanka where you can get up close to wildlife that is incredible and includes leopards, elephants, crocodiles, sloth bear, deer, jackals, and seemingly hundreds of different species of birds.

We decided to visit Yala National Park because it has the highest concentration of leopards in Sri Lanka and therefore a bigger chance of seeing one (they are notoriously hard to spot). After a bit of research and some recommendations we decided to splurge with this one and booked with Leopard Trails on a 1 night luxury glamping experience.

We were staying in Tissamaharama so got a tuktuk to take us out to the camp at 1pm. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by a lovely cool drink and cold towel and Ari the camp manager took us over to the lounge tent to give us the run-down on the itinerary for the safari and what we could expect.

The lovely lounge tent

Ari then took us over to our tent ‘Wood Apple’. This was no ordinary tent. It was complete with lovely king sized comfortable beds with beautiful cotton linens, artwork, robes, a fully functioning toilet, outside shower so you could shower under the stars and a selection of lovely toiletries. We could get used to this, such a pity it was only for one night!

Luxury camping at its best
The loo!
Swish robes and fluffy towels complete the picture.
The entrance to our tent.

We had a short time to freshen up and then we went to the dining tent for lunch. A delicious curry and rice feast awaited us, complete with our choice of beverages. We got to meet our companions for the safari, a nice couple from Belgium and an expat-Swiss family who lived in Singapore.

A delicious lunch. The round things at the front were bitter gourd and it tasted a bit like sundried tomato.

Once lunch was done, we climbed into our purpose built truck and headed out for our late afternoon/evening safari. It was a bumpy old ride out to the national park and we got airborne in the backseat a couple of times! The kids thought it was hilarious.

The safari truck

We entered the park and spent the next 3 hours or so driving around animal spotting. It didn’t take us long before we came across some beautiful elephants, a crocodile, lots of deer, giant water buffalo and some beautiful birds. Here are some photos of what we saw (click on the picture to open the photo gallery):

As we were heading out of the park at dusk we saw 2 other jeeps pulled over on the side of the road. There, way in the distance was a leopard, lying down sitting in the field!! Our guide Indika got out his binoculars and giant zoom lens on the camera and we all got to have a look. Unfortunately by then the light had faded and it was too far in the distance to get a decent shot, so we’ll just have to have the memories 🙂

Then it was back to camp for a nice shower – we were absolutely covered in dust from the roads – in our lovely outdoor shower.

Nothing like a shower under the stars.

By then it was dark and time to head to the back of the camp where a lovely campfire had been lit, chairs laid out and a nice bar set up. It was perfect sitting under the stars and having a chat to our campmates, the only downside was it was still so hot that we didn’t want to get too close to the fire! The kids had a go at roasting marshmallows which was fun.

Roasting marshmallows by the campfire
Roasting marshmallows by the campfire


Lanterns and a beautiful table setting for dinner
Lanterns and a beautiful table setting for dinner

Dinner was served under the stars and was a delicious three course affair with soup, a selection of BBQ’d meat and chocolate dessert. The kids were quite tired at this point and we were going to be up very early the next morning so we reluctantly called it a night.

At 4.30am the next morning we got our wakeup call – one of the staff gently calling ‘good morning’ outside our tent! Bleary eyed we stumbled to the dining tent for a quick coffee/tea and banana before climbing into the truck again and heading out in the pitch black.

The Block 3 entrance to Yala National Park
The Block 3 entrance to Yala National Park. Here’s a picture of the elusive sloth bear that can only be seen a couple of months a year.

This time we were headed to a different part of Yala National Park, about a 35 minute drive from our camp. It was worth the drive though as we had it all to ourselves and only saw one other jeep the whole time we were there.

It was absolutely stunning watching the sun rise and the animals coming to life. The scenery in this part of the park was wonderful as well, amazing tree formations in the giant reservoir that is there.

Amazing tree formations at Yala National Park
Amazing tree formations at Yala National Park

Again we were lucky to see a whole plethora of animals – no leopard today though. We loved every minute of it. Here’s some photos from day two of our safari (click on the image to launch the photo gallery).

Around 9am it was time to leave the park and head back to camp. On the road back we came across a wild elephant in the middle of the road. There was a man who was approaching it, to which Indika said ‘he’s crazy and taking his life in his hands’.

Wild elephant on the loose!
Wild elephant on the loose!

We stopped for a couple of minutes to observe the elephant, but Indika and our driver were keeping a pretty close eye on him and moving the truck as soon as he came too close. He seemed intent on coming over to get a look! It was quite a thrilling experience for us in the back of the truck. If you haven’t already seen it on our social media channels, here’s a wee video….

Afterwards Indika showed us some video on his phone from a couple of weeks earlier where some elephants inside the park had surrounded the truck and were trying to lift it up! A bit too close for comfort that one.

This kid loves breakfast so he was in heaven with his porridge, fruit and banana lassi
This kid loves breakfast so he was in heaven with his first course of porridge, fruit and banana lassi

When we made it back for camp a huge cooked brunch was waiting for us. So much delicious food! Then it was sadly time to pack up our things and head out to the main road where our tutuk was waiting to pick us up.

Us at the entrance to the Leopard Trails camp.
Us at the entrance to the Leopard Trails camp.

We had such a fantastic adventure on the safari and loved every minute of it, certainly memories that will last a lifetime.

Where we stayed:

River Face Inn in Tissamaharama
River Face Inn in Tissamaharama

The night before and after our safari we stayed at River Face Inn at Tissamaharama. It was another great family run guesthouse and we had two simple but clean and comfortable rooms. You pay a bit more for air conditioning but it’s definitely worth it in the heat!

Double room at River Face Inn Tissamaharama
Double room at River Face Inn Tissamaharama

There is a great family room as well but it was already booked out.

The river at River Face Inn Tissamaharama
The river at River Face Inn Tissamaharama

Riverface Inn is literally on the river, and has a pretty garden which is great for relaxing in. Watch out though, the rivers do have crocodiles in them!

The cool treehouse at River Face Inn in Tissamaharama
The cool treehouse at River Face Inn in Tissamaharama

Another great option at Riverface Inn is a really cool treehouse that they have overlooking the river.  It would be a lot of fun staying there!

Check out the latest prices and book River Face Inn in Tissamaharama here.

Jack and friend at a cool painted mural at River Face Inn, Tissamaharama
Jack and friend at a cool painted mural at River Face Inn, Tissamaharama

COMING NEXT: The beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka’s southern coast.

Note: This blog post contains affiliate links. That means if you make a booking after clicking on one of these links, we might receive a tiny commission, but it won’t cost you anything. Maybe enough to buy us a beer. Thank you :-)

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    1. Oh thank you so much, I love it when I see real people out there are actually reading this and enjoying what we’re doing. We’ve never been to Texas but hopefully one way we’ll make it!! Thanks so much for getting in touch 🙂

  1. Great post! We were thinking of Sri Lanka for this spring break, but at the last minute we randomly decided on Oman instead. Will have a look at the rest of your Sri Lanka info when we finally decide to head there! 🙂

    1. Oh thanks, glad you found it helpful! We absolutely loved it there, definitely keep it on your ‘to do’ list 🙂

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