Yala is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies in Southern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometres (378 sq mi) and is about 300 kilometres (190 mi) from Colombo.
The Park can be visited via the town of Tissamaharama in the Hambantota District of the Southern Province. Yala West (Ruhuna) National Park is well recognised as one of the best parks in the world to observe and photograph leopards. The park covers an area of over 100,000 hectares and is divided into five blocks. Block one is the most visited area since it contains the highest density of leopards.
However other areas of Yala such as Yala East had been closed to visitors for some years and it will take time to research leopard numbers in these areas. Yala West consists of scrub jungle, brackish lagoons and stunning rock monoliths scattered throughout the park, its eastern edge is bounded by the South East coast.
There is also a substantial elephant population along with spotted deer, sambar, wild buffalo, sloth bear, jackal, mongoose, pangolins and crocodiles. The bird life comprises over 120 species, and ranges from lesser flamingos to Paradise Flycatchers, Crested Hawk Eagles, and Black Bitterns.
Outside of the park are several other fascinating birding locations, including the ancient hermitage of Sithulpahuwa, Debarawewa wetland and Palatupana saltpans. The coastline forms a major nesting ground for marine turtles.