Over the past two decades, the Yala National Park has grown to become the most visited National Park in Sri Lanka. Having the highest leopard density in the world, it does not come as a surprise that visitors flock here by the numbers to get a glimpse of the panthera pardus kotiya and among them elephants and sloth bears – three of Sri Lanka’s ‘Big Five’ (the other two being the sperm whale and blue whale).
Spending time in a national park is a privilege. There’s something extraordinary and thrilling about spotting and being so close to wildlife. The animals roam free. They do not show up ‘on demand’. Nature moves at its own pace. While some days might not yield many sightings, others could prove to be quite exciting. There’s no telling how a game drive may turn out. Each experience is unique and unlike the other.
Resplendent Ceylon’s sustainability agenda extends across Climate Action, Land & Sea and People & Culture; driven by our Sustainability Champions. This is our way of honouring our privilege as stewards of these pristine locations. Wild Coast Tented Lodge, located adjacent to the Yala National Park, was built on the principles of being one with nature. As part of our curated experiences, our team charters jeeps that are owned/driven by members of the local community, in an effort to ensure they too get a piece of the proverbial pie of tourism in this region.
However, the drivers do not only drive our guests, but also undertake private game drives for general visitors to the park. In line with our resort’s high standards of an ethical wildlife experience without forgoing the luxury service offered to our guests, Wild Coast Tented Lodge initiated a series of sessions to address the issues of the park, starting with changing the perceptions of the jeep drivers and creating awareness on the existing issues.
Our resort recently hosted the eminent Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya (Former Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and an Elephant Behaviour Specialist) to speak to the jeep drivers who work with us, to inform them about the impacts of irresponsible wildlife viewing on animal behaviour and their well-being. Additionally the team at the Lodge also shared with the drivers the potential for Yala to be a world-class wildlife destination, second to none.
This is part of an ongoing series where we will continue to work with wildlife experts to build the capacity of the jeep drivers of the Yala National Park, to elevate the wildlife experience being delivered by them and ensure the adverse trajectory of the issues will soon be reversed.
What You Can Do
As a traveller, you play a vital role in encouraging change. Here are a few ways in which you can offer your support toward creating an ethical wildlife experience in our island home.
- Communicate Expectations – Before embarking on your safari, let your guide know what you expect to see. For some it may be the rich birdlife, while others may be more interested in learning how guides track. Inform your guide that you do not want them harassing any wildlife or speeding through the park just to provide you a good sighting.
- Speak Out – Explain your concerns whenever you notice or see an animal being harmed or threatened. Some tour operators may not be aware or consider the idea of wrongdoing but you can make a difference by sharing your knowledge on ethical wildlife experiences.
- Safari Solo – Opting to go on a private excursion means you can tell the driver or operator to avoid getting too close to an animal. It might be an extra cost but do consider the fact that other passengers may not share your concerns.
- Be Responsible – Seek operators who abide by ethical regulations and who are genuinely concerned and care for the flora and fauna. You can make it clear when making your booking, that no harm or distress should be caused.