The beauty of Sri Lanka is that it has so much to offer with all kinds of variety accompanied by truly unique accommodations.
One of the most unique experiences we just had in Sri Lanka was on the south coast was at Yala National Park staying at a Relais & Chateuax property - Wild Coast Tented Lodge - a Safari inspired luxury lodge on the boundaries of the park.
Being only a 4-hour flight from Dubai, this is the perfect introduction for taking the kids on a Safari. Yala National Park is a couple of hours drive from Colombo Airport but you can also get a sea plane to Hambantota Airport which is then only a short drive into Yala. Hopefully Hambantota Airport will soon reopen for international flights, which will make the time taken to come to this wonderful part of Sri Lanka even shorter.
Wild Coasted Tented Lodge instantly transported me back to Africa - a nature lovers paradise where the property mergers into its surroundings. The beautiful lodges are an interior designer’s dream - open plan safari style colonial interiors with wooded floors, leather desk and chairs with the wardrobe and bathroom door frame made out of copper pipes and cream canvas soft furnishings. A center piece free-standing copper bath in the middle of the bathroom looks out of the large window offering the perfect view of nature. The round windows and stitching on the tent panels makes it authentic. Each room comes with an integrated Sonos Sound system – but thankfully no TV – although who needs one as you have the perfect Nat Geo show right on your door step.
This 28 tented lodge hotel is also great for families as some of the large tents are connected to what they call “urchins” which are smaller rooms with twin beds- same design but instead of a bath they have an outdoor shower and are a little smaller in size. The most indulgent rooms are the Cocoon Pool Suites with a private plunge pool that overlooks the beach.
Yep I did just say beach... can you believe this wonderful resort offers not only a raw safari experience but beach life too. There's a large infinity pool that goes through the restaurant facing the beach so you can enjoy listening to the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks while dining. This really is a one of a kind experience especially as there are not many places in the world which combines jungle life with beach life.
When outdoors especially on the beach you have to be vigilant as animals roam freely, one day we saw wilder beast and the next day elephants walking down the beach and if you’re lucky you may get to witness an elephant drinking at the water hole right outside you room which the lodges surround.
While the children played in the pool, monkeys sat on the wall and watched them and cooled down with taking a sip of the salt water swimming pool. It was great to see the kids face light up with excitement but do remember the animals are wild so you don’t know how they will react.
Every morning we were woken up by monkeys jumping on our roof and knocking on our door! As I pulled up the blinds and the kids jumped out of the bed, we had so many pairs of eyes looking back at us including one mama monkey had her baby in her arms - she was so cute. The kids watched them from the window and after about thirty minutes the monkeys got bored of us and moved on to the next tent.
That brings me to the safari experience: you can either enjoy a guided bush walk or game drives which are twice a day at 6am and 3pm. Your car and guide is provided by Wild Coast. Our first drive was in the afternoon, the kids jumped into the customized Jeep super excited ready to experience their first real Safari, seat belts on, binoculars at the ready and eager to spot animals.
Driving out of the lodge you get to see so many huge iguanas - some I mistook for being crocodiles - yep they were that big! Monkeys are everywhere, jumping from tree to tree.
We drove up to the main gate where one of the Yala park rangers jumped into our car with his walker talkie at the ready as when an animal is spotted they radio through to other cars to let them know. Yala is split into 5 zones with the zone we were in being 140 sq kilometers. Home to crocodiles, elephants, deer, monkeys, water buffalo, wild boar and approx. 35 leopards and 20 brown bears.
The weather makes a huge impact on the animals that you will see on safari and as the land was dry - due to little rain, this meant the elephants were harder to spot as they were in search of water holes. This was the first Safari I have ever done where we saw more leopards than elephants. Even when I was on safari in the Masai Mara we didn’t get to spot a single leopard but day one of our safari in Sri Lanka and we saw 3! My husband even spotted one walking through the bush, I don’t know how seeing as leopards are so well camouflaged. We stopped the car and this amazing calm and elegant cat walked straight past us ignoring the fact that we were there. The kids were amazed, kept quiet and watched with open mouths.
A little further on and there were a few 4x4s all together with their engines turned off, a sign that a animal has been spotted and to wait in silence. We joined the group and waited patiently. This is the point when you realize if your kids are ready for the real safari experience. The three of them sat patiently upright looking through their binoculars waiting until we spotted in the bush an elephant wanting to cross the path to join the other female elephants on the other side. Female elephants always stay together while the males wander alone.
This elephant walked straight past us ignorant to her surrounding - all the cars and people and stomped into the bush crushing plants in her path. I’m a huge lover of these beautiful creatures and seeing them in the wild is always so enchanting.
Kumar was our guide, he was excellent especially when explaining everything to the children. Considering rangers do this all day everyday, It’s amazing to hear how passionate and knowledgeable they are about the animals and their habitat and they really do know the park like the back of their hand. His eyes were super sharp, he could spot a baby croc lying on a log in the distance and he could tell from paw prints in the sand how close an animal was.
Before the morning drive you could grab a snack and coffee and then post drive, breakfast would be waiting to be served. While eating it was so nice hearing the kids talk about the drive and tell all the staff what they saw and of course show all their photos and videos.
Sundowners are served on the beach early evening after safari, which I really loved, its such a beautiful way to end a safari. Beanbags are laid out facing the ocean so as you could watch the sun go down and chat to the game park rangers and conservationists.
Later on at night, through a pathway of candles, dinner is served under a canopy of stars and the light from the full moon is so beautiful as it shines down on the ocean. The main restaurant which sits under a canopy with the swimming pool going through it, is efficiently managed by Mr. Dhammika and his team who were all extremely helpful and attentive- nothing is too much to ask. All the food is a la carte with enough options including a vast choice of gluten and diary free options. If your looking for a yummy cocktail Dhammika loves to mix up one of his amazing treats.
After dinner a ranger will escort you back to your room just incase there’s an unexpected guest outside your room!!
There are so many reasons to love Wild Coasted Lodge but we have to applaud them as the entire lodge is designed to have a minimal impact on the surrounding eco system. Solar power is used to heat water and run the air conditioner. They also run a junior rangers program, which introduces all aspects of the wilderness to local kids from camping to tracking animals.
Resplendent Ceylon and Dilmah Conservation are also just about to open an on-site Leopard Research Center to support the work of the wilderness and wildlife conservation trust whose founders are pioneering research on the Sri Lankan leopard. This is a similar program to the one they have in the tea plantation areas of Sri Lanka.
Overall, Wild Coast Tented Lodge, on the south coast of Sri Lanka on the boundaries of Yala National Park is an unforgettable experience. The combination of jungle wildlife and raw beaches will impress even the most jaded of travelers while the luxury-tented accommodations truly elevate the concept of luxury eco-tourism.
Watch my videos here:
Wild Coast Tented Lodge
For more information on Relais Chateaux resorts in Sri Lanka visit
How to get there:
Emirates and Fly Dubai fly directly into Colombo
Cinnamon Air Seaplane from Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport flies to multiple landing strips on the island