Last month, in preparation for our #protectYALA issue, Team LT found ourselves heading south to Yala for a 5 day stint in the jungle. Having never been camping myself, I expected the worst – days on end of no water or electricity, flying bugs, jumping tree frogs and having to dig a hole in the ground to use the bathroom. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised as Kulu Safaris Yala Base Camp provided for all our basic needs, as well as all the luxuries one could ask for while in the middle of the jungle.
Kulu Safaris are pioneers in luxury camping, having established themselves as tented safari operators in Sri Lanka in 2004. They operate several camps across the island, Yala and Wilpattu being two of their main sites. They also offer mobile safaris using smaller tents, to allow them to be more flexible and versatile, making them the primary ground logistics providers for wildlife documentary crews of international filmmakers including National Geographic, BBC Wildlife and Disney Nature.
Kulu, with its thoughtful, caring approach to wildlife tourism, treads lightly on Yala and it’s rich buffer area, while still providing an all-inclusive high end package that leaves their guests wanting for nothing.
Kulu Safaris Yala Base Camp offer guests two options for rooms. Four of their tents can be set up in a double or twin bed sharing basis or even a single bed tented room. Kulu also offers two family tents which are two meters larger in size and can be arranged on either a 1 double bed/2 single bed basis, 2 double bed basis, or even with 4 single beds, and are usually set up for families of two adults and two children. Altogether they have six tents and can accommodate up to twenty guests on a sharing basis.
These aren’t your average tents, as Kulu provides the lap of luxury in the wilderness, without causing harm to the environment it inhabits. Each tent has a room light for the night; a fan for the sweltering hot days (though not really necessary in the nights thanks to the cool outdoor breeze), and a bathroom set up with a toilet, hot and cold-water shower and a sink. Water is to be used sparingly as it is pumped from a tank, which also makes sure that guests are conscious of the environment.
What LT Loves
My all time favourite surprise by Kulu Safaris was the ice-cold gin & tonic sundowners served on arrival, following the evening safari. From sightings in the boiling heat, to stunning sunsets, and mysterious, mystical dusk – Kulu knows exactly how to end the wonderful round with those invitingly crisp G&Ts.
The Kulu Safari jeeps are probably the most comfortable safari vehicle myself or anyone on my team had the pleasure of experiencing. When a majority of your day is spent in that jeep, it really is an important factor and we were definitely grateful for that bit of luxury.
Manjula, one of Kulu’s leading naturalists (and rangers) and the KuluSafaris Team were warm, friendly and highly capable, the service was on point and all the staff was incredibly hospitable. We love that Kulu’s experienced rangers were able to guide us through Yala and give us a truly unique perspective on the Park’s wildlife.
On our last night with Kulu, an outdoor candlelit BBQ was set up. It was a beautiful night, with the milky-way in full view, the kerosene lamps were lit, and the food had been set out on a BBQ grill for guests to self serve whenever they pleased. The ambience was serene, perhaps even romantic, though for a group of 8 it was honestly lovely and has definitely made our What LT Loves list.
Food & Drink
Kulu Safaris specialize in genuine Sri Lankan produce and flavours. Meals are usually based around safari trips so early morning starts kick off with some Sri Lankan brewed tea or coffee. Once back at the camp at 10am, guests can enjoy fruit platters, eggs of your choice, pol roti, pancakes, lavaria, etc. After a small rest from the blazing noon heat, guests are served a Sri Lankan rice and curry at lunchtime, however it is prepared quite simply and light, it certainly isn’t your usual heavy 8 curry extravaganza, as at 3:30pm the afternoon safari round commences.
Kulu Safaris is known to have BBQ nights for dinner when not treating their guests to Sri Lankan favourites such as string hoppers or pittu. The Kulu staff customarily discuss dietary restrictions with guests in advance so as to prepare meals accordingly.
The Kulu Safaris Yala Base Camp is located close to the Katagamuwa entrance of the Yala National Park. It is a short 10-15 minute drive away from the entrance of the park. As this is the lesser used entrance to Block 1 of Yala, the wildlife experience is significantly better, as you avoid the traffic and congestion encountered when entering through Palatupana.
The Camp is right opposite the Kochchipathana Wewa (lake), and a whole array of animals, from wild boar and peacocks to buffalos and on occasion a wandering elephant, are all within our line of sight.
Things To Do
The Kulu Safari experience come with two safari game drives a day, one in the early hours of the morning at day break (5:30am) and the other an afternoon session (3:30pm). The campsite is also equipped with kayaks, and guests are invited to try staff-assisted kayaking trips during the season when water levels are optimal. Trekking in and around the camp is another option for nature loving guests due to the abundance of birdlife and reptiles.
If staying on for a longer period of time, guests can visit Bundala National Park. They can also make a trip out to see the Sithulpavva Rock Temple or go to a Kataragama Night Pooja, or even go to Paranathotupala for a river bath if interested.
Tel: Shehani – 0715338230