With its vast national parks teeming with wildlife, ancient Buddhist temples, verdant Tea Country, spectacular whale watching and exhilarating white water rafting and kayaking, Sri Lanka offers a collage of historical, cultural, adventurous and nature-based experiences.
Resplendent Ceylon, the hospitality arm of Dilmah, an ethical and family-owned tea company based in Sri Lanka, recently opened Wild Coast Tented Lodge—its third property—where you can lay your head and enjoy some of the country’s many treasures. Its location is unique: set along an undeveloped coast of golden sands beside Yala National Park, renowned for its endangered leopards.
Why do we love this boutique accommodation? Let me count the ways, including that, like Resplendent Ceylon’s other two properties, Wild Coast is sustainability focused, with profits benefiting the company’s numerous environmental and social justice initiatives. Here’s what else we adore:
If you have the time, sign up for both the early morning and afternoon safaris in Yala National Park to increase the odds you’ll spot all these creatures: elephants, water buffalo, sambar deer, sloth bears and leopards.
Keen-eyed guides will take you to quieter sections of the park where an adult female and baby elephants might veer ultra-close to your jeep. Sometimes you’ll smell the male elephants before you see them—they emit a pungent-smelling pheromone. The guides will also provide you with an education in animal behavior. For example, when frightened, a baby elephant emits a trumpeting sound.
Book a one-hour trek in Yala’s transition zone with a skillful guide who will give you and your kids an education into the area’s plethora of fauna and flora, including the traditional uses for many botanicals, and evidence of animals that you would surely have overlooked. (Don’t forget your binoculars.)
What’s in that hole in the ground? A monitor lizard. Who makes those different tracks in the sand? A peacock in one case, and a red-wattled lapwing in the other. How about that unremarkable plant? Just about every part of the sickle bush is good for something—no wonder it’s called the “pharmacy tree.” Who knew?
Whether you’re dining, sleeping, or imbibing, you might feel like you’ve dropped into a land that radiates a sci-fi-ish vibe mixed in with the surreal. The spacious, dome-shape of the open-air restaurant, bar, and reception area reference the property’s massive coastal boulders, created by weaving a net of bamboo clad in recycled teak shingles.
Resembling pod-like spaceships inset with portholes, the 28 gleaming white cocoons (accommodations made of breathable, hand-stitched canvas) are furnished with an aesthetic that might be considered a melding of chic, contemporary with a colonial-era expedition style, complete with a four-poster bed, copper leopard’s foot bathtub, exposed copper piping, and dark leather touches.
No foodie will be disappointed with the innovative menu options, especially those dishes that fuse Western and Sri Lankan flavors and ingredients. Resembling a burger, the jackfruit patty, consisting of the curried pulled fruit with a tangy mustard tomato sauce, is particularly appealing. So is the tandoori king fish marinated in buffalo curd and served with a chili cumin sauce.
Save room for the scrumptious wood apple panna cotta dolloped with meringue, or any of the other tempting desserts.
In the property’s dense jungle growth, 24 cocoons huddle in clusters of four around a watering hole that serves as a gathering spot for wildlife. Bring your camera and binoculars and relax on your teak deck where you might spot gray langur monkeys scampering through the treetops, or a wild boar cooling off in these ponds that are filled with recycled water.
Early morning is a good time to spot egrets, as well as other bird species, such as a white bellied fish eagle, or an Asian paradise flycatcher.
If you’re traveling with your brood, whether little ones or teens, select one of the eight family cocoons. These give parents plenty of privacy in their own spacious pod because of the adjacent kid’s cocoon, referred to as “Urchin,” a Middle English word for hedgehog.
Children of all ages will delight in sleeping in their own twin-bed, extraterrestrial-like accommodation, especially considering it’s complete with a charming outdoor shower.
In keeping with the British tradition, high tea is available every day at 4 pm. Choose the venue where you’d like it served, whether in the restaurant, bar or on the sunny lawn with Indian Ocean views.
Of course, a variety of Dilmah teas sourced from their own Sri Lankan tea estates accompany a three-tiered array of baked goods, crustless sandwiches, and hot tapas that together blend Western and Asian sensibilities. These might include lemon tarts, scones and Battenberg cakes, as well as cheese sandwiches with either cucumbers or smoked salmon, and vegetable samosas and spring rolls.
Appealing Cocktails and Bar Snacks
Beside the meandering infinity pool, settle into one of the comfy leather chairs in the expansive bar with a “Wild Coast mojito” that blends white rum with lime juice, brown sugar, passionfruit and king coconut water. Or choose one of the refreshing cocktails that relies on Ceylon Arrack, a traditional Sri Lankan spirit.
One of these, “Jungle Fever,” mixes in spice-infused rum, lime juice and kithul treacle, a palm sugar syrup. If you crave a nibble, ask for the homemade (still warm) roasted mixed nuts, or popcorn inflected with cilantro and lime.
Idyllic Sundowners Setting
Each evening, follow the lanterns lining your path from the restaurant-bar complex to a picturesque beachfront spot that’s home to sundowners. From your cushioned perch atop one of the many boulders, you’ll no longer wonder why the property is called “Wild Coast,” given the majestic barrenness of the shore that stretches in the distance and where waves tumble.
Try each of the myriad canapés offered for a full flavor profile, such as watermelon with Parma ham; and spicy chicken atop a coconut roti.
After returning from a dusty safari or bush walk, soothing spa treatments await. Couples might want to share an intimate, two-hour, multi-treatment experience, or luxuriate separately, picking a wellness treatment for her that comes with a stimulating seaweed wrap, botanical hair treatment and relaxing Swedish massage plus a mini facial, and for him a cleansing body scrub, vigorous Balinese massage and an Indian head massage to banish any residual tension.
We especially love the Island Spice Scrub, a very thorough 40-minute exfoliation that relies on a blend of turmeric, sandalwood and other spices.