Surf, tea, safari—this is what homegrown hospitality group Resplendent Ceylon now offers with the recent opening of Wild Coast Tented Lodge in Yala National Park. With renowned hotels elsewhere in Sri Lanka, namely Ceylon Tea Trails in the tea country and Cape Weligama in Galle, the newest addition to the collection helps paint an accurate picture of the island's diverse offerings. With plans to open in the Cultural Triangle of Sigiriya in 2018 and another property in Colombo, they're sure to cover everything a curious and discerning traveller may seek. But first, let's explore what they have up their sleeve in this ambitious undertaking.
1. First Impressions
After a smooth flight into Colombo via Sri Lankan Airlines, a five-hour drive brings you to Yala National Park—the country's second largest park and also the most visited one, with most travellers making the journey in search of the elusive leopard. Wild Coast Tented Lodge has the privilege of being located very close to the park, and is set within the thick jungle and right on the edge of a pristine beach by the Indian Ocean.
The way the resort was conceived shows respect for its special location, something felt right upon arrival. Check-in happens in a charming little hut, after which you're led to your room on foot. En route, you won't miss the striking open-air bar and restaurant; if you're more observant, you'll also spot Adrian Gray's balancing stone art dotted along the paths. Much of the resort mimics this first encounter—rustic yet refined, thematic but not contrived, and though it's completely new, it already feels right at home.
2. Do Not Disturb
Intriguing from the outside and delightful on the inside, the tented cocoon suites are what glamping dreams are made of. Designed by Nomadic Resorts, the tent's novel architecture is inspired by the park's large white boulders (you'll see a few by the shore) and each cluster forms the shape of a leopard's paw. I stayed in a Cocoon Pool Suite—limited to four out of the 28 rooms—one that is favoured by a young elephant who, I'm told, occasionally drinks from the plunge pool.
Each element was carefully thought out and implemented—from the taut canvas imported from France and assembled onsite to the teak and leather furnishings sourced from South Africa. It all comes together to create a stylish, cosy room that pays homage to a colonial expedition style and yet feels utterly modern. The highlight? All the copper touches from India, especially the stunning handmade copper bathtub.
3. The Extras
As with any safari holiday, a stay at Wild Coast Tented Lodge comes with game drives. It pays to go at least on one drive to ensure that you spot leopards (Yala is a hotspot for this elusive feline), as well as sloth bears, elephants and endemic birdlife.
While Wild Coast Tented Lodge is located by the beach, swimming isn't advisable given the strong currents. However, guests can take a dip in the large freeform swimming pool—complete with jacuzzi niches—or at their private plunge pool. Note: the camp isn't fenced in, which means you may see animals prancing along the shore or paths (if you're lucky).
4. Food And Drink
With its soaring bamboo ceilings and exquisite furnishings, the Ten Tusks restaurant and The Den bar are a sight to behold. Even with just one dining outlet, you're unlikely to be bored of this open-air pavilion where each detail comes with an interesting backstory. Case in point: the seating is actually crafted from a mixture of elephant dung and clay, while the pathways are lined with dolomite stones discovered during the building of the resort.
Chef Suresh Nicholas and his team are keen to introduce guests to the culinary bounty of Sri Lanka. For instance, they have a Ceylon Heritage menu, which showcases the colourful mix of flavours inspired by the traders and colonisers who left their imprint on the country. Of course, should the craving hit, you'll be able to find comfort food and enjoy a rustic barbeque, a safari staple.
5. Tatler Tip
If your schedule permits, it's worth going on Resplendent Ceylon's Tea, Sea, Safari itinerary. It takes you to their two other properties, Ceylon Tea Trails and Cape Weligama, and offers a bigger picture of the magnificent island of Sri Lanka.