Within two weeks of exploring Sri Lanka, Asia travel expert Scarlett roved among ancient cities and temples, pastel green hills dotted with tea plantations, national parks teeming with wildlife, and golden sand beaches that surround the island. Sri Lanka hosts a wealth of diversity, breeds the most charming people, and offers the most amazing yet affordable boutique properties in Asia.
It has come to be my favourite part of the trip as we felt as if our safari experience had already begun when we drove around the outskirts of the park towards Chena Huts. We gawked and gaped in awe as we drove past water buffalos lumbering across the road, peacocks dancing with their iridescent tails sashaying under the shimmering heat. A cobra slithered in front of us while bee-eaters and eagles soared high above us in the azure sky. On entering the resort, a male Asian elephant crossed the road and waved us in. The wildlife offered a precedent to the adventures that lie ahead in the next few days to come.
Chena huts By Uga Escapes is a collection of cathedral-domed and palm-thatched premium private resorts. The huts were inspired by the small clearings farmed by the local farmers of Yala called chena, who used to sleep in huts beside their crops to guard them against prying wildlife. Adding a modern twist, the interiors of the huts are furnished with a living room, bedroom, bathroom featuring double vanities, and a freestanding bath with the ubiquitous views of the wilderness and seascape, blending seamlessly with the jungle environment. The huts also host a shaded private built-in plunge pool, satellite television, Bluetooth sound system, coffee machine, fast Wi-Fi and Minibar, plus air-con. The rooms were meticulously designed to emphasize the safari theme with log furnishings, African style rugs, complete with hanging lanterns on either side of a beautiful log bed.
I settled into my room naturally when the sunken bar that overlooks the beach lured me to its threshold. The little poufs to sit on, illuminated by lanterns and the sounds of the waves lapping the shoreline, made for a romantic and relaxed setting. The atmosphere was lively as the bartender serves cocktails to the guests—they carry their drinks in a closely knitted circle to share exciting stories about the adventures they had that day. Stories about leopard sightings and encounters with sloth bears and towering elephants were like music to my ears.
Yala National Park was a popular topic among our chat that night, as the 44 species of mammal, 200 species of colourful exotic birds, as well as high leopard density provided most of the adventures.
I was so enthusiastic to explore the park that I hardly slept a wink the night before. Our ranger Steuart picked us up in his jeep, which he drove expertly through the tangled forests, grassy plains, murky lagoons, and dry woodlands until the view of the park revealed itself. The beauty of the spotted deer, water buffalo, crocodiles, and birds present took our breath away. Steuart shared with us his comprehensive experience, accumulated from his years as a regular visitor to the park since a young age. As we explored further, we noticed two Asian elephants chomping away at trees, caught a fleeting glimpse of a leopard lurking in the vegetation, and a curious sloth bear approached our vehicle to inspect us. Later we learned from Steuart that seeing a sloth bear is like seeing seven leopards. How lucky we are.
When we arrived back at the hotel, I took a walk along the rugged beach with Steuart as we reminisced the encounters with wildlife earlier that day. I was pleasantly surprised with more beautiful encounters with sea life on the beach. I saw sea-turtles who came on the beach to lay eggs by moonlight and a particular bull elephant relaxing on the shore. To co-habitat in harmony with these majestic creatures was an otherworldly experience.
After a fun day of exploring Yala Park and the beach, I relaxed in my private plunge pool in the hut. My evening was rounded off with an alfresco dinner under a canopy of stars at the Basses Restaurant located by the beach. The daily evolving menu gave us plenty of seafood and local produce to choose from. I had the infamous Sri Lankan fish curry, tangy and flavorful, easily one of the most delicious meals I had during my time in Sri Lanka.
My stay at Chena Huts By Uga Escapes was everything I could have ever asked for, with the beautiful wildlife, luxury living space amid the natural jungle environment, and delicious food and service. I dream of the day I return.