In Sri Lanka’s deep south, the rustic farming villages round Tissamaharama are divided from the teeming animal and bird life of Yala, Sri Lanka’s oldest and second-largest natural reserve, by a belt of semi-protected Jungle running down to the sea. For centuries, people here have farmed small clearings in the forest called chena, sleeping beside their crops in modest huts to protect them from hungry elephants.
Here today, nestling among dunes and trees at the ocean’s edge, you will find Chena Huts, the latest addition to Uga Escapes’ portfolio of luxury hotels. Overlooking a beach where sea-turtles come to lay eggs by moonlight and elephants wander down from the nearby forest to play in the surf, Chena Huts is fringed on one landward side by tropical jungle and on the other by a saline lake where ibises, painted storks and even flamingos may be seen, wading in the shallows.
For guests at Chena Huts, easy access to these natural wonders involves no compromise with comfort or good taste. At this small, select property, the ‘huts’ are in fact luxurious detached, private cabins offering fine views of the surrounding wilderness and seascape.
Surrounded by unspoilt wilderness, Chena Huts is well off the beaten track, lying at the end of a specially-build road that connects with the main Tissamaharama-Yala highway a few minutes from the Yala park entrance. It is 315km from Colombo’s international airport and 26km from Tissamaharama, the nearest town. This is a place to get away from it all, to observe the magnificent profusion of wildlife and commune closely with nature.
To intensify the wilderness experience, this spacious 7acre property accommodates only fourteen 1130 sq ft cabins. This includes a 781 sq ft climate controlled living space. Exteriors, featuring design cues from the vernacular architecture of the region, are designed to harmonize with the jungle environment; interiors gently emphasize the ‘safari’ theme, with log furniture and rustic motifs that belie the ultra-modern comfort and convenience within.
Each of these well-appointed cabins offered on all inclusive basis contains of a living room, bedroom, en suite bathroom and shaded outdoor deck with built-in plunge pool and an outdoor shower. The luxurious bathrooms feature free-standing bathtubs and His and Hers vanity consoles.
Ruhuna National Park, familiarly known as Yala, stuns visitors with its variety of biomes –monsoon, semi-deciduous and thorn forests, grasslands, freshwater, marine wetlands and sandy beaches where the only footprints you will see belong to foraging birds and animals. It is the largest and oldest of a chain of six national parks and three sanctuaries in the vicinity, and by far the richest in biodiversity, boasting 44 different resident mammal species and one of the highest leopard population densities in the world. There are also dozens of reptile species including turtles, crocodiles, flying snakes and elegant fan-throated lizards. Yala has no less than 215 resident and migrant birds, of which the flamboyant peacock is one of the most common.