Marco Polo once said it was the most beautiful island in the world. Sri Lanka, situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is well known for its cricket team, tea and eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. But for a holiday of a different kind, consider staying in a tent on safari surrounded by the sounds of nature. A camping safari in Sri Lanka is a completely safe and exhilarating experience that you won't want to miss.
Here are five of the best camping safaris in Sri Lanka.
Yala National Park
In the arid south-east lies Yala, Sri Lanka's surprisingly lush second-largest national park, where you can camp in style on site. Enjoy early morning safari outings, leisurely afternoons of bird watching and relaxing evenings spent in spacious tents complete with bathroom facilities, aromatic candles and jungle décor. Dine under the stars in a makeshift outdoor restaurant. You'll remember Yala's coastlines, cultural ruins and diverse wildlife, including elephants and the world's highest leopard population.
Sri Lanka's most renowned Biosphere Reserve and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sinharaja Rainforest National Park, the "Kingdom of the Lion", has avoided death by logging due to its inaccessibility. This mountainous virgin rainforest still exists in its most ancient and original natural form. Rarely seen and a special surprise to spot on your trip, are the resident elephants and leopards. Enjoy camping near deep rivers and a tea plantation; enjoy bird watching, nature trails and treks. "Glampers" can opt for jungle bungalow accommodation.
Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park in Sri Lanka's southeast is the only park to offer a boat safari. With several islands located within the reservoir, it is common to see Asian elephants swimming from island to island. On land, in evergreen forest, shrub and grassland look out for Sri Lankan Leopards, tigers, sambar deer, exotic birdlife and rare Ayurvedic plants. Dine in or nearby your campsite, under a canopy of stars and spend the night in safari style luxury, surrounded by Sri Lanka's natural nocturnal soundscape.
Dambana Veddha Village
Experience the unique culture of the indigenous people of Sri Lanka by camping near Dambana's Veddha Village, just 300 km from Colombo. At risk of losing tradition to contemporary culture, the Veddha will gladly share stories and methods of living and surviving that have been handed down through generations of forest dwellers. Expect to invoke the blessings of the gods, meet the village chief and join him on a mock hunt.
Kalu Ganga Canoe Camping
Ratnapura's meandering Kalu Ganga (The Black River), flanked by thick vegetation, offers a camping trip of a different kind. Canoeing enthusiasts from beginner to advanced will enjoy days spent paddling on the river and nights riverside. After a day negotiating the river and waving to the fisherman on its banks, take a refreshing swim before sitting down in style to a barbeque meal and beers served fireside, amongst the evocative light of traditional flame torches.