“There’s nowhere better to relax after an exciting safari adventure!”
Visited in February 2021
With a secluded cluster of just six tented rooms – tucked beneath a canopy of trees on the edge of an expansive lake frequented by water buffalo, iridescent birds and slinking crocodiles – Kulu Safaris offers a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and the ideal chance to immerse yourself in the magic of Sri Lanka’s wonderful wildlife.
Born of a love for the Sri Lankan wilderness, this sustainable safari hideaway specialises in fostering a renewed appreciation for nature’s abundant flora and fauna in guests of all ages. Its exceptionally friendly team go above and beyond to create a truly terrific experience for guests, both on game drives and at the tranquil lakeside camp.
The property also prides itself on being amongst the most ecologically conscious safari operators in Sri Lanka, with a long-term focus on conservation and the environment – as evidenced by their collaborations with international documentary producers.
Visit the camp and you can expect to unravel the mysteries of Malabar Pied Hornbills with knowledgable naturalists, tuck into top-notch island specialities in a treehouse and to unwind in the natural bliss of Sri Lanka’s secluded south-east.
Designed specifically for comfortable safari stays, the camp’s six South African khaki tents feature big cosy beds, stacks of space to unpack and wonderful ensuite bathrooms with hot-water showers.
The canvas rooms include fans, air-conditioning and multiple charging points, too – so modern travellers can escape the everyday without leaving the little luxuries behind. Striking photographs of leopards and lizards adorn the walls, while intriguing wildlife books occupy the dressing table.
Four of the tents offer double beds, whilst there are also two larger family tents, with space for up to four guests.
Travelling as two couples, we nabbed a pair of two-person tents – but groups can also book out the whole place for epic birthdays or wild family reunions. The camp can sleep twenty travellers in total, with double rooms able to accommodate an additional single bed.
Each tent boasts a covered veranda at its entrance – perfect for watching tiny squirrels scamper up tree trunks, geckos chase little insects and birds swoop towards their nests. It’s also a top spot to enjoy the tea and coffee that’s brought before breakfast, and to reflect on the many wonders of the region’s natural landscape.
Free tea & coffee
Luxury safari tents
Close to nature
Drinking & dining
The food at Kulu Safaris is reason enough to plan a visit! We feasted on a delectable array of Sri Lankan curries, served with rice at lunchtime and string hoppers one evening, as well as plentiful breakfasts of fresh fruit and island specialities – think milk rice, warm coconut roti, or roast paan and lovi jam from sister property Horathapola Estate.
We were also treated to a superb barbecue on our final night, complete with garlic bread, grilled fish and succulent prawns – a filling and flavoursome way to end a day of adventure.
Kulu Safaris also makes every effort to make dining experiences special. We had lunch each day in the main restaurant – a tented, open-sided structure in the centre of the camp – but breakfasts and dinners were served in a range of quirky, creative spots around the camp.
Savour slices of pineapple at a huge table carved from the gnarled trunk of a tree in front of the tents, sip your morning coffee on an impressive tree platform overlooking the landscape, then take dinner on a platform floating out on the lake – water levels permitting.
Turn your gaze upwards as you follow the oil lamps back to your tent and you’ll find a sky full of stars.
Facilities & activities
Famed for its leopards, the oldest of Sri Lanka’s protected national parks also brims with fluttering birds, butterflies, herds of elephants, wallowing water buffalo, secretive sloth bears and long-legged hares.
Game drives leave twice a day from the camp reception – early in the morning and just after lunch – and Kulu’s excellent drivers expertly navigate the countless red-dirt paths which criss-cross Yala National Park.
Kulu Safaris prides itself on the quality and maintenance of its jeeps, as well as the careful and respectful conduct of its drivers: especially important in a region with a reputation for pushy Jeeps inching closer and closer to wild animals.
Having been on several safaris in Sri Lanka before, the absolute game-changer for us was expert naturalist Ramani. A renowned Sri Lankan biologist with decades of experience, she deftly fielded our questions about everything from leopard roaming patterns to education programmes in Sri Lankan schools, while pointing out endemic birds, spotted deer and ancient ruins shrouded in foliage.
All Kulu Safaris guests can expect fantastic guides, ethical conduct within the park itself and an intriguing insight into Sri Lanka’s wildlife conservation efforts. Whether you’re travelling as a couple, a group or friends or a family, this is what makes a safari truly magical.
Beyond the game drives, Kulu also offers guided walks and kayaking on the lake (depending on how much rain there has been). Alternatively, put your feet up with a DVD from the hotel’s collection – the staff can recommend some animal-themed favourites – crack out the board games or venture further afield to see the impressive temple complex at nearby Kataragama.
Things we love
• The fantastic food! The wide array of delicious curries is such a treat and the team are organised about asking for guests’ allergies and preferences — whether making curries milder or spicier, or crafting special meals for little ones.
• Brilliant service from an incredibly friendly and very knowledgable team
• Beautiful tented rooms with an eco-conscious ethos provide true safari escapism – with the key creature comforts
Things to note
• Part of the appeal of Kulu Safaris is the sense of seclusion. Do bring books, cards, games or your watercolour set!
• Jeeps are open-sided, so suncream and a hat will prove invaluable.
• And don’t forget the insect repellant!
• The hotel is usually all-inclusive, and there is a great selection of wine and spirits. However, if you travel as a resident in 2021, current offers do not include alcohol (although you can BYOB).
When to visit
Visit between February and June — the dry season — for the best chances of glimpsing Yala’s many fascinating creatures. The Park is open throughout much of the year, but it closes in September for maintenance.
Come during the week – rather than at the weekend or during public holidays – if you can, for fewer Jeeps and a quieter experience.
Location & information
The journey from Bandaranaike International Airport to Kulu Safaris takes just less than four hours by car along the southern expressway. See our travel tips for further info.
The Kulu Safaris team can meet you at the main road nearby and arrange car parking if you do not have an off-road vehicle suitable for the unpaved jungle roads which lead to the camp.