Signature checks in to… Jetwing Yala, Sri Lanka
Discover Sri Lanka’s fascinating wildlife at this eco-friendly resort on the southern coast
Yala National Park is a must-visit destination for travellers in Sri Lanka, and Jetwing Yala is the ideal base. This sustainable resort, nestled among the dunes, offers the best of jungle wilderness and beachfront serenity.
Traveller: Howard Shaw
Room: Superior Oceanview Room
Address: Jetwing Yala, Palatupana, Yala, Kirinda, Sri Lanka
Date: October 2017
Best for: Easy access to Yala National Park, home to leopards, water buffalo, elephants, crocodiles, monkeys, sloth bears and much more of Sri Lanka’s fascinating wildlife
The Signature factor
For wildlife-lovers, there can be no better place than being right on the edge of Yala National Park. Even though Sri Lanka’s second largest national park is closed during our visit for the leopard-breeding season, we are surrounded by jungle denizens, including a wild boar strolling through the car park.
Yala is where the jungle meets the sea, and Jetwing Yala makes the most of this with a setting among the sand dunes. The 80-room hotel presents a refined and contemporary vision of being at one with nature, and has been recognised across the Asia-Pacific region for its commitment to sustainability. One particularly impressive feature is the solar park (one the largest privately owned of its kind in Sri Lanka) that provides 40 per cent of the hotel’s daily electricity needs.
It’s early evening when we arrive. After leaving the sealed road we travel 1.5 kilometres down the unsealed driveway to Jetwing Yala. Along this road we encounter a wild boar, a mongoose and a monitor lizard all before we arrived at the beautifully illuminated hotel. In the stunning lobby we are greeted by Pradeep Millawa Arachchige, the Operations Manager – Food & Beverage, and given a warm welcome that sets the tone for the rest of our stay.
The Superior Oceanview Room features a spectacular view of the surrounding sand dunes, as well as the resort’s swimming pool, one of the longest we have come across in Sri Lanka at nearly 100 metres long. At 56 square metres, the room is extremely spacious, with a large bathroom with a shower space that’s large enough to wash a baby elephant.
If you’re travelling with friends or family, you need the 106.5-square-metre Family Room. This sprawling room looks out over the coastline with a private terrace for soaking up the view.
On my plate
Choose from Sri Lankan and international buffet treats at The Restaurant, à la carte Asian fusion at Thambapanni and more relaxed dining at The Bar, Pool Bar and the beach bar and lounge area. If you’re after an exclusive evening, organise a Special Dining experience, with locations among the dunes, beside the pool and other private al fresco hideaways.
Breakfast is served in The Restaurant with the option of dining indoors or al fresco. The fantastic buffet-style breakfast caters for all tastes, from the traditional English breakfast to Sri Lanka’s curries. My favourite was the egg hopper, a fried egg in a delicate basket of coconut and rice flour, often served with sambols and dhal, and the buffalo curd with treacle (very similar to a top-quality Greek yoghurt).
We had pre-dinner drinks in the main bar, with Tony, our attentive waiter, looking after our gin and tonics.
Dinner in Thambapanni included a delectable entrée of soft-shell crab and concluded with a black cherry sorbet. If you can, dine outside at The Restaurant; watching the waves and the dunes while sampling a tremendous choice of Sri Lankan and Indian curries, and a good selection of wines, is the perfect way to end the day.
The spa at Jetwing Yala is a soothing oasis, offering Massage Rituals (including ones utilising traditional Ayurveda techniques) and couple’s Honeymoon Packages.
Linger beside the 75-metre pool or take a dip at the patrolled beach. Work out in the gym or relax over a game of pool.
Yala and the region’s other national parks (Bundala and Udawalawa, both of which we visit) are the region’s main drawcards, so head out on a safari in search of Sri Lanka’s ‘Big Three’: elephant, leopard and sloth bear. Twitchers can also head out on a birding trail designed by the resort naturalist, or visitors can wander further afield to two fascinating temples, Kataragama Shrine and Sithulpauwa Monastery. There’s also diving among a shipwreck at Great Basses and a host of other active water sports.
Jetwing Yala has been recognised many times over for its eco-friendly initiatives. These include Travellife Gold Certification Award for sustainability in tourism and a HICAP Award for sustainable operations, plus Jetwing Yala is the only Sri Lankan hotel to be highly recommended in the 2017 Green Hotelier Awards.
I wish I could take home…
The longest swimming pool I’ve ever seen. Who wouldn’t want one of these at home?
Room for improvement
The resort catered for many tour groups, which meant that the game drive experience lacked exclusivity.
Where to find Jetwing Yala
Jetwing Yala is located outside the Yala National Park, about 240 kilometres or a four-hour drive from Colombo.