Our stay in Yala National Park at Chena Huts was the entire family’s favorite experience and resort from our entire 2 week trip through Sri Lanka, even including our time in The Maldives at the beginning of the trip which you can read about here.
We saw SO many amazing animals in Yala — elephants, leopards, sloth bear, peacocks, water buffalo, a bazillion gorgeous birds, grey langurs or monkeys as we referred to them, and more. But it was the resort which made this all even more magical than it already was. Chena Huts may in fact be our favorite resort experience yet. Luxury, amazing service, KIND-hearted… well worth EVERY CENT and then some. If you can spend even one night here, do it.
ACCOMMODATION: CHENA HUTS
JUST WOW… We have stayed at some truly amazing and luxurious places around the world but Chena Huts is by far one of the VERY best!! The huts are gorgeous with careful consideration to every little detail. The staff extremely professional while at the same time warm and personable. EVERY SINGLE THING is included in the rate — all safari drives (2 per night’s stay so 4 total!) as well as all food and drink, including great wines and top shelf liquor. Even a 30 minute massage per person is included. We stayed 2 nights in 2 connecting huts — connection is via an outdoor boardwalk. It is NOT cheap but I found an amazing rate through Mr. and Mrs. Smith of $750/night per room including all taxes, about 25% off the normal rate for our time period. So for $375 per person per day, we had two private safari drives with driver PLUS 2 tracker/guides, 3 INCREDIBLE meals (BEST of our entire trip!), sundowners on the beach following the afternoon drives, 30 minute massage, and a FREE minibar filled with all sorts of snacks, wines, and liquor.
We were celebrating my son’s 16th birthday during our stay here. I had mentioned it to the hotel months beforehand, when I had booked our stay, but assumed I would need to say something again once we arrived so they could do a special dessert for him for that day’s dinner. So we were all quite surprised and blown away when we entered his villa and saw they had created a beautiful picture and “Happy 16th Birthday” with roses and leaves as their medium. My son had a huge smile on his face when he saw it. Pretty sure this will be one to remember. As for the birthday dinner, they set up a special table for us on the beach and went above and beyond for both the meal and the birthday cake. About 10-15 staff members came out with the cake to sing to him. Like I said before… just WOW!
- SAFARI DRIVES:
The resort is located about a 5 minute drive to the park gate, so a quick ride. The vehicles were excellent. Our guide, Johnny, was wonderful. Always making sure we were comfortable, sharing with us detailed information about all the wildlife as well as trees and plants, noting what excited us and what didn’t and making priority to find what we were most interested in. And our driver was amazingly skillful — he could pass anyone and everyone to get to the front of the pack when something rare was spotted. Johnny always asked if we were ok with the speed — YES!! bring it!! — and away we would go, holding on to our hats and glasses, gripping the roll bars, as we roared ahead sometimes leaning 30-35 degrees to pass someone on the shoulder bank. However, they were willing to slow things down if we were uncomfortable and checked with us every time they learned of a rare sighting.
We have done a safari before in Africa so we weren’t sure how this one would compare. Different animals and more trucks than we had experienced in Namibia but equally spectacular. The wildlife was plentiful, no shortage of colorful birds, peacocks everywhere, lots of deer, crocodile, water buffalo, and monkeys — especially gray langur — and rarer species such as elephant, sloth bear, leopard, and python. Our final drive we were lucky enough to see 3 leopards, including watching one chased down by several angry water buffalo. He made it safely up a tree. We had been patiently watching him for about 20-30 minutes — many trucks gave up and left — so we felt a huge rush of adrenaline and sense of accomplishment to actually see the chase in action. Another young leopard walked right by our truck. Amazing. Equally thrilling — a mama and 3 young elephants casually passed us on the road soon after the park opened. With the early morning light and quiet, it was a truly magical experience.
- MASSAGE: 30 minute massages were included with our room rate so of course we took advantage of this. One could add on more time if wanted. Excellent massages in a simple but lovely little spa by the pool.
- WALK ALONG THE BEACH: No swimming here as surf is extremely rough and there are boulders all along the waters edge. But it is an absolutely gorgeous setting.
- SUNDOWNERS ON THE BEACH: Each evening before sunset, the staff set up a bar and lanterns near the water. The safari trucks drive along the beach, dropping the guests off near a path of candlelit lanterns leading to the bar. As you arrive, a staff member hands you a cool, wet towel to wipe the dust from your face and hands. It’s all quite civilized and special. G&T’s, champagne, or whatever your poison, they will provide it. And lots of little delicious nibblies passed around as well. Everything to make you smile and think, “Life is GOOD!”