Need to know
10 bungalow suites.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability (no charge applies). Earliest check-in, 2pm. Guests arriving early or departing late can use the luggage storage area, the restaurant and all the communal areas.
Double rooms from $193.16, excluding tax at 17 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 10% per booking on check-out.
Rates usually include à la carte breakfast (pick from Sri Lankan and Western options, including fresh fruit, Sri Lankan hoppers, a breakfast BLT, chilli baked eggs, and home-made granola with fresh buffalo curd). Full board includes excursions, too.
Don’t forget to call the hotel from the nearby town of Bibile (or anytime on the day of your arrival). Gal Oya Lodge doesn’t have any road signage and there’s no phone signal or Internet within half an hour of the lodge; if staff don’t know you’re coming, they won’t be able to dispatch someone to the main road to collect you for the last leg of the journey. You can contact the lodge on 0768424612 or 0555656670; alternatively, give staff your guide or driver’s phone number, so that they can liaise with them directly.
At the hotel
Private forest; expert rangers; guest lounge. In rooms: free bottled water, Island Spice bath products.
Our favourite rooms
There’s just one room type, and we think it’s rather lovely: a thatched wooden bungalow set in the forest, with floor-to-ceiling windows, a little living area and a four-poster bed shaded by a mosquito net. The outside bathroom is a highlight, thanks to its open-air layout, bamboo shower (with an elephant-shaped faucet), plus home-made soap and shampoo. The bungalows are connected by dusty sand pathways, which glow at night thanks to flickering lights set on tree stumps. Each one also has an outdoor terrace area with mountain-spying seats.
Join the ruby-red dragonflies that shimmer above the striking outdoor swimming pool, nestled in the tall grasses and trees, with rugged mountains as its dramatic backdrop. It’s unheated, making it the perfect watering hole to cool down in.
You’ll be very grateful for a safari hat. Organised types might want to bring binoculars – that way, you won’t have to keep borrowing the ranger’s.
Gadget-addicts, it’s time to switch off: Gal Oya doesn’t have WiFi or telephone signal. The eco-conscious rooms don’t have air-conditioning; fans are used instead. (You can also cool off in the unheated pool.)
Bring Fido if you like; there’s no charge for him. See more pet-friendly hotels in Gal Oya National Park.
Little Smiths are very welcome – if they’re under 12, they can stay for half the usual rate. Cots are free; extra beds for 12-year olds and under can be added to the bungalows for US$32 (B&B rate), or US$54 (full-board rate).
Gal Oya Lodge doesn’t have lots of family-friendly frills, so it’s better for Smiths aged six and above. Outdoorsy tweens and teens will love it.
There’s just one room category; extra beds can be added on request.
Little(ish) ones can join their parents on the guided safaris, birdwatching trips, animal-monitoring sessions and other outdoorsy excursions.
The pool is family-friendly but there are no lifeguards, so keep a keen eye on your waterbabies.
No need to pack
The hotel can provide full-size cots/crib or wooden cot/crib beds, bottle-sterilising facilities, board books, books, puzzles, outdoor toys, bicycles and bike helmets.
All produce is sourced from local farmers; fish comes from local fishermen; the hotel grows its own herbs; eggs come from its flock of free-range chickens. As much as possible is grown on site. Eco-kind cleaning products and light bulbs are used; water is heated using solar power. All paper is recycled, food waste is given to local farms for their use, waste water is used as grey water in the gardens and glass bottles are returned to the bottler. The hotel supports the Jim Edwards Wildlife Research Centre, which runs numerous ongoing projects in collaboration with local and international conservation trusts and universities. Speak to one of Gal Oya’s rangers or lodge hosts if you want to learn more or get involved. Natural materials were used for the bungalows.