Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka

Gal Oya Lodge

Rates from (ex tax)$193.16

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (USD226.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Back-to-nature bungalows

Setting

Off-the-radar national park

You’ve probably never bedded down in a Sri Lankan national park before; change that at Gal Oya Lodge, whose boutique bungalows are set in a 20-acre private forest, home to expert rangers and the occasional bathing elephant. The lodge has a mezzanine restaurant serving sambols, curries and western favourites; if the spices and heat have you feeling a little hot under the collar, cool off in the dazzling pool, set in the long grasses and backdropped by the mountains. Further afield, boat safaris, excursions with the Vedda tribe and jungle rides await.

This luxurious lodge is one of the stops on our Sri Lanka itineraries.

Smith Extra

Get this when you book through us:

A guided discovery walk with the chief of the indigenous Vedda tribe, who will show you ancient hunting grounds and medicinal herb gardens

Facilities

Photos Gal Oya Lodge facilities

Need to know

Rooms

10 bungalow suites.

Check–Out

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.

Rates

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.

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (USD226.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

More details

Rates usually include à la carte breakfast (Sri Lankan and Western options such as fresh fruit, Sri Lankan hoppers, a breakfast BLT, chilli baked eggs, and home-made granola with fresh buffalo curd). Full board includes nature walks. Safaris are extra.

Also

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.

Poolside

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.

Packing tips

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.

Also

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.)

Pet‐friendly

Bring Fido if you like; there’s no charge for him. See more pet-friendly hotels in Gal Oya National Park.

Children

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).

Best for

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.

Recommended rooms

There’s just one room category; extra beds can be added on request.

Activities

Little(ish) ones can join their parents on the guided safaris, birdwatching trips, animal-monitoring sessions and other outdoorsy excursions.

Swimming pool

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.

Eco‐friendly

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.

Food and Drink

Photos Gal Oya Lodge food and drink

Top Table

The restaurant has a communal feel, so you might easily make friends with other guests, but the tables are individual rather than shared. They’re all very similar; sit wherever you like.

Dress Code

Go easy on the khaki shorts, unless you want to be mistaken for staff (who also wear natty green polo shirts).

Hotel restaurant

The restaurant, perched on the lodge’s mezzanine level, serves simple and delicious food: a mix of flavoursome local curries, sambol, roti and international dishes. Breakfasts are exciting: try buffalo curd and home-made granola, or Sri Lankan hoppers: rice-flour pancakes packed with spicy fillings. The restaurant’s teak and mara wood tables and chairs were handmade by the local village craftsmen, using traditional skills passed down from generation to generation.

Hotel bar

There's no formal bar as such, but staff will rustle you up a drink or cocktail – an arrack sour, perhaps? – which you can enjoy in the sociable, open-air Lodge.

Last orders

The restaurant closes at 10pm.

Room service

None; it’s not that kind of joint.

Location

Photos Gal Oya Lodge location
Address
Gal Oya Lodge
Inginiyagala Road
Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park
Sri Lanka

Planes

Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (www.airport.lk), is seven hours away by car; some carriers fly direct from Sydney and selected European destinations. The closest domestic hub is Ampara Airport, a 40-minute drive from the lodge. Hotel transfers can be arranged for US$100 one way (in a car that fits four bottoms).

Trains

Ella Railway Station is 100 kilometres away, a three-hour drive, with services connecting to Colombo, Kandy and Badulla (www.railway.gov.lk).

Automobiles

Bibile is the nearest town, a 25-minute drive away.

Worth getting out of bed for

Gal Oya National Park is the only place where you can go on a boat safari in Sri Lanka and hope to spy the Asian elephant swimming in its natural habitat. Watching these magnificent creatures swim from island to island, forage and socialise at the water’s edge is a pretty special sight. You can also sign up for a Jeep safari, bike ride or bird walk. Stroll to the river, 15 minutes away, to admire the kingfishers in the early morning. Spend some time with the rangers, absorbing their local knowledge; did you know that there are 104 types of snake in Sri Lanka, only four of which are poisonous? Visit the local lake where birds perch on the silvery tree-trunks then dive for their fishy catch; look out for kingfishers, parakeets and wild peacocks: the national bird of Sri Lanka, which look like a cross between a rooster and a pheasant. Admire the weaver bird’s nests that hang from the trees like woven baskets. Staff can also arrange jungle drives, bicycle tours, riverside picnics, bird walks, naturalist treks and park hikes. Meeting the indigenous Vedda Tribe – one of the last remaining communities of the forest-dwelling, indigenous people of Sri Lanka – is an unforgettable experience.

Local restaurants

None – you’re in a national park, after all. You won’t go hungry, thanks to the food on offer at Gal Oya’s restaurant.

Reviews

Photos Gal Oya Lodge reviews

Anonymous review

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this eco-conscious hotel in Sri Lanka and unpacked their safari togs, a full account of their nature break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Gal Oya Lodge in Gal Oya National Park

Sri Lankan sleeping quarters don’t get much more adventurous than Gal Oya Lodge’s boutique bungalows, set in a private forest within the remote Gal Oya National Park. Even morning ablutions are thrilling here, thanks to alfresco bamboo showers – with elephant-shaped taps, natch – and home-made soaps and shampoos.

Don’t expect lofty luxury, but do expect natural highs a-go-go. You might spot the Asian elephant having a bubble bath of sorts in the local river, or be guided through ancient hunting grounds and medicinal herb gardens with a Vedda tribe chief. You could breakfast on hoppers (rice-flour pancakes) and lunch and dine on curries, sambol or roti; work up an appetite all over again by dipping into the glittering unheated pool, which provides much needed relief from the Sri Lankan heat. You’ll share it with shimmering dragon flies and the occasional kingfisher.

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith Hotel with us, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Gal Oya Lodge’s Guestbook below.
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