Crouched among the bushland on Sri Lanka’s southern coast, Wild Coast Tented Lodge is a remote safari camp made up of luxurious, cocoon-like lodgings. Inspired by the egg-shaped boulders strewn across the beach, the tents have a unique, dome-like shape that’s crafted from thick French canvas. On the inside, they recall a time of great expeditions, featuring teak floors, leather chairs and freestanding copper bath tubs – but there’s also WiFi, a sound system and air-conditioning, keeping you cool and connected. There’s an open-air restaurant, sumptuous spa and an infinity pool on site, but the greatest attraction is just outside the lodge itself: Yala National Park, one of the most wildlife-rich areas in the whole of Sri Lanka.
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A guided walk to explore the wildlife in the company of a Wild Coast Ranger
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £752.83 ($949), including tax at 27.65 per cent.
Rooms are sold an all-inclusive rate, which covers one game drive a day, all meals (including a pre-game drive snack and afternoon tea), and all drinks.
Cocoon Suites and Cocoon Pool Suites can fit one child on an air mattress for $138 a night. Under-2s stay for free, over-12s are considered adults.
Yala National Park closes for a period each year, usually in September and October. The lodge will remain open at this time, but game drives will take place in other nearby parks.
At the hotel
Large, wild grounds including a beach and bushland; spa; free WiFi; laundry. In rooms: minibar; Sonos sound system; air-conditioning; coffee machine; tea-making facilities; free bottled water; Ophir bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Cocoon Pool Suites are the most indulgent, coming with a private plunge pool that overlooks the beach; you’ll also be close to the bar and restaurant. Adventurous types might prefer one of the Cocoon Suites near a watering hole, as you’ll increase your chances of getting close to the wildlife.
The freeform infinity pool radiates outwards from the dome-shaped bar and restaurant pavilions, so there’s a covered portion that’s always cool and shady. The open-air portion is fringed by a lawn that’s scattered with sunloungers, all of which face the ocean. The pool is saltwater, unheated and has a shallow end.
The spa has four treatment rooms and a wide-ranging menu, offering classics like Swedish massage alongside more unusual offerings like the island spice scrub. The spa team prize two Sri Lankan ingredients, Ceylon tea and cinnamon, which are used liberally in their products.
Kit yourself out with breezy khaki trousers, olive-green shirts and a safari jacket. If you have them, bring your own binoculars too – you don’t want to miss out on a fleeting glimpse of a leopard while you wait your turn.
The wild grounds and layout of the tents mean this hotel isn’t particularly suited to wheelchair users.
Family Cocoon Pool Suites have an adjoining ‘urchin’ tent with twin beds for kids. Cocoon Suites and Cocoon Pool Suites can fit two children on air mattresses for $160 a night each. Under-2s stay for free, over-12s are considered adults.
The entire lodge was designed to have a minimal impact on the surrounding ecosystem. Solar power is used to heat water and food waste is used for bio gas. All cleaning and bath products at the lodge are also environmentally friendly.
The tables around the edge of the pavilion have the best sunset views.
White linen trousers and a military-style shirt.
Designed to look like one of the boulders on the beach, the dome-shaped dining pavilion was built with the help of local fisherman, who wove the thick strands of bamboo that support the roof. Nodding to the surrounding landscape, the building has a very natural look, with wooden furnishings, a sandy floor and tall banquette seating made from a traditional, clay-like building material. Archways run all the way round the building, giving diners the full benefit of the sea breeze during the day, and a clear view of the sunset come evening. The food, a modern take on Sri Lankan cuisine, was partly inspired by the dishes cooked by the Malay community in the nearby village if Kirinda. Dinner is a real highlight, showcasing rotisserie and barbecued meats, spicy sharing platters and local cuisine served fresh from the tandoor oven.
The bar occupies a second domed pavilion right next to the restaurant. It has the same sandy floor and bamboo structure as the restaurant, but the furnishings are more in the style of a safari lodge, with leather chairs, cushioned stools and chess board tables arranged throughout the room. The pool reaches under the arches and into the building, so you can sip your sundowner while perched on one of the underwater ledges.
Breakfast is served from 7.30am to 10.30am; lunch from 12.30pm to 2.30 pm; and dinner from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. The bar serves from 12.30pm to 10.30pm.
The lodge sits on a tree-clad stretch of Sri Lanka’s southern coastline, just outside Yala National Park.
Colombo International Airport is a five-hour drive away, but it's the closest option with a regular flight schedule. You can fly here direct from London, or via Dubai from many of the larger European airports. The Smith24 team can arrange flights and transfers; call anytime, day or night.
You could hire a car in Colombo and drive to the lodge yourself, but you might want to consider enlisting a driver instead. The Smith24 team can arrange either option for you.
Worth getting out of bed for
Once you’ve seen your sumptuous tent and the abundant wildlife lounging nearby, you might feel like you needn’t leave the lodge at all. That is, until you take your first drive into Yala National Park, which contains grassy plains, thick jungle, rocky lagoons and sandy beaches. An extraordinary variety of animals roam freely between the different landscapes, leading to some very memorable encounters – it’s not every day you get to see a herd of elephants taking a morning stroll along a beach. Daily game drives will whisk you to the wildest corners of the park, where the expert rangers will seek out leopards, crocodiles, sloth bears, jackals and more. With more than 44 different mammals and 200 types of bird in the park, every drive brings something new. If you fancy a day geared slightly more towards human endeavour, there are also guided visits to several ancient Buddhist sites in the area.
You’re miles from nearest town, so you’re unlikely to be eating out.
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 safari lodge in Sri Lanka and unpacked their binoculars, a full account of their safari break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Wild Coast Tented Lodge in Sri Lanka…
Wild Coast Tented Lodge is a hotel that really lives up to its name. This unique safari camp sits on the right hand corner of Sri Lanka’s southern coast, where thick, scrubby bushland creeps almost to the sea, separated only by a stretch of beach littered with egg-shaped boulders. It’s a dramatic place, made more so by the fact that you can wake to find a herd of elephants splashing around one of the waterholes outside the lodge’s luxurious tents. But if all this talk of wilderness conjures up images of camp beds and flimsy showers, you’re in for a treat. Each canvas-walled cocoon is a little slice of old-world indulgence, built with high, arched ceilings, windows, a wooden floor and a four-poster bed. The first thing your feet will touch each morning is a thick piled carpet, dutifully warming your feet as you wait for the vast copper bath tub to fill. If showers are more in your line, you’ve got one with a handsome, copper-edged cabin, a rainfall head and a slate-tiled floor. You might be off grid here, but at times you’d hardly know it. Until you step outside, that is, where one of the country’s most wildlife-rich safari parks awaits.