Yala National Park is a Sri Lankan treasure. The country's most visited and second largest national park, the massive natural habitat is a wildlife sanctuary full of tropical flora and endangered fauna, from elephants and leopards to Sri Lankan flying snakes and painted-lip lizards. And while seeing the wildlife in action is a treat unto itself, now eco-conscious and luxury-loving travelers can enhance the experience by staying in the sustainably minded safari camp next door.
Built in an evocative natural architecture, the Wild Coast Tented Lodge is a five-star luxury eco-resort set between stunning beaches and the national park’s wilderness on the country’s southern tip. Designed by Nomadic Resorts and Bo Reudler Studio, the resort welcomed its first guests in November 2017.
The Wild Coast Tented Lodge is made up of a collection of open-air buildings, including 28 five-star suites, built in a clamshell style out of bamboo and reclaimed teak shingles. The arched structures mirror the landscape's giant rocks and boulders "whilst a clever layout in the shape of a leopard’s paw print alludes to the area’s most famous resident," according to the resort's website.
While the main buildings blend in with the rocks, the uniquely shaped tents, called "cocoons" and "urchins," are composed of canvas and take on the best attributes of glamping—air conditioning, hardwood floors, stylish furniture, and the comforts of any high-end resort, but with jungle cats prowling in the neighboring forest.
Four of the tent suites are beach-facing and have their own plunge pools. An additional 16 surround watering holes that attract local wildlife, giving guests a sneak peak of the park from their own private deck.
While it's clearly a luxurious resort, it was also built with high eco-standards. The buildings were made mostly from natural and local materials, which also help the hotel blend seamlessly into the surroundings for a low-impact look.
"The five-star lodge is designed to give visitors an intimate experience of Yala, celebrating the flora, fauna and culture of the area with minimal intrusion on the landscape,” Nomadic Resorts writes. “Local influences form an integral part of the project, from vernacular traditions and materials to community involvement."
Additionally, 40 percent of the resort’s energy will be solar, and the grounds will be maintained with a graywater irrigation system. Organic waste is composted onsite and the hotel’s conservation station will monitor and protect vulnerable wildlife. Guests can also enjoy daily menus of authentic Sri Lankan cuisine in the restaurant, as well as sundowner cocktails and picnics on the sand dunes, watching dusk settle over the Indian Ocean.
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Fairmont Hotels & Resorts' sustainable practices include extensive support for bees, beekeeping, and pollinator gardens.