This Relais & Chateaux property has managed to combine the luxury of a lodge on the African savannah with the wildness of Yala National Park; it's romantic, faux-rustic and dramatically set between the churning coast and dense parkland.

Yala, Sri Lanka
+94 117-745-730
www.resplendentceylon.com

Set between churning coast and dense parkland
FIRST IMPRESSION : Tented lodges

STAFF : Everyone cares deeply

FOOD & DRINKS : Wholly satisfying

THE CROWD : True travelers

How did it strike you on arrival?

The tented lodges, as reflected in the name, are definitely the iconic features of the property. Towering just above the foliage line, each lodge is comprised of a facade of egg-white canvas, with a far wall of glass, which opens up to a private wooden patio that looks out onto nearby watering holes. Stepping inside each lodge is a true marvel.

Nice.What's the crowd like?

Most of the guests are comprised of young families in their thirties with young kids; or older couples between their 50s and 60s. There's a diverse mix of backgrounds also, and you'll see everyone around the bar, restaurant and pool area (all housed in the same structure, making it the locus of all activity in the resort.) I'd picture Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson here. The property gives off the same vibes they do as a couple: sophisticated and private, and always bringing something new to the game. This is a place for the traveler interested in wildlife, but not in going down the rustic route. And for someone who wants to properly wash the dust off from the day's safari's and put their feet up with a chilled glass!

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.

You're likely to get to bed early here (the restaurant closes by 11PM) but this is a blessing in disguise, as you'll have real time to enjoy the fabulous beds and creature comforts of the room—organic Ophir bath products, soft and luxurious towels and a bed that makes you want to sleep in each morning. Plus, the Wi-fi miraculously works like a charm: Netflix streams effortlessly.

If you had to award a trophy to a member of the staff, who would you award a trophy to and what did they do to earn it?

Our excellent guide and tracker, Chandika, who really cared about the land he worked on. He shared that Wild Coast is founding a new research centre to track the big cats, and ensure their preservation in the face of ongoing poaching attacks.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.

You absolutely need a car and a driver to get to this location—the closest town is half an hour away. But the excellent road network leading up to Yala is a major selling factor–aside from a 45-minute stretch of narrow road, the rest of the journey from Colombo is on wide, smooth thoroughfares with minimal traffic: a rarity in Sri Lanka! Also, skip the spa. It's pristine and functional but doesn't have the ambience of the rest of the property. Taking a nightly dip in the infinity pool, however, overlooking the fierce Indian Ocean and rugged coastline, with the tiny pool lights mirroring the stars above and electric safari lamps lining the pathways is truly something spectacular.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?

In no small feat, this Relais & Chateaux property has managed to combine the luxury of a lodge on the African savannah with the wildness of Yala National Park; it's romantic, faux-rustic and dramatically set between the churning coast and dense parkland. The architecture of the property is also designed in the shape of a leopard's paw, in reference to Yala's most renowned sighting (the park has one of the highest densities of leopard in the world.

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