YALA NATIONAL PARK
By today's estimation safari operators are raking in major bucks from the good earth. From Africa's Masai Mara to India's Ranthambore, safari camps are sprouting like wood ears after a spring shower, ventures invariably fueled by the trail of money lingering in the draft. In Sri Lanka the eco-sophisticates are converging towards Yala National Park to stalk leopards in their rumbling jeeps. Sri Lanka is of course not in the same league as Africa and there is a limit to what people can see over these long and dusty drives in the scenic park. A good base camp therefore makes all the difference. In Yala, Leopard Trails is probably the best safari camp of its grade. Checking into one of its spacious luxury tents (there are only 2, with 6 other smaller classic tents) sets the mood for adventure. The camp itself is surrounded by unspoiled wilderness where elephants stroll through the night and leopards sometimes trespass upon. On one of our walks we learned why some nearby craters are called 'Crocodile Ponds' in the wet season. At nightfall guests usually settle by the campfire with a drink in hand exchanging stories from the day's exploits. Sometimes unexpected callers crash the party, which in our instance was a family of Indian porcupines making an incursion through camp grounds, totally oblivious to our peals of excitement.
Service: + + +
Design: + +
Overall Distinction: + +
Recommendation Index: ++ We went over the dry season where the action was extremely limited. Once the rain descended we heard animal sightings increased dramatically. From S$990
GOURMET AND WELLNESS
Leopard Trails is an all inclusive safari camp with full board plans for all its guests. The cooks of the camp competently dish out local and international fares for our lunches and dinners and we are particularly impressed by their interpretation of a local favourite called 'Lump Rice', a heritage dish of rice with condiments wrapped in banana leaves inherited from the Dutch colonialists.