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Sri Lanka’s most famous reserve, Yala National Park, is separated from the sea by a thin strip of jungle that has for centuries been home to small holdings in clearings known as ‘chena’.
The farmers' modest huts here may have been the inspiration for Chena Huts accommodation (from the ever expanding and ever excellent Uga Escapes group) with their thatched roofs, but the comparison ends there. The 14 spacious guest cabins feature air conditioning, living areas, bedrooms with en suite bathrooms (complete with freestanding baths) and shaded terraces with in-built plunge pools.
The on-site Basses Restaurant takes inspiration from the lodge's coastal setting with a nautical theme and fine choice of Sri Lankan and international dishes, including superbly fresh seafood. Next door to Brasses there is also a welcoming bar serving a wide range of cocktails and other alcoholic drinks. For a change of scene, guests can choose to eat lunch or dinner in the jungle or on the nearby beach, with the ocean illuminated by the light of a bonfire.
In season the beach also hosts sea-turtles who return to lay eggs by moonlight, and by day elephants sometimes emerge from the jungle to cool off in the surf. Also nearby is a briny lake where ibis, storks and flamingos congregate. This all before you even think about exploring Yala National Park proper, home to some 44 mammal species and the world's highest population density of leopards. Continuing on the wildlife trip but offshore this time, blue and humpback whales gather off the Little and Great Basses reefs and we can arrange whale watching boat trips. Other worthwhile expeditions - if you can drag yourself away from the pool and beach - are to one or more of the many Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites and temples in the vicinity.
With world class wildlife and cultural curiosities on the doorstep, there's plenty to entertain anyone staying at Chena Huts, but the temptations of the beach or just relaxing at the lodge are strong…
Rosie, Original Traveller