“Luxurious lodge by leopard-rich Yala National Park: plush cabins, private plunge pools, and twice-daily safaris with near-guaranteed sightings”
The domed, thatch-covered cabins were inspired by the treetop huts built by local farmers to keep watch for wild elephants, but they're infinitely more luxurious. All are identical in their spacious, open-plan design, though their outlooks vary - ours was immersed in the bush (good for wildlife viewing), while others overlook a seasonal lagoon or the sea (or both in the case of cabin 7, which is ideal for honeymooners).
We slept on a very comfortable kingsize bed set on a platform beneath a curved, freestanding fan; some cabins have twin beds instead. Behind the sliced-log bedhead were twin washbasins and a standalone tub, along with cubicles for the toilet and shower. Each cabin also has a lounge area, a minibar (soft drinks only) and a desk, and 2 sides are glassed (with blinds) so that you can keep an eye on wild visitors. Outside is a generous deck and a plunge pool with jets.
Food and most drinks are included in the rates, and they're excellent. The Basses Restaurant sits on a rise above the beach and is named after the offshore Great Basses lighthouse, which can be spied on the horizon. The glass-walled, nautical-themed interior has air conditioning for comfortable daytime dining, while the romantic timber deck with its sunken bar makes a fitting spot for sundowners and candlelit dinners. You can also dine in private amid the dunes.
The à la carte breakfast menu is extensive. We opted for tropical fruit, Sri Lankan kiribath (milk rice) and perfectly cooked poached eggs. Lunch and dinner are 4-course international set menus with a few options for mains and desserts. We enjoyed all our meals, which included succulent lamb chops, grilled seafood and deliciously fresh fish, although the desserts were a little uninspiring. Curries are available on request if you'd prefer something local.
Children of all ages are welcome. The staff seem to really love kids and go out of their way to assist families. However, due to the remote location, the raised walkways and the visiting wildlife, Chena Huts is best for kids over 5.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
All cabins can fit an extra bed or baby cot. The best option for larger families is booking cabins 4 and 5, which are connected via a short (raised) exterior walkway and share a front deck (though they have their own plunge pools).
Jeep safaris are shared so children will need to be able to last the duration (3-4 hours). Morning drives leave at 5am.