Gal Oya Lodge

Inginiyagala, Yala & Southeast, Sri Lanka
Book from GBP Book from £228 per night

Gal Oya Lodge

Inginiyagala, Yala & Southeast, Sri Lanka

A secluded eco-lodge close to Sri Lanka’s least-explored national park, perfect for bird-watchers and nature enthusiasts

A secluded eco-lodge close to Sri Lanka’s least-explored national park, perfect for bird-watchers and nature enthusiasts

Created by friends with a long legacy of luxurious lodge and conservation projects, Gal Oya Lodge offers a rare chance to experience a little-visited corner of rural Sri Lanka. Marked out by fabulous food and unparalleled hospitality, this welcoming hideaway has nature as its focus. Its thatched bungalows are immersed among jungle, offering an indulgent yet eco-conscious stay at the foot of forested mountains.

Gal Oya National Park, 40 minutes’ drive from the Lodge, is famed for its unique boat safaris. With just three vessels operating on the enormous Senanayake Samudraya Lake – fringed by misty hills – the sense of serenity is immense. Spy slinking crocodiles and islands bursting with nesting cormorants as you look out for the star attraction: the elephants who wander to the water’s edge to drink and swim. Shy and more unaccustomed to humans than those at the island’s other national parks, Gal Oya’s elephants are a lucky – rather than certain – sighting. But when they do appear, it’s absolutely magical.

Other activities include guided jungle walks, Sri Lankan cooking classes, spectacular sunrise hikes and riverside picnics. And when you return from your day in the wilderness, there's a beautiful, mountain-framed pool for cooling off in. This is a superbly authentic lodge in a remote park, where sightings are not guaranteed, but enjoyment is.

Highs

  • Exploring Sri Lanka’s most remote national park – the only one offering boat safaris – is hugely special
  • Delicious food, which the kitchen will happily adapt to your tastes
  • The team were exceptional, adopting a warm, attentive hosting style
  • You're paired with an expert naturalist throughout your stay, whose impressive wildlife knowledge enhances all activities
  • The intimate, friendly feel: we loved swapping stories with fellow guests over evening drinks

Lows

  • WiFi and signal are almost non-existent, but switching off only adds to the feeling of escapism
  • The tiles around the pool can be slippery, so parents will need to look out for little ones
  • If you’re wary of creepy-crawlies, this may not be for you; but wildlife lovers will adore it
  • Bungalows are not air-conditioned, but they stay cool even when the heat reaches its peak in March/April

Best time to go

Gal Oya Lodge is open year-round. We’d recommend travelling between July and March. April is Sri Lanka’s hottest month, with the monsoon rains expected in October and November.

If you’re keen to visit the east coast beaches of Trincomalee or Kalkudah whilst on the island, come to Gal Oya between July and September — when the east is in season and the Indian Ocean is calmer.

Our top tips

If you arrive in the afternoon, a bird walk is a wonderful way to get to grips with the area as the day gives way to evening. We strolled between cultivated fields, past the treehouses used by farmers to keep watch for elephants, and to a tranquil lake where eagles, pelicans and cormorants soar. This is also an excellent chance to meet your naturalist guide, who will accompany you on safaris and hikes, and plan your excursions with him.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Eco-lodge
  • 9 bungalows + 1 villa
  • Restaurant & bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • E-bikes
  • Laundry service
Room:

Rooms

With nine thatched bungalows and one two-bedroom villa scattered across 20 acres of jungle-clad grounds, Gal Oya Lodge promises an appealing sense of seclusion. Wooden walls are topped with pitched ceilings, big four-poster beds face spacious private terraces, and each 74 sqm cabin includes an inviting indoor seating area.

We stayed in Bungalow No.3, which was particularly cosy in the evenings. We returned to find our mosquito net carefully draped, filtered water replenished and complimentary postcards on our pillows. If you’re travelling with family or friends, nab the two-bedroom villa, with striking hilltop views.

Efforts have been made to use natural materials in the bungalows and generous, open-sided bathrooms, where you can enjoy refreshing solar-heated rain showers whilst admiring blossoming frangipani trees. We adored the twin brass sinks with carved elephant-shaped handles. Refillable toiletry jars are a welcome touch, too — chiming again with the environmentally-friendly ethos.

Features include:

  • Fan
  • Mosquito net
  • Safe box

Eating

Kick-start your day with big breakfasts in the open-sided restaurant. We feasted on fruit, homemade bread with local honey and delicious egg hoppers – rice flour pancakes topped with fried eggs – paired with dhal curry and zingy coconut sambol. The spicy baked eggs are also a treat!

Taste European dishes at lunchtime, savouring river fish and chips or salads of grilled vegetables. You’ll be asked at the end of each meal what you’d like to eat later, and timings are entirely up to you. So much thought goes into the details at Gal Oya: from a surprise boat safari snack washed down with chilled lime juice, to tea and cake ahead of our Monkey Mountain hike.

Perch at the bar for evening cocktails - we loved the Ginger Kick - before devouring three-course dinners of daily specials. The rice & curry was our favourite, with flavoursome beetroot, green beans, fish and jackfruit, accompanied by a fiery chilli lime pickle.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Restaurant
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Venture to Gal Oya National Park with one of the lodge’s naturalists for a Jeep or boat safari. You’ll spot migratory birds, stealthy crocodiles and perhaps elephants as you putter between rocky islands
  • Rise early to hike up Monkey Mountain for panoramic views of the lodge, lake and fields below
  • Guided bicycle/e-bike rides, afternoon bird walks and night strolls yield all manner of discoveries and details, which will delight nature lovers of all ages
  • Close bonds with the nearby Vedda community - Sri Lanka’s indigenous people - offer the possibility of forest walks with the village chief, who can explain traditional plant medicine
  • Pop into the Jim Edwards Research Centre to understand the lodge’s conservation efforts, or accompany a naturalist to check the scattered camera traps
  • Take a jungle cooking class with one of the lodge’s chefs, learning to make delectable dishes from ingredients grown in the gardens and nearby village

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Jeep safaris
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, although the lodge is most popular with couples. Kids will love the pool, board games and spotting birds or elephants on safari. This is a rural location with limited WiFi, so it may not appeal to older children, but if they’re keen nature lovers, it’ll be a huge hit! The team are super flexible with meal times and food, and are happy to set up high chairs - just ask.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Book the two-bedroom family villa for plenty of privacy, which has one double and one twin room. Two single sofabeds can be set up in the bungalows.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Swimming
  • Board games
  • Cookery classes
  • Guided cycle rides

Families Should Know:

Bungalows are spread out from one another, so it may not be suitable to have young children in one bungalow and adults in another.

Kid Friendly:

Location

Gal Oya Lodge is nestled on the northern edge of Gal Oya Valley National Park (40 mins' drive), in eastern Sri Lanka. It's isolated, but access roads are far better than we’ve found in other rural areas. Kandy/Sigiriya are 3.5 hours away.

By Air:
Colombo is the nearest international airport; (254km, a 6-hour drive). You can book a transfer from here to Gal Oya Lodge. Alternatively, the lodge has its own helipad.

By Car:
The hotel can arrange private airport transfers. If you want to hire a car and driver for your entire trip, enquire through our Tailormade Tour Operator. Ask your driver to follow Google Maps to the nearest town, Bibile, and the hotel’s simple instructions to the end of their road, where a team member will meet you.

Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Bandaranaike International Airport 254.0 km CMB

Other:

  • Beach 70.0 km
  • Shops 30.0 km
  • Restaurant 30.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
8/10
Value
10/10
Overall

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Rates for Gal Oya Lodge

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