Kulu Safari

Sri Lanka

Adventurous but comfortable camping safaris in Sri Lanka’s major national parks: get set to spot leopards, elephants, wild buffalo and giant porcupines
Forget your bad memories of camping - this luxury experience is as good as any hotel, with the added benefit of a unique window onto Sri Lanka’s natural world. Rotating between 3 national parks according to the time of the year, you’ll see elephant herds under open skies, sunsets with the promise of prowling leopards, daybreak with monkeys, storks, ibis and crocodiles, as well as deer, sloth bears, jackals and wild buffalo. Uda Walawe is the best place in Asia to see elephants in the wild, while Yala and Wilpattu have the densest population of leopards in the world. Birdwatchers will be in heaven, too: Sri Lanka has 426 species including the delightful bee eater.

Safaris are 3-4 days in length, but can be tailor-made for a maximum of 8 people. You’ll be picked up in a Toyota Landcruiser and taken to the camp by a watering hole for a wonderful lunch. Game drives take place in the early morning and at dusk; lunch is served by or in the river, and at night the camp is lit by flaming torches. Take a walk on the wild side: it’s an unforgettable experience.

Why we chose this partner

  • Kulu Safaris are the pioneer operators of tented safaris in Sri Lanka, and have a fantastic reputation
  • Their trackers are astonishingly good so these safaries offer some of the best wildlife-spotting in the world; you can also ask for a specialist guide
  • The team's cooking was the best we tasted in Sri Lanka
  • The drivers are fully trained and experienced in all possible terrains, with client safety their ultimate concern. Drivers are responsible, friendly, helpful and they all speak excellent English
  • Kulu don't cut corners; we slept very soundly in our luxury tents with proper beds; food is kept cold in fridges and freezers
  • Staff are very mindful of their impact on the environment

Please be aware


  • A government clampdown in Sri Lanka's national parks meant that Kulu had to move its camps to new locations outside the park
  • The Wilpattu National Park accommodation is a bungalow building in the buffer zone of the park, rather than luxury tents

Best time to go

Your trip will be determined by the time of year that you choose to visit, as Kulu Safaris are in each of the national parks at different times of the year. Whatever time of year you choose to visit, you can be assured that the camp will find you the best of Sri Lanka’s wildlife for that time of year.

Our top tips

We'd recommend at least 3 nights to give you the best chance of seeing all the wildlife. Clothes will get dusty so pack accordingly. Bird books, binoculars, towels and torches are provided.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
Room:

Lodging

The large safari tents are all the same in design: 3 sq.m, divided into a sleeping section and living area. There are comfortable queensize double or twin beds, and mineral water and towels are provided on a bedside table. In the large porch/living area at the front you’ll have 2 chairs, a mirror, chest of drawers and a table. This area needs to be zipped up if you’re not there to prevent monkeys coming in – and we had some painted tree frogs visiting too; harmless and very pretty. The Family Tent can sleep 2 adults and 3 children, and the other tents can each fit an extra bed for a child.

In addition, there’s a large open tent that's used as a living room/dining room in the event of rain; a hot and cold water shower – the water is heated when you’re out on a drive, ready for your return – and a chemical toilet per tent. As an alternative to the shower, you can bathe in the river during the day, and special biodegradable shampoo/shower gel is provided for that and the shower. At night the camp is lit by flaming torches and you also have your own torch and lamp in the tent. For a 5.30am drive, you’ll be woken up with biscuits and tea in your tent.

Astonishingly, given the tiny camp kitchen and limited provisions, the food at Kulu was the best we tasted all trip. We arrived at lunchtime to see the table sat in the river – so we could cool our feet in the running water as we ate – and it was heaving with Sri Lankan specialities like curry, daal, brinjal and sambal. Dessert was fresh fruit or banana pancakes.

Dinner, this time set up on the shore, was again a huge meal, and they do a different dinner for each night of your trip. The other couple with us had had Spaghetti Bolognese the previous night; we had a barbecue with more meat than we could possibly eat - lamb, chicken, sausages, burgers and baked potatoes. We had pre-dinner G&Ts then delicious red and white wine or Lion beer to accompany the meal. Dining under the stars, surrounded by flaming torches and the green gleam of crocodile eyes in the river was quite an experience...

A Sri Lankan breakfast is served after the first drive of the day: fresh papaya, banana, pineapple, plus passion fruit juice, tea or coffee, toast, pancakes, omelettes, and optional daal, sambal and rice. During the day on the long game drives, we were given ginger biscuits – good for travel sickness on the bumpy roads – and water was provided in the jeeps.

If you have any dietary requirements, you will need to mention them at time of booking. All food is included.

Activities

Things we loved...

  • Spotting elephants, wild buffalo and deer
  • Sunset at camp, while listening to wildlife chattering in the surrounding canopy
  • Seeing a sloth bear asleep in a tree
  • The thrill of a jungle walk
  • Kayaking on the lake

    Activities include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Hiking
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Safaris
    • Wildlife
  • Activity:
    Kid Friendly:

    With Kids

    This is a great adventure for older children but Kulu are not too keen on taking younger kids: there’s a danger with being close to the river, there are no babysitting facilities if you want to go off on a drive and leave them, and sitting in a jeep being quiet for 3 hours isn’t fun with a bored child. You may also need to bring food if your child won't eat curry. Bear in mind too, there are no cots for babies - usually parents sleep with their baby in their bed - or extra beds. There is a 10% discount on prices for children aged 14 and under

    Best for:

    Teens (over 12)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Family Rooms

    Transport

    You'll be driven around in top-of-the-range Toyota and Land Cruisers, with a driver and English-speaking guide. Fully retractable canvas canopies allow for a 360 viewing and photography opportunity, and the jeeps are well stocked with refreshments and safety gear.

    Transport:

    Our guests' ratings...

    10/
    Rooms
    10/
    Food
    10/
    Service
    10/
    Value
    10/
    Overall

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    Itineraries