Kulu Safari

Based in Yala, Yala & Southeast, Sri Lanka

Adventurous but comfortable camping safaris in Yala National Park: 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. You’ll see elephant herds under open skies, sunsets with the promise of prowling cats, daybreak with monkeys, storks, ibis and crocodiles, as well as deer, sloth bears, jackals and wild buffalo. And did we mention that Yala has 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 2-4 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, which is set beside a watering hole that's swarmed by wildlife. From the moment you arrive, you'll be extremely well looked after by the brilliant staff - their knowledge is invaluable and really enhances the experience. Game drives take place in the early morning and at dusk; lunch is served by a tree-shaded lake, and at night the camp is lit by flaming torches. Take a walk on the wild side: it’s an unforgettable adventure.

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 safaris offer some of the best wildlife-spotting in the world; you can also ask for a specialist guide
  • 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
  • Staff are very mindful of their impact on the environment

Please be aware

  • Yala is a popular safari destination and does attract lots of jeeps, but the extremely knowledgeable guides go out of their way to ensure you avoid the crowds and have the best viewing opportunities
  • There are 2 game drives per day, so if you're staying for 3 days or more you might find you've already spotted all there is to see (especially if you're lucky enough to see a leopard on the first safari)!

Best time to go

Yala is wonderful year round - though it closes for a month each year when the water levels are very low. This is usually in September/October, but varies depending on weather patterns.

Our top tips

We'd recommend staying for 2 nights to give you a good 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
Room:

Lodging

The tents are within 10 acres of actively regenerating forest on the border of Yala National Park, overlooking a lake that is packed with wildlife. These large safari tents are all the same in design, with verandas, comfortable queensize double or twin beds, and mineral water and towels provided on a bedside table. The Family tents have a large porch/living area at the front, with 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 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. Special biodegradable shampoo/shower gel is provided for 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 on your veranda.

Astonishingly, given the tiny camp kitchen and limited provisions, the food at Kulu was incredibly varied, making the most of local Sri Lankan specialities. Dine alfresco or in the large open tent that's used as a living room/dining room in the event of rain. We arrived at lunchtime to see the table heaving with delights like curry, daal, brinjal and sambal. Dessert was fresh fruit or banana pancakes.

Dinner was again a huge meal, and they do a different dinner for each night of your trip. We had a delicious barbecue with more meat than we could possibly eat - lamb, chicken, sausages, burgers and baked potatoes. We sipped pre-dinner G&Ts then delicious red and white wine or Lion beer to accompany the meal. Dining under the stars, among flaming torches and crackling fires, while chatting with fellow travellers 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, where water buffalo come to bathe
  • The viewing platform high in the trees, which offers stunning views over the lake and surrounding area - perfect for twitchers

    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. Bear in mind that 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:

    Extra Beds Available, Family Rooms

    Children's meals: Although the camp specialises in Sri Lankan food, they cater for guests' dietary requirements and any special requests (with a little notice)

    Kids Activities on site:

    • Toasting marshmallows
    • Jungle cooking
    • Drawing and colouring
    • Identifying wildlife and ticking species off on the checklist
    • Easy walks

    Families Should Know: Note that this is best for older kids; the camp's close proximity to the lake could be dangerous for younger ones. There are no babysitting facilities if you want to go off on a drive without them, and sitting in a jeep being quiet for 3 hours isn’t fun with a bored child!

    Transport

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

    Transport:

    Our guests' ratings...

    Based on 3 independent reviews from i-escape guests

    10/10
    Room
    10/10
    Food
    10/10
    Service
    9/10
    Value
    10/10
    Overall

    Staying at Kula was a brilliant experience. The staff were lovely and the food was excellent - the best Sri Lankan food that we ate on our trip. The tents were very comfortable with air conditioning and ceiling fans. We stayed three days and went out on six safari trips around the park so saw a lot of animals - leopards, elephants and a bear - and abundant bird life.

    10/10,

    We can't speak more highly of our experience with Kulu. The service was probably up there with the best we've experienced ever. The tent (although in reality much more than a tent - prob more like a cabin) was totally bug-proof, had A/C and fans, a great shower and comfy beds. The safaris was awesome and our guide was v knowledgable. We were welcomed back from the evening safaris with a G&T and then taken to a candle-lit meal outside under the starts. The food was delicious. We had 2 v young children and I think 2 nights was just about enough. They had a ball and the staff were so great with them.
    Highly recommended.

    10/10,

    We had a great time at Kulu. The fixed camp is well set up, tents are very private and comfy. The food was excellent, especially the local curries, which were the best we had on our trip. All the staff were very helpful, and our safari guide Ramani was very knowledgeable with great respect for the wildlife. Safaris went to different zones of Yala in the mornings and afternoons, which kept it interesting, and they did their best to avoid the crowds of jeeps entering the park by the main entrance. We saw elephant and leopard, and a vast array of birds from the colourful to the rare.

    10/10,

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    Itineraries

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