Tree Tops Jungle Lodge

near Buttala, Yala & Southeast, Sri Lanka Book from

Reviewed by Emma Boyle
A tented eco-lodge deep in the wilderness near the Yala National Park, where nature - and sometimes elephants - come to you
Tree Tops Jungle Lodge is refreshingly remote. Immersed in carefully preserved forest, this bijou eco-lodge is just 6km from Yala’s northern boundary, ringed by an awesome landscape of rocky hills and placid lakes. The only distractions from the pindrop-peaceful surroundings are the chirruping of crickets, the exotic birdsong, and the gentle ripping of foliage as wildlife feeds only steps from the camp.

Devoid of electricity, the trio of basic yet comfortable tented rooms - all with running water, proper toilets and kingsize or twin beds - attract adventurous, nature-loving travellers. By day, you might join a guided walk with experienced trackers, making for hilltop viewpoints and sparkling rivers, or head off on a trip into the national park to see leopards, sloth bears and more. Or simply bide your time swinging in a hammock by your tent, watching giant squirrels, birds and lizards (there are more than 160 species to look out for); with luck and patience, an elephant might emerge from the trees right before your eyes. By night, feast on fresh, mostly vegetarian spreads, served by candlelight in the central restaurant hut, then sit back with a drink and soak up the silence.


  • The complimentary jungle walks are fascinating, and our English-speaking guide’s knowledge of the forest provided invaluable context
  • Spotting wild elephants under the light of the moon while tucking into dinner was an unforgettable experience
  • We loved the food - delicious Sri Lankan cooking based on lesser-known local produce such as snake gourd and palm honey. All meals are included in the rates, as are soft drinks and daily sundowners
  • The engaging staff go the extra mile to ensure your experience is as authentic as possible
  • There’s an impressive commitment to conserving this important ecosystem, with low-impact constructions, natural materials and limited use of vehicles


  • The accommodation is basic, with no electricity, hot water, air conditioning or other mod cons (though each tent has a cold shower)
  • It's a journey to get here (a 6-hour drive from the airport to Buttala, followed by a 10km tuk-tuk transfer), and the walks take you up close to wild animals. Because of this, no children under 12 are accepted
  • Elephants track right through the camp, but they can be elusive; don’t come expecting to see them
  • But do expect to encounter mosquitoes, ants, spiders and beetles (nets and repellent are provided)
  • Full prepayment is required prior to arrival, and credit cards aren't accepted

Best time to go

The lodge is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, which sees much less rainfall than the west of the country. There are some light showers from November to January, but this is also the coolest time of year. The heat and humidity build from mid-March to mid-May (bear in mind there's no air conditioning at the camp), with April susceptible to short, sharp downpours. Late May to mid-October is the driest season, when serious droughts are a frequent occurrence; elephant sightings are more frequent during these months, as animals congregate around water sources.

Our top tips

To get the most out of the lodge, aim to spend at least 3 nights here. You can then spend one day exploring the forest on foot and another relaxing at the camp, soaking in the serene atmosphere. If you have another day at hand, you could safari in one of the nearby national parks. It takes time to acclimatise to the heat, so the longer you stay, the more in tune you will feel with the natural environment.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Tented Jungle Lodge
  • 3
  • All meals included
  • Children aged 12+ only
  • Closed: 26 Oct 2016 - 30 Nov 2016
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Hammocks
  • Wildlife books


The 3 tented rooms are surprisingly comfy. Custom-made in Sri Lanka, they’re elevated on flood-proof platforms a foot above the ground and separated from one another by palm-thatched screens. To the front of each tent is a sand-floored terrace furnished with a table and chairs. Fly screens are fitted to the ‘doors’ and ‘windows’, and blinds roll down for privacy.

Inside, the roomy sleeping areas (high ceilings meant we didn’t have to stoop) come with kingsize or twin beds topped with simple foam mattresses and proper bedding. You also get bedside tables, battery-powered lamps and torches, timber chairs, a table, clay water jugs, and a luggage rack where you can store your gear.

A zipped doorway to the rear of each tent leads to the bathroom, which is fitted with a raised throne-like loo, a sink, and a cold-water shower ringed by a curtain. The towels are thin but adequate, and a range of simple toiletries (including toothpaste, mosquito repellent, soap and shampoo) is provided.

The screens between the tents provide an element of privacy, however the furthest (tent 3) is the most secluded. Dozing off to the sounds of the forest was magical, and the temperature during our January visit was comfortable enough, although the absence of air conditioning or fans means that some might find the nights a little too warm for sleeping, particularly during the most humid months of March and April.

Features include:

  • Battery-powered lamps and torches
  • Extra beds
  • Mosquito net
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Water jugs


All meals are included in the rates, as well as soft drinks; wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks - chilled thanks to the camp’s efficient cool box - are also available for an extra charge.

We dined on hearty, home-cooked Sri Lankan cuisine, served in the lodge’s atmospheric mud-walled restaurant. Although the spice levels are toned down to suit less fiery palettes (unless you tell them otherwise), the dishes tasted very authentic. Most meals are vegetarian, and we surprised ourselves by not realising until the second day that we hadn’t eaten any meat; it was all too good!

For breakfast, we ate string hoppers (steamed rice-flour noodles) with dhal, and a zesty pol sambol made from pounded fresh coconut, chilli, dried fish and lime - a typical Sri Lankan start to the day. More familiar options include fried eggs, toast, exotic juices, fruit and wrapped triangles of soft cheese.

Lunches and dinners are always different, with a selection of dishes (perhaps creamy curries, milk rice, coconut roti and egg hoppers) beautifully served down the middle of your table. With a focus on fresh, local produce (nothing can be refrigerated or frozen), this is the place to try some of the island’s more unusual ingredients, including manioc, banana flower and snake gourd. For dessert, expect the likes of fruit salad and buffalo curd drizzled with kithul (palm honey).

Tree Tops Jungle Lodge can also cater for those seeking a more Western dining experience, and meat (often cooked on a traditional barbecue) is served occasionally. One night we tucked into vegetable soup followed by grilled chicken with rice, dhal and potato salad.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu


  • Absorb your surroundings. Sit on your terrace or in the charming mud-walled restaurant and watch as birds, butterflies, giant squirrels and lizards reveal themselves among the trees. Elephants are shy - and usually nocturnal - but they do often appear
  • Take a morning or evening walk into the jungle with a knowledgeable English-speaking guide and an experienced team of trackers who know the forest inside out. You’ll visit scenic look-out points and beautiful lakes teeming with wildlife (deer, sambar, crocodiles, porcupines, wild boar)
  • The walks can also take you through farmland, atop the raised bunds of tanks (man-made lakes), and into the local village
  • Rise early for some crack-of-dawn bird-watching; this arid region is home to more than 150 dry-zone species, including peacocks, barbets and hornbills
  • Go on safari in the Yala National Park with the lodge’s experienced sister company, Aliya Safaris, for the opportunity to see leopards, sloth bears, elephants, crocodiles and buffalo. Uda Walawe and the less-visited Gal Oya national parks are also within a 1.5-hour drive
  • Jump in a tuk-tuk and make for the stupa (sacred mound) on the top of a nearby hill to discover ancient Buddhist caves and scenic views

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Wildlife


The hushed atmosphere, basic accommodation and jungle walks mean Tree Tops Jungle Lodge is not suited to younger children, and only those aged 12 and over are accepted. That said, outdoorsy teens will relish the sense of adventure, and an extra bed can be added to each tent for a charge (see Rates).

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly: Peacock

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