Crested eagles and painted storks flying overhead, surprise elephant sightings within the resort grounds and langur monkeys resting on the rooftops as the sun sets – you’re never too far from a wildlife moment at the Hilton Yala Resort, even as you unwind with a cocktail in hand or enjoy a dip in their gorgeous statement pool. This brand new resort on the outskirt of Yala National Park, five hours’ drive from Colombo, makes it a breeze to enjoy luxury amid nature.
The resort itself boasts the best of all the modern comforts of a global brand such as the Hilton: think plush bedding, leather-topped writing desks, gigantic stone bathtubs and private plunge pools. Every room option in this sprawling 42-key compound has something special to offer. Its Premium Pool Villas are the most expansive at 175 sq. m and come with a generously large outdoor terrace and plunge pool. But even the Deluxe Rooms are comfortably sized at 86 sq. m, and feature hot tubs and easy access to the main pool.
Exceptional modern Sri Lankan fare
For bites, choose from three dining concepts by executive chef Jerome Tissera. While you can get the Western classics at Sandali and cocktails with delicious bites at Vanya, the true standout is Dhira and its modern Sri Lankan breakfast options. Don’t miss the Hopper x Benny, a crisp marriage of Sri Lankan appam (a type of thin curved pancake) and western-style eggs benedict. The Bulls Eye – fried eggs with cured beef, asparagus, croutons, chili flakes and dill, served with bread – is a simple dish made exceptionally well, while the house-made coconut granola is an underrated hit.
The clincher – a safari experience headed by Sri Lanka’s most qualified ranger
For those seeking a safari adventure – which for many is the main draw of staying near Yala National Park – you’ll do well to entrust your experience to Hilton Yala’s head ranger Sajith Withanage.
Withanage holds the distinction of being the only guide in Sri Lanka to have been awarded a Tracker II certification by the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA), a nonprofit training institute that sets global standards of excellence for the nature guiding industry. This makes him the most qualified ranger in Sri Lanka you’ll find to lead your leopard-spotting forays in the national park. And it’s not hard to see why, given his preternatural senses, easy-going demeanour and more than 11 years of safari experience.