We are sitting in the first row of a forward-facing new Safari Jeep. Our early awakening isn’t keeping us from all the excitement of our animal spotting morning game drive. We are fortunate enough to have the whole vehicle to ourselves, and we even enjoy the service of an expert naturalist guide. The sun is already shining bright, the wind is shy and the soaring temperature isn’t affecting us, under the vehicle’s protective roof.
Our attentive driver stops in front of a small grassy clearing. He just spotted a crested serpent eagle. We all watch in amazement the impressive bird of prey, and start taking pictures. My eyes wander away for a second, only to spot our first elephant of the day! I was ecstatic! Not only this is the first elephant we see in the wild, but I am the one who spotted it! I feel overwhelmed with happiness as I marvel over the massive mammal. Emma-Kate can’t take her eyes off of this imposing animal, we continuously press our camera’s shutter button and my eyes fill with tears of wonderment.
This life-changing encounter wasn’t even the first or the best of our experience with Ruhunu Safari Camping. We choose Ruhunu for a number of reasons. One of them is that it is located inside the Yala National Park, in Sri Lanka. Looking for the finest Sri Lankan immersion into the wild, Ruhunu Safari Camping was the obvious choice. Besides the game drives, and as its name states, Ruhunu not only offers a unique camping experience, but they provide one of the ultimate luxury lodging facilities. They can also arrange mobile camping inside the Uda Walawa National Park.
You are probably curious about our safari and luxury camping experience in Sri Lanka, so let me tell you a little bit more about our 2-night all-inclusive stay and game drives with Ruhunu Safari Camping.
Ruhunu calls itself Safari Camping, but they are wrong, this is not a real camping experience. Yes, our ‘tent’ is surrounded by stunning wildlife, and located among wonderful dry woodland and open patches of grasslands. Yes, we can hear fascinating bugs at night, peacocks signing to each other and monkeys talking. Yes, billions of stars illuminate the sky at night, providing the perfect light to walk from the bonfire to our comfortable beds. But that’s it!
Since when camping involves an ensuite bathroom, and comfortable beds? Oh yes, this is luxury camping! The perfect blend between cozy and adventure, opulence and wilderness, bliss and raw nature.
Ruhunu’s spacious tents are very private and fully equipped, ideal for families and couples. We had access to comfortable beds, a western style flushable toilet, a sink with running water, amenities like soap and complimentary bottles of water, a warm water outdoor shower, and plug outlets to recharge our phones and cameras. Moreover, our accommodation was cleaned every day.
We had some concerns at first regarding the temperature at night, since there is no air conditioning: it can get quite hot during the day in Sri Lanka. But at night, the bed linen provided were useful to keep us cozy. Furthermore, by closing the tent’s door before dinner, we kept all the bugs outside. Sleeping was restful! This is the best camping experience I ever had!
An immersion into Sri Lankan culture undoubtedly has to include culinary local delicacies. To our palate pleasure, we tasted an extensive array of local specialties, like roasted tomato soup, curries, coconut salmon, hoppers and for dessert, curd (popular and traditional Sri Lankan sweet treat made of buffalo milk and honey).
Ruhunu is also offering a wide selection of drinks and alcohol, from milk and fresh fruit juice for kids, to tea, coffee, beer and wine for weary adults after a long and rewarding afternoon game drive. All these refreshments are graciously served whenever and wherever we want, at our convenience. There’s nothing like a cold beer at the end of a hot and tiring day!
Our generous meals were cooked daily from fresh, local ingredients. While on the road, spotting animals all around the park, our guide served us yummy lunch boxes, with enough food for the biggest appetite.
The Staff and Service
Ruhunu Safari Camping owes all its fame and renown to its staff. Ruhunu’s owner, Isuru, is a very professional and generous man. Besides being a young, ambitious entrepreneur, he is also connected to its people and clients, and takes all measures necessary to ensure our safety and comfort. For example, he was more than happy to give us a 30 minute ride early in the morning, the day we left, and arrange our transport from Yala to Ella, with the help of his own uncle! Now this is personalised customer service!
Ruhunu’s staff members are service experts too. They always took the lead to make sure we had everything we needed. Randika, our expert naturalist guide for our game drives, and our driver, were always very concerned about Emma-Kate’s comfort in the Safari Jeep, since the roads in the park were sometimes bumpy. They also made sure we were safe, and completely satisfied with our animal encounters: they let us decide when we have had enough watching the cute baby elephant, for example, before leaving to spot another one.
At camp, Ruhunu has dedicated and knowledgeable staff that belongs to the nearby villages, to ensure that our Sri Lankan immersion is experienced to the fullest. And I almost had the feeling one of them was always hiding close by, because every time we looked like we would need something, a very friendly man would show up with tea, a beer or anything else we might want. Behind the good manners and A-class service, we could tell that these people were more than happy to try make us happy.
The Property and Amenities
Ruhunu’s camp, located in a wildlife park, is indeed a safe place to stay. Surrounded by electric fences, to keep dangerous animals away from our living area and tents (like leopards and elephants), we never felt more secure. And we had the chance to observe harmless animals around our tent: monkeys, peacocks and a lot of other birds, which made our experience at Ruhunu even more authentic.
In the middle of all the luxury tents, is the restaurant, living area and bonfire pit. This is where succulent meals are savored, lively conversations are enjoyed and stars gaze at. The lovely wooden furniture of the dining and living rooms, as well as the tents’ structures, have been carefully crafted by Isuru, Ruhunu’s owner. We can feel Isuru’s love for its country and its guests through his meticulous work.
The Game Drives
A stay at Ruhunu Safari Camp is already an incredible experience by itself. But going on game drives in the Jungle Book kind of wildlife park topped our adventure off perfectly.
After an early breakfast at camp, we embarked on an unbelievable journey in a new Toyota 4 wheel drive Safari Jeep. Three rows of comfortable forward facing seats are the perfect setup to make everyone happy: we all had premium seating for animal spotting. Also, our Jeep, compared to other vehicles we saw in the park, didn’t have a window up front, which allowed us to take stunning pictures in all directions, and to feel the wind on that hot day too.
Our guide, Randika, and driver were committed and enthusiastic about finding all around the park the most unique and rare animals. The pace was only decided by us, as they were in no rush to tour us around the park. Also, binoculars, meals and plenty of water and drinks were kindly provided throughout the day. With their wealth of experience, they were able to find for us elephants, wild water buffaloes, spotted deers, monkeys, crocodiles, sloth bears, hornbills, peacocks and, for our utmost delight, 2 leopards!
Moreover, they brought us to the most pristine places in the park to enjoy our second breakfast, and then lunch: on a golden sand beach, by the Indian Ocean, and by an awe-inspiring water pond filled with water lilies, and bursting with unreal wildlife. Our whole day game drives left us only yearning for more, even if tiredness got the best of us.
On Ruhunu’s website, we can request a tour and availability, but no rates are indicated. Looking at Trip Advisor’s website, we can see that Ruhunu Safari Camping has a Certificate of Excellence, and their rates start at $800, for double occupancy. Included are 2 game drives per day, and the meals.
Our Overall Opinion
Sri Lanka has exceeded by far all of our expectations, mainly because of our flawless experience with Ruhunu Safari Camping. How is it possible not to feel completely overwhelmed with amazement when we witness exotic animals, living freely in the wild, and being spoiled like royalty?
We only wish more people could live the same life-changing experience we had the opportunity to.
We want to thank Ruhunu Safari Camping for taking good care of us during our stay in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. Ruhunu didn’t ask me to write a positive review, and it was in fact the first time they were hosting a blogger. I want to assure you, dear reader, and them, that everything I wrote was based on my most sincere and authentic opinion.