If you thought Africa was your only option for a safari honeymoon, you haven't been versed on how to do a luxury Sri Lankan safari. Few honeymoon experiences can match the romance of a traditional safari—from the feeling of discovery as you encounter animals in their natural habitats to the leisurely pace as you while away the days in between game drives and the gorgeous candlelit dinners in the middle of the bush. In the same way that an African safari varies depending on which country and park you choose, Sri Lankan safaris offer diverse experiences in each park, all of which are operated by the government's Department of Wildlife Conservation. So whether you choose Udawalawe National Park, Yala National Park, Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve, Gal Oya National Park, or any of the country's 100 protected areas, you can expect up-close encounters with wild elephants, leopards, peacocks, spotted deer, buffalo, wild pigs, ruddy mongooses, and even the elusive sloth bear.
Here, two of our favorite lodges in the southeastern Yala National Park, one of the country's most prominent safari destinations:
Because Sri Lanka's parks are all government operated, there are only a handful of accommodations within the actual boundaries of Yala National Park (and they're not exactly chic). As such, it's best to post up at one of the luxury lodges just outside the park, like Chena Huts by Uga Escapes, one of the country's best hotel brands. Located just a 10-minute drive from the entrance to Yala, Chena Huts is a seven-acre beachfront enclave featuring 14 palm-thatched huts spread out on elevated boardwalks.
From the outside, you'd think these cathedral-domed residences were quite small, but step inside and you'll find spacious interiors with contemporary designs. Hang out in your lounge area (outfitted with a Bluetooth speaker system and flat-screen TV), lounge in your comfy king bed (with an oversize wooden headboard), or soak in the rays from your private plunge pool (privacy guaranteed thanks to healthy vegetation between each hut).
Drives are some of the more memorable experiences at Chena Huts. Amiable rangers are experts in their field (many of them grew up visiting the parks as children and are well-versed in wildlife tracking), and each outing takes place in the comfort of a six-person jeep equipped with sundowner refreshments. Even better: Chena Huts sends someone to buy park passes each morning (an unfortunate, dated government process), so guests need not wait in line but can rather breeze past the stack of vehicles waiting to enter. Likewise, drives are up to the guests. Should you decide to explore a different part of the park, like the more remote Block 5, your guide will be happy to oblige.
Other memorable moments at Chena Huts: the meals. Each is served à la carte, with healthy breakfast options (eggs, fresh fruits, and yogurt parfaits) and more indulgent offerings for dinner on the sea-facing candlelit deck. (Don't miss the traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry.)
This newcomer, opening in December 2017, will give honeymooners even more reason to choose Yala National Park for their Sri Lankan safari. With just 28 luxurious tents (outfitted with double-height ceilings, canvas walls, teak floors, and air conditioning) on the edge of the park, Wild Coast Tented Lodge is a prime location for game drives—and all kinds of R&R in between. Go for a relaxing massage at the Sanctuary Spa, hang out on your suite's spacious deck, with a private plunge pool, or chill in your bronze soaking tub.
Operated by Resplendent Ceylon, which counts Ceylon Tea Trails and Cape Weligama among its sister properties, Wild Coast Tented Lodge will be a Relais & Chateaux–designated resort, offering top-notch cuisine and impeccable service at the bamboo-clad Ten Tuskers bar and main dining pavilion. Expect a wide selection of classic Sri Lankan dishes, with options for alfresco picnics on the sand dunes and romantic sundowners in the bush, followed by a private dining experience under the stars.