Hilton Yala Resort: Where Elegance Meets Nature

As I embarked on my long journey from Colombo airport to the Hilton Yala Resort, nestled all the way on the east coast of Sri Lanka in the heart of Yala National Park, I was filled with anticipation and excitement. The resort promised a unique blend of luxury and wilderness, a concept that intrigued me as an adventure-seeking traveller.

On arrival, I was greeted with the warmest of welcomes at the lobby – which is a masterpiece of modern architecture, integrating perfectly with its natural surroundings. I met with general manager Gitanjali Chakravarthy, whose passion for sustainable luxury was evident in every element of the resort.

Private pool at villa

Day one was about lounging and absorbing the tranquillity of my own private villa. The room- a haven of serenity and luxury, offered unparalleled views of the park. The interiors, adorned with local art, reflected the vibrant culture of Sri Lanka, while the amenities provided utmost comfort. I spent most of the afternoon in the private pool that comes with all their stand-alone villas, surrounded by butterflies of every colour and the orchestra of birds from the trees around me.

Dining at the resort was an adventure in itself. Executive chef Jerome Tissera, a maestro in the culinary arts, has crafted menus that celebrate local flavours with a modern twist. Each meal was a journey through the diverse culinary landscape of Sri Lanka, from spicy curries to fresh seafood, all sourced locally to support the community and reduce the resort’s carbon footprint.

Jeep safari at Yala National Park

The highlight of my stay was, undoubtedly, the wildlife excursions. Under the guidance of head ranger Sajith Withanage and his ever-so-attentive team of knowledgeable and passionate conservationists, these safaris were not just thrilling adventures but also educational experiences. Their insights into the behaviour and habitat of the park’s residents, from majestic elephants to elusive leopards, were fascinating. On our first day’s excursion, we chanced upon a wild elephant while we sat perched high up on a rock, watching his morning routine. It was fantastic, to say the least!

Drinks at Lanthaaruma

The walk to Yala Beach at dawn the next day was spectacular as the sun rose, painting the sky in hues of yellow and blue. I walked on the tallest dunes ever seen on a beach. I must say, the walk down to the beach was a lot easier than walking back up. Later that day, I jumped into a jeep and drove deep into Yala National Park, where I witnessed a mother elephant with her two calves all while Colonel Hathi’s March (the classic number from The Jungle Book (1967) played in my head). Birds – from the colourful bee-eater to the painted stork (my new favourite bird) were at every nook. It was also butterfly season, and the varieties I encountered made me wonder if it was all a magnificent dream.

The resort’s commitment to sustainability extended beyond just its excursions. Eco-friendly practices were the norm here, from solar-powered heating to water conservation methods. The resort also engages in community outreach programs, contributing to local schools and conservation efforts, making my stay feel impactful and meaningful. Evenings at Hilton Yala were magical. The resort organised drinks on the beachfront one night, while others were spent at their outdoor restaurant, Sandali. The night skies were adorned with stars, which someone like me from Mumbai, yearns for.

Wellness was another key feature of my stay. The resort’s spa, nestled amidst lush greenery, offered treatments that rejuvenated both body and mind. Using traditional herbs and oils, each therapy was a sensory journey that left me feeling refreshed and connected to the natural world.

The resort’s other amenities, including a state-of-the-art fitness centre, a temperature-controlled pool that was large enough for everyone to enjoy their space, and private access to Yala beach from their property ensured that every moment of my stay was filled with leisure and discovery.

As my stay came to an end, I realised that Hilton Yala Resort had given me more than just a luxurious escape. It provided a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature’s wonders, the importance of sustainable living, and the richness of Sri Lankan culture. This enchanting resort, where luxury meets wilderness, offered an experience that was both exhilarating and humbling, leaving an indelible mark on my heart.

Read the full story on ELLE India’s new issue, or download your digital copy via Magzter.

- Fashion Editor


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