Just sit back and take in the wilds

By Natasha Fernandopulle

With the aim of encouraging Sri Lankans to travel within the country, Walkers Tours, the leisure arm of John Keells Holdings PLC, came up with an initiative for domestic tourism, with tours to Yala and Kataragama being launched last month.

This package includes full board accommodation at Yala Village for three days/two nights. Departure takes place from the Trans Asia Hotel in a luxury coach, where you proceed to Yala Village, accompanied by a professional guide. It’s a relatively late lunch on arrival and then time to relax for the rest of the evening.

Ready to take wing: A Pelican at Yala Village. Pix by Chitral Jayatilake

The next day is when all the excitement begins – the morning session includes a tour to Kataragama where you can participate in or view the various poojas that take place at the devala, as well as visit the ancient Kiri Vihara. The treat for all nature and wildlife buffs is in the evening, when you are taken on a safari to the Yala National Park.

On the third day, there is the option of an early morning nature walk with the hotel’s naturalist and after breakfast, you leave for Colombo while stopping for lunch on the way.

These tours operate twice a week on Wednesday to Friday and then from Friday to Sunday. The weekday package is Rs. 10,990 while the weekend package is Rs. 11,990, per person. The first 500 bookings receive a discount of Rs. 1000.

“The tour can also be customised,” said Chitral Jayatilake, Manager, Walkers Tours, explaining that if you are more a wildlife buff, and would prefer to go on safari rather than to Kataragama, that can be arranged too. Wildlife enthusiasts can also look forward to bear tours and leopard weekends, which should materialise in May and between June and August, respectively.

One important factor that comes to mind would be the security situation in and around the National Park. However, Mr. Jayatilake says that with the army presence, there is a lot of commitment towards keeping the park safe for visitors.

Yala Village is situated at Kirinda and borders the Yala sanctuary along with the Indian Ocean, on the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka. During the day, one has a clear view of the Great Basses from the observation deck as well as Vadihiti Kanda at Kataragama and of course endless jungle.

Yala Village: The sprawling nature resort

The hotel is a nature resort spanning 10 acres of jungle along with miles of beach. Just a short walk from your luxury chalet can give you the chance to witness elephants and leopard. Interestingly an elephant or two or leopard or wild boar, might casually walk past your chalet in the evenings, which is a definite treat!

The Yala-Kataragama Tour aside, Walkers Tours also offers a Heritage tour to Habarana and the Cultural Triangle, Whale and dolphin watching tours to Mirissa as well as student tours to the Minneriya National Park. Students above 15 can even opt for the Adam’s Peak Climb. They also offer tours to the Sinharaja Forest, Nuwara Eliya and Adam’s Peak.

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