I would recommend 2 days max in Tissamaharama. I’ve read that there is wonderful history to this little town but much of that has gone, or I couldn’t find it, such that it is a hustle and bustle little town. With two nights, you arrive on night one, do a safari early the next day, take a hot shower to remove the red clay and dust from everywhere, sleep, and move on to your next destination after the second night.
This is a tough one to be honest. If you are able to plan well in advance, there are some stunning hotels close to Yala National Park that I would love to stay at. But since I didn’t, I will just say that Wild Coast Tented Lodge (http://www.resplendentceylon.com/wildcoastlodge-yala/) is where I so wanted to stay but even 6 month out, they were booked over the Christmas holiday. On the other side of the small lake is the Una Huts by Uga Escapes, who were also booked out (https://www.ugaescapes.com/chenahuts/). Both of these hotels are insanely expensive but I suspect worth every cent. There is also an outpost of the Cinnamon hotel chain, the Cinnamon Wild Yala (http://www.cinnamonhotels.com/en/cinnamonwildyala/) which might be worth checking. And as I write this in 2018, I’ve heard talk that there is another 5 star hotel going up on the beach about 15 km away from Tissamaharama so stay tuned.
If, like me, you can’t get in to the above, or they are just too expensive, there is the Thaulle Resort and Spa (http://thaulle.com/?lang=en). Run by a German family and situated directly on lake Yoda, it is a calm and peaceful resort where each of the 27 rooms face the lake (beware the mosquitos friends!). The rooms have a bit too much wood for my taste, making them very “Germanic” to be honest, but they are large and all have large bathrooms, and gorgeous balconies, and the staff are wonderful so for a couple of days, it does what it needs to do.
I wish I had something to offer here but, sadly, there was a serious lack of restaurants that this intrepid travel was intrepid enough to try. The Thaulle does offer half board dining option so you can try that or, if you have a car or they arrange a tuktuk, I suspect any of the 5 stars above under Nites would be amazing
Without a doubt, you will probably come to Tissamaharama, or one of the surrounding villages, to do a safari in Yala National Park. There’s really not a lot else to do other than relax this far away from Colombo or Galle Fort. I have no hesitation in saying that this is a trip worth taking! And for me, I opted to do a full-day tour which, in the end turned out to be completely worth it. Immediately upon entering (once the sun rose as you do arrive in the dark), we saw water buffalo and shortly thereafter male and female peacocks, and deer. But it took a while to see elephants and even far longer to see the elusive leopard.
But given all the research that I did before the trip, and some of the things that I experienced in total contrast to what I read, I wanted to share some advice.
- It’s a safari, not the zoo: your driver will do his best, and communicate with other guides, to find both elephants and leopards if possible
- The roads are rough so be prepared for a bumpy ride and hold on tight
- You don’t need a hat as every jeep I saw was covered
- A dust mask is a good idea; I had one but many people didn’t and were improvising with t-shirt and facial tissue (aka, Kleenex)
- Mosquito repellant is a must; there is a LOT of standing water for the animals and, thus, for the mosquitos
- You will be covered in red clay dust by the end
- And if you do a full day tour, know that it is now a requirement in the park that all jeeps stop driving between 12 and 14.00 so you, and all of the other tourists doing a day tour will hang out near the beach for 2 hours. (Most tours include lunch but I opted on the side of caution and ate a protein bar.)