The wonders of the Yala Safari Beach Hotel, now re-named Yala Safari Game Lodge, derive not only from meeting with nature, but also from an encounter with the values that make a holiday great.
Blissfully located a little less than a kilometre from the Yala Wildlife Sanctuary, teaming with wildlife, bordered by the ocean and blessed with a picturesque lagoon, the Yala Safari Game Lodge sprawls across 14 acres of land, It has been built beside the finest destination in Asia for Leopard watching, Jetwing Hotels Managing Director, Hiran Cooray explained.
The cluster of low, tiled-roof buildings merges into the rustic scrub jungle. Trees grown over the sandy area in the compound, provide shade and privacy. The hotel is not just a matter of meeting wonders of nature, but also wonders of a well run hotel with staff who are eager and obliging, good food, and that overall ambience which makes one reluctant to leave the hotel and its wonders.
The change of name as Yala Safari Game Lodge, according to Gehan de Silva Wijeratne, Director Product Development of Jetwing Hotels, is not a whim, but a sequence of Jetwing’s ambition to be a leading provider of eco-tourism internationally and a re-assessment of its assets.
Wijeratne is of the view that re-naming it as a Game Lodge immediately brings clarity to the product on offer to travel operators and clients.
The name change is symptomatic of a strategic re-positioning the Yala Safari Game Lodge has undertaken. Under the pioneering Jetwing Research Initiative, the hotel began sponsorship of the Leopad Project last year, which attracted wide media interest. The Game Lodge opened an ethnic style ‘Bird Hide’ in January, 2002 modeled on those used in UK. This is probably one of the first purpose built Bird Hides to be constructed by a hotel chain, anywhere in the world. Realising its potential as a base for bird watchers and eco-tourists, the hotel has developed bird benches, introduced a program of nature walks, tree trails and other features. Some of the features such as wildlife news boards, although common in European and North American nature reserves, were unknown in Sri Lanka until Jetwing paved the way with a news board at the Yala Safari Game Lodge.
Veteran hotelier, Lalin de Mel who joined Jetwing Hotels as Director Marketing and Sales is of the opinion that the key to attracting eco-tourists is understanding the needs of this growing market. ‘What we have found is that at times with little capital outlay, you can make a disproportionately high impact in targeting eco-tourists, de Mel said.
Former Assistant Director of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Chandra Jayawardena who has joined the Yala Safari Game Lodge as the resident naturalist says that the character and assence of this property has always been that of a game lodge.
The Yala National Park being on par with some of the finest privately managed game reserves in Africa, for Leopard watching, gives Sri Lanka a head start. The Yala Safari Game Lodge together with the Jetwing Research Initiative will be the passport to placing Sri Lanka on the international eco-tourism map, de Mel said.