We're writing this review just seven hours after leaving the Kulu Safari campsite. We've just arrived in Tangalle and wouldn't usually be spending our holiday evenings writing Trip Advisor reviews, but having spent the journey here and the whole afternoon reliving the last four days of safari perfection, we felt like we needed to write about Kulu while every single detail was still fresh in our minds.
From the second we arrived, we knew that the next few days were going to be special... We pulled up in our taxi at a junction just outside of the campsite two hours late, with Mariah Carey style excess luggage wearing totally safari inappropriate maxi dresses. Immediately two super friendly Kulu hosts loaded our suitcases and shopping into a jeep, helped us in and zoomed off down a dusty, red track towards our home for the next three nights. And the perfect home it was... The campsite is set just back from a spectacular sweep of deserted beach amoungst shady trees and jungly vines studded with bright yellow flowers. Our tent was pitched in it's own little area far enough away from the other campers to feel private and secluded but close enough to feel that if we needed anything someone was just around the corner.
As you may have guessed already, we're not die-hard campers. If we're honest, we were a little apprehensive about our three nights under canvas. But we needn't have been, our tent had two separate bedroom pods and a spacious living area (big enough even for all our luggage...) and an outdoor area with three comfy deck chairs and a dining table. Camping may bring to mind back-to-basics bathroom facilities, but not at Kulu, each tent has its own toilet tent and separate shower tent where with five minutes notice you can be showering under blissful hot water with the sound of Ciccadas chirruping in the background. And the luxe doesn't end there. From the Paradise Road bedlinen to the fluffy towels freshly laundered everyday, your every need has been catered for.
Five minutes after arriving lunch was served. Although to call it lunch doesn't really do it justice, this could really only be described as a feast. An endless procession of dishes of traditional Sri Lankan curry deliciousness served at our dinner table set with napkins folded in the shape of peacocks and a round of icy cold beers. During the rest of our stay we were completely blown away by each and every meal - breakfast fit for a king each morning and lunch just a few hours later which although we were still groaningly full from breakfast was just too good to resist. And the dinners, we could write a whole separate post about but we'll try to keep it short. Every evening separate tables for each tent were set up right on the beach lit only by flaming torches and candles. A chest full of wines was presented to us to select from and then the incredible food was brought out. Every meal was different but featured Sri Lankan specialities, one evening a beach barbeque, the next string hoppers and delectable curry, and on our last night Pittus - rice flour pancake wrapped coconut rice with mouthwatering curry sauce.
But for us it wasn't the food or the luxury camp that made our stay so incredibly special, from the moment that we were met by our hosts at the junction, we were treated like princesses by the Kulu staff - no request was too much trouble although generally our every whim was catered for without the need to ask. Manju, the guest manager, works tirelessly day and night to ensure that your stay is perfect in every way. He's there to check you can find your way to the jeep at 5:45, he's there at midday to take you to the best place on the beach for a lunchtime swim and he's still there at 9pm after dinner to escort you up to the stunning, moonlit sand dunes for after dinner nightcaps where you can watch for turtles coming onto the beach to lay their eggs. But Kulu isn't just a one man band, each and every member of the Kulu team were superb, working together to make the day run seamlessly. Upon your arrival back at camp after each game drive as if by magic, the camp was in perfect order - beds were made, outside areas raked and swept, and tables beautifully set. In the evenings, a pathway of flaming lamps had been lit illuminating your pathway to a trayful of gin & tonics - the perfect welcome after a long afternoon's leopard spotting. Everyone was extremely friendly, thoughtful and keen to go out of their way to make you happy. The perfect example - several of the team searching the beach in the midday sun for the camp puppy, Scrappy, that we'd fallen in love with so that we could say goodbye to her on our last day.
Such a long review already, and we haven't even begun to talk about the main event, the safari... You're taken on two game drives each day, one starting just after dawn, the other starting just before dusk. On each drive our go-anywhere, hardy 4x4 vehicles were driven by our amazingly skilled drivers who could navigate the jeep over deep crevices, boggy ground and even through rivers. Manju was our tracker and guide on each drive, patiently answering all our questions, doggedly searching out the animals we'd asked him to target and pointing out little things we'd otherwise have missed from poisonous yam trees to tarantula nests. For Manju the safari is much more than just a job, he's passionate about every animal, bird and tree and this shines through in everything he does. During our six drives, we saw seven leopards, two sloth bears, eight elephants and too many crocodiles, monkeys, birds, land monitors, deer and buffalo to mention. Many of the other safari companies seemed to work in packs which meant that an animal sighting drew a fleet of vehicles. The lovely thing about Kulu was that they're skilled enough trackers not to have to follow the crowd and so the majority of our sightings were just us and the animals on off-road tracks. We'll never forget a magical dusk sighting of a male leopard just metres from the car.
During the longer morning drive, we'd stop midway through for biscuits and a refreshing glass of fruit juice. A couple of these stops were at the site of the old Kulu campsite on the river banks. We'd read a few reviews complaining about the move of the camp outside of the park. We booked our safari after the camp had moved and were fully informed about the new location. Having seen both, although the old camp was beautiful, we couldn't find anything to complain about at the new camp and the short 15 minute drive to the national park was more than compensated for by dinners on the sand and dolphin spotting in between game drives.
Overall our four days were completely unforgettable and far exceeded our very high hopes for the safari. It was the highlight of our amazing Sri Lankan holiday and is perfect whether you're a family, a couple or a camping-phobic group of girls with far too much luggage. We were truly sad to leave behind our little safari family and we can't wait to return for more adventures with Manju and the gang very soon.
- Also Known As:
- Kulu Safari Company Hotel Colombo
- Kulu Safari Company Hotel
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Kulu Safaris - The Pioneers for mobile tented camping safaris.Deep in the jungle away from the hum drum of everyday life is the opportunity for man and nature to reconnect – the way it used to be. This opportunity has been made possible by Kulu Safaris Sri Lanka.In Sri Lanka Kulu Safaris redefined the concept of camping in the National Parks with mobile tents which allow you to immerse yourself in the wild with all the comforts that modern civilization can give you.As you go on sightings of elephants, leopards, bears and birds along with your own professional naturalist you can rest assured that you will have delicious cooking, a comfortable tent and even hot and cold showers when you get back to camp.Our mobile camping experience combines five star luxuries with natures wildest. Our spacious tents come fully equipped with hot and cold water showers, toilets and a huge bed to relax in. Cosy lounge chairs at the entrance to your tent provide you with the space to unwind and relax to the sounds of the great outdoors. ... more less