I stayed here with my wife and young son (4) just after Christmas this year.
The first thing anyone who books here should be told is that this is not the place to come if you're not in good physical health and if you suffer from a fear of heights.
There is a steep, bumpy road with numerous hairpin bends and places where the road has crumbled away to negotiate before you reach the 'resort' from the main road. That is done by use of a 4x4 which you may need to wait some time for (and which you'll need to use every time you leave the resort to go to Ella).
After that you need to walk along some paths through the jungle for about 10 to 15 minutes. Wear strong shoes with plenty of grip as again, the path is very steep and difficult to traverse in some places, with dangerous falls possible if you slip. You'll need to be fit to complete this part even though your bags are carried by porters.
Finally you arrive at the entrance... except this is the biggest challenge yet - you must cross a stream via a rickety rope bridge. It's about 10 metres to the ground below, the bridge sways, there are only thin ropes for you to hold onto, and there are gaps between some of the planks. If you slip you'll fall and likely perish. As you can tell I found this fairly scary, especially having to lead my son across! I'll upload some photos of my wife crossing so you can see for yourself.
Now for my comments on the resort itself. Well, when we had crossed the bridge we were offered tea and a sugary sweet and a registration card to fill out while our room was made ready.
I had some prior idea that the resort wasn't going to be top end in terms of creature comforts so I had tried to offset this by booking the deluxe option. Our lodge was indeed overlooking the stream and in a beautiful location, peaceful and surrounded by trees.
The cabin is a long rectangle with a bed and mosquito net in the middle, a slightly raised area at the entrance and with a table and chairs accessible by means of a sliding glass door at the other end of the room. That door cannot be locked so you'll need to make arrangements with the management if you are concerned about your valuables. We left ours locked in our suitcase and didn't have any trouble.
The room is comfortable and attractive enough (I'll upload some clear photos when I get home) but with the following caveats:
• It is not sealed from the outside so creepy crawlies can and do get in. Expect to find spiders, insects, lizards, beetles etc as well as mosquitos in the room. We saw all of those during our two day stay.
• The toilet is shared and located outside. If you want to use it at night you'll need to navigate your way through clouds of the aforementioned creatures to reach it. In addition, there was no lock on the door so you'll have to hope your neighbours are intelligent enough not to try to come in if the door is closed.
• The shower only offers cold water and, like the toilet, is open to the elements. Expect to find plenty of leaves, ants, bugs etc inside. Oh, and again, a lock on the door was deemed surplus to requirements. Finally due to an inexplicable design flaw, you can actually see right into the shower area from the room. I don't know why they didn't make the walls higher.
• There is NO fan in the cabin. And no AC either. During the day it gets pretty hot and stuffy and though it cools down at night I don't think it would be unreasonable to get a fan, particularly at the prices that are being charged (Ella Jungle Resort was the most expensive place we stayed at in two weeks in Sri Lanka and the only place without at least a fan in the room). You *could* leave the doors open at night to get ventilation but then you'd be inviting all the remaining bugs that hadn't already crawled in through the gap between the wall and roof in the area into the room!)
• Another thing to be aware of is that you might get visits at night from monkeys. Several times we were awoken by large banging and scratching noises coming from the roof directly above us.
I don't have anything against the "back to nature" approach in theory. But it should be reflected in a lower price! I shouldn't be paying *extra* for no fan, open bathroom and toilet, restricted meal times and food options etc.
Now I'd like to talk about service levels and information transfer. As I said before, when we arrived we were given tea and then taken to our room. At no point were we told about ANY activities the resort offers or when they took place. We were not told about eating arrangements either! This was the worst part of our experience because we just felt that we had to work everything out by ourselves and weren't cared for.
All meals must be paid for and they are priced as follows:
Breakfast: 600 rupees (consists of fruit/toast/juice/eggs/tea/coffee but takes ages to arrive and in stages and you might not get all of the above)
Lunch: 475 rupees (fairly simple rice/dhal etc)
Dinner: 1300 rupees (buffet style with plenty of different options, fruit etc).
Water is provided but I think you need to pay for any other types of drinks. If you ask for a bottle of water separately you'll need to pay.
The main problem with food is that it's only available at set times during the day and dinner came at around 8.30pm when it has already been dark for several hours. Not ideal for those with young children who are likely to be falling asleep by then.
I can't review the adventure activities offered because I didn't try any of them (I wasn't aware there were any when I booked, I chose this place because of the location).
My overall impression is that this place caters towards tour groups and if you book by yourself you are left to fend for yourself. If you're young, fit, unafraid of bugs, don't need any mod cons, and enjoy adventure activities you'll probably love this place.
For me, given the poor service and lack of information, coupled with the high prices but basic accommodation means that it wasn't good value for money, despite the undoubtedly beautiful location.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Main Resort is spread out over 150 acres of Jungle and caters to those who want to disconnect from our modern-day stressful lifestyle … and connect with Mother Nature. There are 12 Eco Lodges provided – all with riverfront settings.All guests have full access to our many adventure activities including a high rope course, an aerial rope, a monkey rope, waterfall sliding … and much more. ... more less
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