The big trip

Chena Huts review: rustic by name, luxurious by nature

There’s nothing basic about the ‘huts’ at this smart beach resort in south-east Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Wild Coast got its name for a reason. Further south, the beaches may be mellow and the waters inviting, but up here on the east coast the waves are white-topped and treacherous. 

Just a handful of lodges occupy this glorious swathe of sand and rock, nestling between the uninhabited forest of Yala National Park and the Indian Ocean. Among them is Chena Huts, a luxury camp with a misleadingly modest name.

Why come here?

Such is the variety of landscape around Chena Huts that it’s hard to characterise. In front of the camp is a narrow strip of low bush, a little like the Yorkshire moors, only balmy and humid, but beyond that is the big sky and surf of southern California. Venture inland into the national park and you could be on the plains of east Africa.

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Holden Frith

That’s the domain of Yala’s main attraction – the wildlife that lives among the grassland and trees. Your stay at Chena will include game drives out into the bush in search of elusive leopards and sloth bears, as well as plentiful elephants and frankly ubiquitous monkeys. Twitchers can keep an eye out for 215 species of bird, including six found nowhere else.

The lodge itself is worth the trip, too. Guest cabins, with their thatched roofs and vaulted ceilings, are airy and exceptionally spacious. Wooden floors and furniture – and floor-to-ceiling glass – give the interiors a mid-century modern vibe. 

Chena Huts, Sri Lanka

Uga Escapes

What to do

Morning and afternoon game drives will keep you busy, but in between you can set aside some time to spend in the spa, which offers a wide range of beauty treatments, therapeutic massages and relaxation rituals. Each guest cabin also has its own sundeck and private pool.

Further afield

Despite its end-of-the-earth feeling, Chena Huts is within striking distance of Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches and resorts. Follow your time in Yala with a few days – or weeks – meandering back through the coconut groves and tea plantations, calling in on bustling Tangalle and historic Galle (below). 

Galle, Sri Lanka

Holden Frith

What to eat

Chena Huts’ beachside restaurant serves a blend of Sri Lankan specialities and European classics, much of them making good use of the island’s fine fresh seafood. Brunch, served after your early-morning safari, are a particular treat, replete with pastries, tropical fruits and fish curries, as well as more conventional breakfast fare. A brand new bar looks out towards the ocean – a view interrupted only by an occasional elephant strolling across the sand.

Chena Huts, Sri Lanka

Uga Escapes

When to go

Peak wildlife-viewing season runs from February to June, when dry weather draws animals out of the dense bush towards watering holes, where they’re easier to spot. During the wet season, from September to December, you’ll have to put in more effort to find what you’re looking for, and tracks through Yala can become impassable. But the payoff is that the park is quieter, and you’re less likely to share your sighting with several other vehicles. Daytime temperatures rarely stray too far from 30C.

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

Holden Frith

Booking details

Rooms available from about £525 per night for two people sharing on the Chena Huts website. SriLankan Airlines flies non-stop from London to Colombo from about £840 return. Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad fly via the Middle East from several UK cities, from about £550.

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