As a child, I dreamed that one day I would explore fascinating lands. Magical faraway places where I could go on safaris to see exotic animals, learn from people from an unfamiliar culture, taste new foods and see sites that that I had heretofore only seen in books. I never lost this dream but as I got older and my tastes matured, I wanted the same adventures, but to experience them with luxurious accommodations, five star service, and fabulous dining. I recently experienced all of these dreams and more on the tiny island of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean and at the Jetwing Yala Resort.
From the moment you land in Sri Lanka, you sense the exotic adventure that is before you. The friendly people and the ubiquitous Buddhist temples are with you throughout your stay. At the south eastern part of the island, you’ll find the Yala National Reserve, the island’s largest nature reserve, which is a 375 square mile reserve known for its exotic animals. You’ll be able to see Indian elephants, water buffalo, deer, wild boar, unfamiliar birds and even jaguars. The safari is an experience you will not forget.
If you have not been to Sri Lanka, you may have not heard of its other national treasure, the Jetwing Hotel chain. It is forty years old and family owned with 22 distinctive properties spread around the country from Negombo, Yala, Galle and Nuwara Eliya. They are known for their fine cuisine, high end accommodations, and authentic Sri Lankan hospitality. I experienced this and so much more at their newest and flagship property, Jetwing Yala. The beautiful resort is a short distance from the reserve and excellent base to experience one of the Islands richest treasures.
Jetwing Yala was built to compliment to Sri Lanka and the Yala reserve. It has the highest standards of accommodations and is on par with other brands such as the Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton. Its design and décor blend with the beauty of its surroundings. In addition Jetwing Yala doesn’t just give lip service to conservation with a card in the bathroom asking you to reuse your towels. It is home to the largest privately owned solar park in Sri Lanka. Their integral conservation strategy includes a biomass boiler that burns locally sourced cinnamon wood for night time hot water generation along with providing steam for an absorption chiller which supplies the hotel’s entire air conditioning needs. The hotel has been created from the ground up to be as sustainable as possible with the intention of conserving energy and resources, to be a part of the environment and cause little harm to nature, and to reuse and recycle.
Even through the Jetwing Yala just opened its doors this year, it has a soul and a history. When you get to know the locals in Sri Lanka, it is just a matter of time before they’ll talk to you about the tsunami. This natural disaster, which took place 10 years ago in 2004, affected everything and everyone on the island and was one of the worst disasters ever recorded in Sri Lankan history. The tsunami left tens of thousands dead, many more homeless, and caused widespread chaos throughout the island. In addition to the human impacts, the tsunami had widespread effects on Sri Lanka's environment and ecosystems.
The Jetwing Hotels Group suffered extensive damage in the Yala Game Safari Park, their property in Yala Safari Game Lodge was completely destroyed. Not only the property, but the Jetwing family lost some of its longest serving associates as well as some guests and the general manager who died in the disaster. So the rebirth of the Jetwing Yala, just a few yards away from the original hotel, is as much personal as it was a professional achievement for the island.
The hotel is more than a property; it is a testament to how the people and the island can come back from disaster. It’s a monument to everything lost in the tragedy. Like a phoenix rising to the sun from ash and destruction, the Jetwing Yala is a manifestation of a resilient spirit for the Jetwing chain and for the Sri Lanka.
Beyond its history, the hotel itself is a chic and modern resort surrounded by a breathtaking 38 acre natural environment that faces the ocean.You’ll arrive through the winding dirt road and then see the gravel driveway leading you to a spacious and open entrance. The friendly staff is there to greet you with a cool towel and welcome drink. As you seamlessly pass from outdoor to indoor spaces you’ll notice the man-made and natural works of art.
The lobby is comfortable and impressive with striking views of the nature around you and sea on the horizon. The lobby bar and lounge area are superbly designed for comfort and a modern décor. There are places for reading a book, chatting with friends, or sharing stories with other guests fresh from a safari. I overheard tales of wild animals seen and the adventures of the day.
The rooms are ultra modern in décor and amenities. All the rooms have a view of the ocean from an expansive terrace which is more like an outdoor living space. The terraces have a privacy wall, relaxing lounge furniture and a table for room service al fresco.
Inside the décor is fabulous. It is modern with dark wood floors, neutral colors with bold accent colors of red or green depending on your room. The four poster bed has comfortable bedding and the room has modern lighting and temperature control. Wifi and cable tv are there as well as a stocked minibar and coffee machine. The bathrooms are one more wow factor in the room. I was on the top floor and I soon realized that my did not have bathroom a ceiling! It was an amazing open air bathroom so it literally lets the outside in. There was a rain faucet shower which was also a nice touch to cool off after the hot days on the safari. The bathroom was massive and another great part of the accommodation.
When it comes to the dining experience, Jetwing Yala is a stand out among the top hotels in the region. From the moment you enter the dining areas, you know that you are in for, for lack of a better word, a treat. The décor is modern and the facility is spacious and comfortable. There is a large indoor dining area as well as a massive terrace deck for dining under the stars.
As for the food, the buffet that you’ll experience is a pant button stretcher for sure. The feast is impressive with dishes for every palate with yards and yards of shiny domed chafing dishes with everything you could desire from vegetables and salads, to main courses of meats, sea foods and . There were dishes with names that I recognized and many others that I did not. Jetwing Yala specializes in Sri Lankan and Asian food, but they have dishes of every kind and one can order from the buffet of a la carte. No matter what you choose, it will be fresh and delicious. I also enjoyed the several live cooking stations preparing various dishes and treats.
Breakfast was the same again with a feast fit for a king. One of my favorites Sri Lankan dishes called an Egg hoppers (Appa) is a bowl-shaped thin pancake. Again a massive selection of fresh breads and pastries, cheeses, fresh fruits , and a live cooking stations so you can get that omelet just the way you want it.
The staff is noticeably friendly and attentive when greeting you at the door or taking your order. They have an ability to observe just enough to know when you may need something. Your water glass is never empty here. The service during meals is perfect with an attentive staff. The food and beverage manager Pradeep actively welcomed and checking in on each guest to make sure they were delighted with their dining experience. The head chef,head chef is Nalin Nanayakkara, was also present to check in to see make sure everything is to your request.
Service in general at the hotel is exceptional, genuinely friendly and authentically Sri Lankan. Most of the staff is from nearby towns and are sincerely pleased to make your stay a good one. From the front desk staff to the room attendants, to the dining room staff, there is always a warm Sri Lankan smile with every interaction. This “real” hospitality is something that cannot be taught in training class. There is a real and hospitable spirit that emanates from the entire staff at Jetwing Yala.
Out of doors, there is a massive 80 meter pool which has plenty of space so you’ll never feel that you are in a crowded area. There is a swim up bar as well where couples sipped on fruity drinks between their splashing and frolicking. There was also a shallow area where families gathered and played with their children.
At Jetwing Yala, guests can also indulge in a pampering massage at the spa or the tour desk for sightseeing and travel arrangements. Other activities on site include yoga, table tennis and beach volleyball. When you are ready to go off the property, they have a full time Naturalist who is dedicated to ensuring that you get the most out of the nature around you. Jetwing Yala offers several activities such as village walks and biking; bird trails in Bundala, visit to the ancient Sithulpauwa temple and Debarawewa.
But the main reason you come to Jetwing Yala is to explore the jungles of Yala National Park - home to the greatest variety of Sri Lanka’s wildlife. With a total protected area of 375 square miles, Yala has varying habitats which consist of scrub plains, jungles, rocky outcrops, fresh water lakes, rivers and beaches. Several species of animals inhabit these jungles, including the sloth bear, herds of elephants, sambar, deer, crocodiles, numerous birds and leopard. Game drives are usually done at dawn around 6:00 am and in the afternoon around 3:30 pm when the wild animals come out to the waterholes and are more visible. The safari can take up to three hours accompanied by a wildlife tracker.
Jetwing Yala combines luxury and leisure in five star property perfect for the discerning traveler and wildlife enthusiasts. It is modern, authentic, and posh. And if you are looking for your own five star safari adventure, look no further than Jetwing Yala in Sri Lanka.
RESERVATIONS : +94 112345720
HOTEL : + 94 474 710 710