I’m going to stick my neck out and say that it’s impossible not to love Sri Lanka – and I'm not just saying that because I'm half Sri Lankan! Anyone who’s had the pleasure of visiting this stunning tropical island will tell you likewise. It’s got everything the curious and sophisticated traveller could possibly want: fun and charming locals, curvaceous golden sands, ravishing Hill Country and bountiful wildlife, exotic temples and Indiana Jones-style relics, delicious food, arty shops and truly cool architecture – from Dutch & British colonial gems to blissfully breezy properties designed by the late, great Geoffrey Bawa and my new favourite Sri Lankan architect, Philip Weeraratna.
This year we did a particularly intense Sri Lanka recce. Indian subcontinent specialists Catriona, Shalmali and I spent three weeks discovering what’s new and re-evaluating the old as we travelled 3,000 kilometres and inspected over 80 hotels. One place particularly blew me away: the little-known Kumana National Parkin the remote south-east of the island – a boulder-strewn landscape filled with ancient archaeological sites and teeming with wildlife. We stayed at a tented camp within the park and had such an exhilarating time I can’t wait to share it with you all.
Sleeping in green canvas tents next to a pristine river, guests can unwind in pure solitude and head off in top quality safari jeeps to get close to the park’s leopards (we saw seven), elephants, bears and abundant birdlife, without another tourist in sight. Kumana Mobile Tented Camp is run by a small group of expert conservationists who know every inch of the park, including the reserve’s former park warden, an elephant whisperer who has worked in Kumana for over 40 years and is one of Sri Lanka’s leading ornithologists. This beautifully-run and totally mobile camp rekindled my profound love for Sri Lanka and gave me a few days of completely carefree peace, which I’ve missed in recent years.