Luxury Safari camps in Sri Lanka.Our Tented Safari Camps are among best in Asia. We have located our luxury safari camps at most suitable campsites in all national wild life parks in Sri Lanka.Most sought after wild life in these Asia's best game reserves are Elephants / Leopards / Sloth Bears / Crocodiles / many more mammals and bird species.Join us for an unforgettable camping Safari Tour in Sri Lanka.

Words + Pix Ricky Simms
LT Magazine
May 2009


Mahoora Luxury Camping
by Emma Boyle


"Mahoora" - Five Star Luxuries in the Wilderness....
SL Bureau
15 January 2009 ~ 15 February 2009
Sri Lanka Travel


The luxury of a hundred thousand stars
Luxury camping… With ECO TEAM
Raknish Wijewardene
Daily Mirror

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Yala & Udawalwe National Parks- Elephant watching & Leopard spotting have never been this easy.
Asian Geographic ~ Passport
July / December 2008


Luxury in isolation  - "...Mahoora, a camping experience on par with the award-winning tented safaris in Kenya 's Masai Mara (Maasai Mara),and Tanzania 's Serengeti plains."
Serendib ~ September-October 2008
Words and photography by Emma Boyle


Knuckling Down

Writer Lizzie Matthews discovers Knuckles Mahoora Camp.


Sunday mirror

"At dusk, when everybody else had left through the park gates, we settle down to watch the animals from the comfort of our own camp beside the Walawe river.The Mahoora campsite is luxury in the wilderness. Our tent has its own patio, living room, double bed and even a shower room with a flushing toilet. Five-course dinners are served on tables lain with white linen cloths, sparkling china and gleaming silverware.Lanterns strung romantically in the trees keep the wildlife away but the midnight trumpeting leaves you in no doubt that they're out there, watching."

GILL Williams traveled to Sri Lanka with Hayes & Jarvis (0870 850 3656, on a Wildlife of Ceylon tour.


Words + Pix Ricky Simms

Located in the Sabaragamuwa & Uva provinces, the beautiful Udawalawe National park is approximately 200 km south-east of Colombo.

Visitors roam the 30,821 hectares to see the 400 elephants that live there year round as well as the water buffalo, water monitor lizards, sambar deer, monkeys and the occasional leopard. Birds, including Ducks, Woodpeckers, Barbets, Hornbills, and Cuckoos are just a few of the attractions at the park.

The best way is to visit the park with Eco Team, one of the leading eco tourism companies in Sri Lanka. A 4WD open-top safari is the only way to see the wonders this protected reserve has to offer.

Eco Team offers two packages - the Mahoora Standard and the Mahoora Luxury. The services provided are five star hotel standard; accommodation, food and drink, washroom facilities, water, and transport is organized to provide the guest with a luxury experience within the thick jungle.

The whole campsite is set up by Eco Team staff prior to the guests’ arrival so all you have to do is sit back and relax. In the evening, the camp is lit up by a roaring campfire and copra torches and guest can enjoy a mouthwatering menu of food and beverages.

Mahoora Luxury camping

It is a memorable experience spending the night in the heart of a National Park. Listen to the occasional sound of elephants splashing water in rivers close by and the sounds of nocturnal creatures going about their nightly business. In this environment and in the luxurious surrounds of the camp, you realize what a big difference it is to the city.

The tent, including the washroom is equipped with a wall-to-wall carpet. Two very comfortable folding chairs with a coffee table are placed in the living room, which also has a baggage rack in addition to a candle stand and a floor cushion. Two comfortable linen-clad beds with 6-inch mattresses, take center stage in the bedroom, which also has a bedside stool, a fresh fruit basket, a clothes rack and a secure place to place your valuables.

A flushable toilet with commode, shower with hot and cold water and a stand with a wash basin and a mirror are also installed.

 Mahoora Standard camping

In the Mahoora standard camping program, guests are provided with all the necessary comforts and services. Comfortable mattresses and pillows, bed linen, towels, torches/flash-lights, umbrellas are some of the little touches that make your camping experience extra special. For the convenience and comfort of the guests, the camping toilets are equipped with portable commodes and showers. For guests who wish to avoid natural water sources for bathing, portable showers are provided.

Camp Food

The food is prepared on site by an experienced senior chef enabling to serve guests, fresh, clean and tasty meals. A Fine Dining experience or a fun filled BBQ (depending on the package chosen) around a campfire provides a relaxing evening after a rugged journey through the park.

Breakfast includes roti, hoppers or kiribath in traditional Sri Lankan style. Also toast, fruits, cornflakes or bacon & eggs are available. Lunch is traditional Sri Lankan food along with salads and soup. The staff prepares energy drinks such as Kottamalli, Beli mal or Ranawara after tours of the park.

Alcoholic drinks are served out of a well stocked bar. Soft drinks and mineral water are also available. Wines too, can be made available on prior request. Chilled beverages will be made available during safaris. Guest can bring their own beverages as well.

Camp Sites
The campsites on offer are those of Eco Team or those that fall under the purview of The Wildlife/Forest Department. The best available campsites are chosen, depending on the requirement of the guests. Safety is a high priority and the campsite is fully illuminated at night with an on-call security officer posted during the night. A fully equipped fire point in the camp consisting of a Fire Extinguisher, Water pails, Sand buckets etc are also on hand.

Tour of the Park

Guests are taken around the park in a 4WD vehicle. A guide from the Wildlife/Forest Department, a staff member or two of the eco team along with the driver will accompany guests on tours. Eco team has also recently introduced an A/C 4WD vehicle which ads more comfort, along with other facilities and has been a big hit in recent times. A ‘cool box’ is available in the vehicle on every tour, which includes water, soft drinks and biscuits.

Other Programs
Eco Team also has tours to  Yala National Park, Wasgamuwa National Park, Bundala National Park, Sinharaja Rainforest, Wilpattu National Park, Dambana Veddah Village and Gal Oya National Park.
They also offer Cycling and Mountain Biking, Agro Tourism Activities, Caving, Hiking & Trekking, Hot Air balloon rides, Nature Trails and Rock Climbing.

Inland & deep sea fishing, Kayaking & Canoeing, Surfing, Water skiing, Turtle, whale and dolphin watching are some of the water related activities conducted by Eco Team.


History and the Description of the Udawalawe National Park

The Udawalawa national park was established in 1972. It lies in the lower catchment of Udawalawa Reservoir in the country's Intermediate Lowland region. This area falls into two administrative districts in two provinces. The parkland on the right bank of Walawe Ganga is within Ratnapura district in the province of sabaragamuwa and the parkland on the left bank falls within Moneragala district in the province of Uva. This Park is located approximately between the latitudes 6 25'E and 6 35' N and longitudes 80 45'N and 81 00' E.

The dry land area of the Park is about 119 Sq miles or 308 Sqm, approximately 28910ha. The Udawalalawa reservoir is situated within the park premises, the total surface area of which at full supply is 3405ha. The total area of the park within the declared boundary including the reservoir is 32,315ha.

Altitude and Physical Features

Altitude ranges from about 100m on the plains to 373m at the top of the deep Walawe Reservoir (3,400ha), which is surrounded by open plains and foothills. The most prominent feature is the Kalthota escarpment and spectacular Diyawinne Fall to the north.


The climate in the park is characterized by a seasonal rainfall and uniformly high temperature conditions. The average annual rainfall is about 1500mm in the south end, and it gradually increases towards the north. The annual average temperature is about 32 C.

The rainfall experienced in the Park is characterized by a bimodal pattern of distribution in both monthly and weekly rainfall. Two rainfall peaks occur in a year, one in April- May and the other in the October – November. A short dry spell is experienced in February- March and a prolonged dry period is observed from mid May to end of September.

The temperature in the National Park situated so close to 6 N, remains high and relatively uniform throughout the year, that is extreme fluctuations of temperature do not occur within the National Park or its surroundings. The annual average temperature is about 29 C.

by Emma Boyle

The roads inside Bundala were a bright burnt sienna made even more vivid by the afternoon sunlight that caused the shadows to deepen over our path. Toque macaque monkeys bounded onto these orange dirt-tracks as if attempting camouflage or sat more photographically in the trees cradling babies as they observed us, observing them. Nearly always in large groups, they playfully leapt expertly between the trees like acrobats in a circus, more than happy to showcase their skills to a watching, though very sedate, audience.

Bundala – a Ramsar wetland of international importance - is a great place for a primate safari, although it is better known worldwide for the huge variety of aquatic birdlife that resides or holidays in the park every year. Huge lakes, salterns, brackish lagoons and expansive sand dunes lend the park a unique biodiversity where in the migratory season from November until April up to 10,000 birds may be present at one time. Greater flamingos have been known to visit in their hundreds, their pink bodies brightening up the watery scene. The park also provides an ideal habitat for a healthy number of estuarine and mugger crocodiles, which are another of Bundala’s visual delights. Estuarine crocs, also known as ‘salties’ are some of the most dangerous in the world and this makes them even more exciting to see!

Aware of this information, we were looking forward to camping in the park so that we would be able to safari to our heart’s content; there would be no worries about closing times as we were already inside! It was not to be a normal experience by any accounts as we were going with adventure tour operator Eco Team’s Mahoora to experience one of their Super Luxury Campsites. What makes it different to any normal camping experience? The team arrives a few days before to prepare the campsite; clear the ground, pitch the tents and install all of the necessary plumbing and electrics to allow for flushable toilets and hot water showers. They then take care of your every need - dining, guiding and safaris - to give you a very personal, high standard of service despite being located in the middle of no-where.

Inside the roomy head-high custom-designed tents are compartments for your bedroom, bathroom and lounge which are separated by thick floor length curtains. Beds are raised and beautifully arranged with soft linen as if you are in a top rated hotel. A fruit basket is proffered on your arrival. Inside the lounge are safari chairs and a brightly coloured floor cushion as well as basic furniture to store your suitcases. Outside each tent is a little covered verandah where slippers and umbrellas are thoughtfully provided for use.

Campsites are chosen for their picturesque location, which is usually beside a river or lake. Ours was sited beside a vast saltern and strung up beneath the shade of towering palu trees, a stone’s throw from the ocean. Other Mahoora locations, such as in Uda Walawe, Minneriya and Gal Oya national parks (great for elephants), the Knuckles (unspoilt natural beauty) and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve (botanical wonderland) are sited beside some sort of water spot. In all of them, hammocks are strung up between trees overlooking the beautiful scene to allow for relaxation by day while hurricane lamps provide a romantic glow at night as they are hung like Chinese lanterns from the trees.

Mahoora pitch themselves their own kitchen tent and provide for every essential necessity such as fresh water and enough ice to keep beers well chilled although having to get these daily from the local village is no mean feat. For every meal, tables are places in scenic spots to make the most of the outdoorsy locations and our dinner was majestically sited on a beach beside the saltern, illuminated by candles dug deeply into the sand. Thousands of stars shone brightly overhead. With the chef immaculately dressed in white presiding over a smoky BBQ and ourselves being expertly looked after by waiter Jay who brought over each of our six courses, this was every bit the five stars of service that the advertising of the trip promises. We really did feel like a mahoora or VVIP.

Our safari experience was just as unique as our accommodation. Seated in a raised, custom-fitted jeep we were able to advantageously view the scene around us, looking out for the flutter of birds, the flash of a deer’s tail or the glint of a crocodile’s jagged teeth. Bundala’s many habitats offer amazing diversity and although not heavily populated with elephants we were lucky enough to see a lone two. Because the beaches are well-protected, turtles come up to lay their eggs here and since you are staying inside the park, night jaunts to watch them on the beach are possible and not hindered by park licences or time restraints. You can stay for as long as you wish!

Often overshadowed by Yala and Uda Walawe for the leopards and number of elephants that can be seen there, Bundala certainly makes up for this with its natural beauty and vibrant bird life. By sunset the ever-changing light over the lagoons was magnificent and as birds patrolled around us, showing off their bright colours, amazing beaks or knobbly kneecaps that raised them above the brackish water, the red tint of sunset beautifully reflected in the still water of the lagoon. Aside from patrols of monkeys – both cheeky toques and more elegant grey langurs – we also saw star tortoises, black naped hares and wild boar as well as many crocodiles basking with their mouths open wide in the hot sunshine. Pelicans, painted storks, spoonbills and cormorants were common sights at every watering hole we reached while bee-eaters flitted between the trees.

Whilst we only left behind a cloud of dust on our travels around the national park, so Mahoora take everything with them on their departure. The campsite is left as if no-one was ever there.  While the wildlife provides the impetus for visiting any of the island’s amazing national parks, Mahoora’s attention to detail certainly makes the whole safari experience unique. Brightly lit kerosene lamps at night keep animals at bay and although rustles in the undergrowth signified to us that animals were never far away, we still felt safe. There was even just enough of a breeze blowing through the tent to help us sleep well. Our en-suite bathroom meant that we didn’t have to stumble outside at night and the wall-to-wall carpeting in the tent protected us from having to face anything that creeped or crawled!

 If you can’t bear to rough it in the jungle, then this trip is definitely for you!

"Mahoora" - Five Star Luxuries in the Wilderness....
SL Bureau

"Service fit for Royalty with an indigenous touch and in real wilderness" - the true meaning behind this is evident when you prepare yourself to indulge in unmatched levels of luxury and be in tune with nature.
One has the option of choosing from various camp sites including the Udawalawe National Park, Wasgmuwe, Bundala, Singharaja or Knuckels range to set up the Mahoora Luxury Camp.

Guests would be greeted on arrival at the camp site by a representative from the Mahoora Camp and be introduced to the personnel from the Wildlife Department

Guests could travel in comfort in an air-conditioned or non air-conditioned jeep depending on one’s preference and enjoy the splendor the wilderness has to offer.

If one would prefer to first enter the camp, one could do so and would be welcomed by Mahoora personnel who would be waiting to greet you with cold towels and very welcome cold drinks.

Guests would be amazed at the sheer luxury of these camps which offer the best in jungle style living but without the inconve­niences of being in the outdoor. Foot wear has to be removed when entering the camp. This is done with the sole purpose of keeping ones health and hygiene in mind.

The sitting room, the bed room and washroom complete with all furniture and fittings are in place and the entire tent is carpeted. This alone to me was an alien concept but I would be lying if I said that it was not something that I fully enjoyed.

A large bowl of ripe fruits awaits you and the beds are elegantly decorated to give the true five star luxury. The fully carpeted washroom has not only the regular bathroom facilities but also has hot and cold water showers which is an amazing feature considering the fact that it is in a canvas tent.

who will be with the guests throughout the stay. The driver of the jeep would be responsible for all travel through the jungle.

The dining options are many and being in the outdoors one can settle to have a nice relaxing lunch by a nearby river or lake which can be arranged. Traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry could be served and it is amazing that a full meal can be prepared in the middle of the jungle. It is even more amazing to know that guests have the choice of indulging in a seven course meal if they so desire and all this is done according to the guest's prefer­ence.

At the beginning of the safari, one would have the pleasure of seeing some of the rarest and exotic birds in Sri Lanka. There are several species of eagles and hawks and a variety of small colorful and beautiful little birds, peacocks and jungle fowls. One could also be fortunate to see some deer, wild boars and jackals among other animals.

But the most amazing sight is the large amount of wild elephants that one would witness either in a herd or in smaller groups. This breathtaking vision is one which cannot be verbally justified as one would have to witness it to understand the magnitude of its beauty. If one is really lucky one could see one or two Tuskers as well.

The combination of being in the wilder­ness and living in luxury seem like conflicting situations. Under normal circumstances this would be true but thanks to Mahoora, one can have that combination along with great service and qualified guides to make ones visit to the wilderness not only memorable but also luxurious as well.


The luxury of a hundred thousand stars
Luxury camping… With ECO TEAM
Raknish Wijewardene

Luxury-camping sounds like a contradiction. Rather like 'honest politician' or 'sober sailor' the two words somehow aren't traditionally associated with each other. There is something about camping - the outdoors, the wilderness…the makeshift loos that seems to preclude luxury, or that at least is what common sense and logic dictates.

Eco-team claims to offer boutique luxury in the heart of the jungle. "5 star luxury under a million stars," and in fact they claim to be able to offer this luxury not only in the jungle but absolutely anywhere, with some accessible bare ground, in the country.

Intrigued by their confidence and eager to put to the test these claims of mobile luxury we found ourselves hurtling down the well surfaced Rakwana road towards the wilderness of the Udawalawe national park.

Udawalawe doesn't always fire the imagination and of all the country's wild spaces it has gained an undeserved reputation as the standby sanctuary - the one to go to when all the others are closed. But that is terribly unfair. The park is spectacularly beautiful - its central reservoir's intense blue reflects the sheer ranges that rise suddenly from the lush gold and green plains, the park's interior is dotted with forested glades and tanks that teem with bird life. In terms of physical beauty Udawalawe is in fact more than a match for its larger and more renowned cousins- Yala and Wilpattu

Also the park is possessed of the added advantage of being located just three hours drive from Colombo. Just as you begin to forget the fumes and frustration of the forlorn city you enter a genuinely wild space where wandering elephants rather than belching busses dominate the roadways and towering teaks and distant peaks define the skyline.

The sense of escape, of being somewhere genuinely wild is thrilling and the essence of the experience is being surrounded by the wilderness- far removed from the nearest out posts of our chaotic civilization.

To get the most out of any of the country's national parks it has always been necessary to stay inside the park- hotels on the park boundaries just don't offer an equivalently immersive experience. But this has always meant either sleepless nights at the limited number of thoroughly dilapidated park bungalows or camping in rudimentary campsites - surrounded by creatures and deprived of creature comforts.

Eco team however promises something entirely different . As you disembark at the campsite, deep within the park - 20 kilometres from the nearest habitation, - you are greeted - quite surreally by a welcome drink and fresh cold towels borne by a liveried and enthusiastically grinning waiter. 

Thus refreshed, you are led under the dappled shade of the high canopy to a waiting table groaning under the weight of piles of shining silverware, and on the banks of the fast following, fish filled walawe river a five course meal is produced hot and fabulously authentic for your delectation - as monkeys watch from the tree tops waiting to make intermittent raids on the sugar bowl .

Given this commitment to improbable luxury it is almost no surprise when, peering nervously into the canvas tent - that is all that will stand between you and the jungle at night - you find instead of the rudimentary plastic igloo we all associate with contemporary camping  a sort of canvass mobile home replete with a full sized bed, flower arrangements and a fruit basket. Even more improbably a partition at the back of the tent opens to reveal a flushing toilet and a shower with hot and cold running water….

A tent with an attached flushing toilet and hot water must be rare on the face of the earth. Indeed unlike other companies that offer luxury camping in Sri Lanka,  Eco team's is an entirely indigenous concept. The 'tents' aren't imported but absolutely local and through a quite extraordinary logistical exercise are brought to the chosen location two days before you arrive. There are no permanent structures and every part of your bespoke suite - even the pipes for the bathroom facilities are laid before you arrive and removed after you depart.

Hot wateris rather ingeniously rigged up using barrels and a gas cylinder and water flows from a make shift tank hoisted high into the canopy. Sprawling mobile kitchen facilities are tucked away on the fringes of the campsite.
The advantage of all this quite extraordinary effort is that you are able to enjoy absolute comfort in the midst of a perfectly undisturbed and pristine wilderness.

By the river,  monkeys, elephants and crocodiles wander freely while you lounge on wonderfully well placed hammocks and enjoy the steady stream of tit bits and that emanate from kitchen. Dinner is comprised of seven courses! And is invariably the most implausible aspect of your improbable stay - perfectly presented salads, soups, sorbets and cheese platters, are brought to you under the stars in the middle of the jungle.  

The whole experience leaves you feeling like some marvelous maharaja roaming with his retinue through his own private reserve- you soon begin to feel that the whole jungle like the campsite exists to accommodate you and you alone.
Of course rounds of the park remain the heart of the jungle experience and even a few minutes drive from the campsite brings the smell of the wilderness, dotted deer darting through thickets herds of elephants feeding just feet from your vehicle and rapidly evaporating pools choked with bird life.

But somehow the camping experience places you so securely in the midst of nature that forays into wilderness are almost secondary. While the package includes unlimited travel within the park there is little need to venture out of the campsite when the wilderness comes to you. Elephants ford the river behind your tents at night - and pug marks are found not far from the campsite.

For a genuinely immersive experience of nature nothing can match camping and no one does camping like eco team. This is the most indulgent and the most authentic way to see the jungle and the genuine hospitality and comfort make the experience accessible and easy for anyone of any age. Even those who have never previously had any inclination to experience the outdoors will feel at home in what is  star  class hospitality under a hundred thousand stars.

Eco team Luxury Camping Safaris are available in any accessible national park. In fact luxury camps can be set up anywhere. The experience start at $200 per night. Contact: 553330

Yala and Udawalawe National Parks

WHERE Southern province of Sri Lanka, southeast of the capital, Colombo | WHEN The dry season is the best time. Udawalawe is open year round and usually drier between May and September. The dry season falls between May and August in Yala, and the park closes for a short time during September and October j HOW Udawalawe and Yala are both within driving distance of Colombo, around 200 km and 290 km, respectively. Allow 3 days to really get to experience Yala; for Udawalawe, a 1 -night, 2-day camping safari is ideal. Eco Team offer a wide variety of excellent nature tours with transfers from the capital ( )

The mouth-watering food and "any-excuse-for-a-party" laid-back attitude are reasons enough to come to Sri Lanka. But Sri Lankans have thoughtfully provided two perfect wild destinations to get over your Arrack hangover and that overindulgent eating spree-the glorious Yala and Udawalawe National Parks.

Located in the dry zone straddling Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces, Udawalawe's pleasant temperatures stay fairly constant throughout the year. Its relatively compact size means visitors stand an excellent chance of seeing what they came for: elephants-and lots of them. Around 500 of the gentle giants live here; visitors are virtually guaranteed to see an entire herd of adults and youngsters. With the idyllic Haputale mountains as a backdrop, there should be plenty of opportunities to catch sight of the park's many other inhabitants: water buffalo, spotted and barking deer, wild boar, mongoose, monkeys and monitors.

Yala, by contrast, is all about leopards-likely the highest density anywhere in the world-but encounters with these big cats do of course require a little more luck. Early morning and then again at dusk will give you the best chance of seeing one, although the self-assured male leopards may even approach your jeep during the day. It is possible to stay inside the park until just after dark, so aim to do a full-day safari or split your day into morning and afternoon drives to increase your chances.

Big game animals aside, both parks have huge varieties of winged wildlife. From crested serpent eagles and painted storks to hornbills and flamingos, bird watchers shouldn't go home disappointed. Yala's multiplicity of ecosystems is particularly enthralling: sandy beaches, moist monsoon forest, grasslands, and fresh water and marine wetlands. As such, Yala and Udawalawe both have an essential role to play in the conservation of a large variety of the country's flora and fauna.

So take a break from Colombo's dusty mayhem and incessant drone of tuk tuks and escape to the greener pastures of Yala and Udawalawe. For leopard lovers and elephant enthusiasts, there are few better places to go in Asia.

Luxury in isolation Words and photography by Emma Boyle

It's rare for camping to be thought of as luxurious. Many people associate it with uncomfortable, cramped, aggy-walled tents that are a hassle to put up, and then fill with a plethora of buzzing insects. They also envisage simplistic meals, poor hygiene, communal (cold) showers, and scary walks into the jungle to go to the loo. But it's an adventure, and most people will agree that camping in seclusion under a starry night sky is exhilarating and incredibly rewarding.
With this in mind Eco Team, one of Sri Lanka 's best adventure tour operators, have created Mahoora, a camping experience on par with the award-winning tented safaris in Kenya 's Masai Mara (Maasai Mara), and Tanzania 's Serengeti plains.
'Maha Hoora' literally means "the Great One", and as you step into one of these highly organized 'super luxury' campsites, you'll understand what it means to be treated like a VIP;spacious tents arranged with every modern
five-star convenience await your arrival.
Sri Lanka 's land area is relatively small - less than 66,000 sq km - but its varied topography and climate means that it packs a surprising diversity of flora and fauna within its coastal borders. Nearly 14% of the island is protected by law. Mahoora offers camping inside or near many of the island's national parks and reserves, of which Yala is the most famous because it offers visitors some of the best opportunities in the world for sighting wild leopards. Uda Walawe, Minneriya, and Gal Oya national parks are great for elephant watching, while the Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a botanical wonderland excellent for all things small birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.
Our campsite was in Bundala - a national park famed for its bio-diversity and profusion of aquatic resident and migratory birdlife. Greater Flamingoes have been known to visit in their hundreds. Situated in the southeastern
dry zone, Bundala is characterised by brackish lagoons, salt pans, intertidal mud flats, thorny scrub jungle, and expansive sand dunes that roll onto deserted beaches washed by the Indian Ocean . Elephants, primates, nesting turtles, and crocodiles - both estuarine and mugger - are particular attractions.
Campsites are chosen by Eco Team for their beauty and isolation, allowing you to get much closer to wildlife than you would on a standard day safari. The team arrives several days before you to set up the campsite with individual en suite bedrooms, a kitchen, and dining area.Hammocks are strung up between the trees, and essentials such as septic tanks, hot water showers, and electricity connections are installed. It's very eco-friendly - everything is packed up on your departure and no evidence left of your stay.

We were warmly greeted at the park's entrance by Eco Team, who sorted out all the necessary paperwork for our stay in the park. Upon our arrival, we could see that a lot of thought and effort had gone into its creation. Our tents sat on cleared sandy ground in the shade of towering palu trees and looked out upon expansive salt pans that mirrored the ever-changing colours of the sky. Just 200m away, crashing Indian Ocean waves played a harmonious melody to the gentle accompaniment of birdcall.
Mahoora's tents have been exclusively designed and handmade in Sri Lanka.While other camping specialists in Sri Lanka exist, Mahoora's tents are the only ones to have en suite bathrooms with standing showers, hot water, and flushable toilets; no need to rush anywhere in the middle of the night! The canvas tents have a high ceiling and comprise a sleeping area featuring beautifully dressed beds and a living room with cosy canvas armchairs, a baggage rack, and brightly-coloured floor cushions.Tents are designed with wall-to-wall carpets and have thick, floor-length patchwork curtains, which cover 'windows' and 'doors'.Little touches such as torches (flashlights),toiletries, towels, candles, and oil lamps are provided as well as a huge welcoming basket of fruit. A generator provides power at dusk, while tents have an outside porch area from where you can sip your morning tea before heading out on safari or peacefully read by candlelight before you drop off to sleep.
Having a hot shower after a dusty safari is a real luxury, while electricity in the evening is an added bonus for charging camera batteries. We had a very comfortable night's sleep, and while the mosquito-proof mesh on the windows protected us from being bitten, breezes were still able to infiltrate the tent and keep us cool. As far as I could see, not even one insect (or animal) had found its way inside although I had been worried that something
would make a beeline for the fruit basket.There weren't even any frogs in the sink!
Over the course of our stay, every meal time was enhanced by a different al fresco dining location that made the most of the isolation and atmosphere. Lunch was a delicious rice and curry spread rightin the heart of the campsite. Dinner beside the saltern was magical; our table was romantically illuminated by candles, hurricane lamps, and moonlight, which enhanced our enjoyment of a delicious and well-presented seven-course meal.Breakfast, cooked on our return from safari, brimmed with every available offering - sago, fruit, cereal, toast, eggs, sausage, and roti - accompanied by plenty of tea. At night a bright campfire was lit and drinks served from a makeshift bar featuring a varied selection of international liquor, wine, and the ubiquitous chilled beer.

The safari is a prime part of the experience, and Mahoora makes sure that guests are able to enjoy this in as much comfort as possible. A refurbished Toyota Land Cruiser fitted with elevated cosy seating served as our transportation. Being opensided, it afforded us the advantage of quickly observing all around the vehicle.Eco Team's naturalists and park trackers enhanced the experience with their quick eyes and detailed knowledge of the flora and fauna of the parks as the perfect companion.
Safaris can be conducted for as long as you like at any time of the day or night, although the early mornings and evenings are best. Not having to worry about opening hours or the time it would take to get from hotel to park entrance are real bonuses to staying inside the park. You can even 'safari' at night. Waking up at the crack of dawn to go on safari before the sun has had a chance to peep out from beyond the horizon is certainly an exciting and invigorating experience.
On our safaris we were rewarded with sightings of elephants, open-mouthed crocodiles, troops of playful grey langur and toque macaque monkeys, a few star tortoises, black-naped hares, spotted deer, wild boar, and buffalo. Although our visit was outside the migratory season - when up to 10,000 birds may be present at one
time - we still saw many exciting species including the rare green pigeon, endemic jungle fowl, white bellied sea eagle, painted stork, heron, spoonbill, and many tiny green bee-eaters.
The real luxury of Mahoora is the attention to detail and high level of personalised service. For breakfast and dinner, most of our meals were cooked in the open air by Roy , immaculately kitted out in his chef's whites. Looking after us was the ever-smiling Jay, whose courtesy and dedication in delivering an impeccable service was immediately endearing. Nothing was too much trouble.A snack and refreshment basket was packed for each safari while chilled towels and warm smiles greeted us on our every arrival back at the campsite. Flip-flops (rubber thongs, or sandals) and an umbrella in case of monsoonal downpours were thoughtfully provided in each tent.Certainly, this is camping at its very best!

KNUCKLING DOWN - WANDERLUST - Writer Lizzie Matthews discovers Knuckles Mahoora Camp.

The next day I was walking down an altogether different processional route. Small white flags lined the sandy track and every so often I passed a small poster glued to a tree trunk showing a grainy photo of an old man who had died. The funeral party had long since passed by, but there was still a sense of peace and contemplation in the air as the evening sun cast long shadows across the valley floor.

I was in the up-and-down landscape 6f the Knuckles Range , a clenched-fist crumple of hazy blue mountains to the east of Kandy . It's the hill country's last great wilderness - Unesco has designated the areas above 1,000m a Conservation Area in a bid to save them from deforestation. Apart from the occasional village, the Knuckles is an untouched tangle of trees - this is the only place in Sri Lanka where you can see every different type of forest, from the dry zone slopes through montane areas to the waterfalls and lush dripping foliage of cloud forest. Unsurprisingly, the variety of wildlife1 in the area is just as impressive.

"I have seen 40 species of birds before, just walking along that short path," said my guide, Dami, pointing towards a shady track as we gazed out from our campsite that evening. The sky was glowing a gentle pink and heavy mist was pouring down the valley like dry ice in an 80s pop video.

"This is one of my favorite places in Sri Lanka ,"Dami continued. "It might not have the big game of Yala National Park - but then it doesn't have the tourists, either."

He was right. Since leaving Kandy , we'd seen only local villagers. With its rugged hills and rediscovered beauty, the Knuckles is a trekker's delight although, with scant infrastructure, it's not the easiest place to explore.

This became clear the next morning when we found ourselves thrashing through 2m-tall grass. For the fifth time that day, the path had petered out into nothing and we were relying on Dami's sense of direction. Ironically, the creation of the Knuckles Conservation Area has meant that the tracks once used repeatedly by the locals who harvested the cardamom here have quickly become overgrown, and exploring the region is trickier than it was before. In time, Dami felt sure that a proper network of trails would be maintained. In the meantime, you need a guide.

And so, with my human compass leading the way, I strode past rippling fields of silvery lemongrass and showy flame trees as Dami introduced me to a never-ending list of the local inhabitants - paddy field pippets, greater coucals, tree nymphs, ablack eagle, hill-mynas and white-eyes.

Our route took us through all of the forest zones, each one so clearly defined that it was like walking through the different domes of the Eden Project. We applied sunscreen, pulled on waterproofs, took them off again, put up an umbrella - first to protect from the rain, then from the beating sun - all in a matter of minutes.

We sheltered from the third sudden downpour in the courtyard of an old, abandoned cardamom estate where the air was still heavy with the sweet spice.

"This was one of the most famous estates," said Dami."The whole region was a huge producer of cardamom, but the forest environment suffered hugely as a result."

He explained how cardamom is planted on the forest floor. When it's harvested, everything is cleared not just the cardamom itself, but the entire undergrowth of the forest, drastically affecting regeneration in the process. Cardamom cultivation and slash-and-burn agriculture is now banned in the Conservation Area. Providing alternatives to the locals who relied upon the estates for work has been a key priority for the Forestry Department, which now controls this area.

The rain passed, and Dami nodded up the steep hillside behind us where the old cardamom plants were flourishing untended. He looked doubtful for a moment: "I don't suppose you've got any leech socks in that rucksack of yours?"he asked. Not a little smugly, I whipped some out and spent the next ten minutes rolling down sleeves, pulling up socks and tucking in trousers. I was going to be a tough customer for these leeches.

But hell, they tried their best. I must have been the first trekker they'd seen for a long time - these were some seriously determined parasites. For the next two hours I marched as quickly as I could through the undergrowth, large, wet cardamom leaves slapping my face and thorns snagging my clothes, hungry leeches flipping through the air like pole-vaulters in my wake.

Back at camp, I picked the last shrivelled stragglers from my boots as Dami and the crew fired up the large barbecue. As darkness fell over the ethereal Knuckles, small beacons started to be lit around the valley. Dami hurried past with a lantern on a pole and planted it firmly outside my tent.

"Elephants,"he muttered."There's a herd around tonight. The villagers have warned us."

I lay in my tent that night, ears peeled for ripping branches and trampling undergrowth. But the only ripping sound 1 heard was the sound of my flysheet being torn to shreds in an unseasonably strong

ANYBODY who's sung along to Walt Disney's The Jungle Book knows elephants are first-rate trumpeters.

But what I'm only beginning to realise - as I sit here in a Jeep surrounded by a herd of angry three-and-a-half tonners - is that they're also damned good on percussion.

The elephants stomp their feet, flap their ears and start a low, rumbling growl you can feel deep within your bones. Behind them another group of older elephants toss red dirt on their backs like warriors slapping on war paint before the charge.
Did somebody say charge?

Sometime in the last few minutes we've managed to disturb this herd of wild elephants in Uda Walawe National Park.

The elephants in this isolated corner of Sri Lanka are not used to seeing four-wheel drives and they're jumpy. There are several babies in the herd, fluffy scaled-down models wearing grey pyjamas several sizes too big for them.

It may be that, like nervous new parents everywhere, the adults are being a bit over-protective. We're a bit nervous too. This is no zoo where the animals are behind bars. Uda Walawe is a yawning expanse of dry wilderness covering nearly 90,000 acres. We've only seen one other vehicle on the game drive today.

Now we're on our own as the elephants grow more agitated. The growling intensifies as the females telegraph an alarm call to distant males.

In the meantime, Grandma is well up to co-ordinating the defence. The matriach of the herd trumpets and the younger adult elephants form a circle around her, bottoms facing out, as if to hear the battle plan.

Seconds later they turn and charge, pounding down the track toward us.

Instantly, our park ranger guide Dinusia leaps on to the back seat. "Yaaah!" he shouts, waving his arms in the air and jumping up and down. The elephants slam on the brakes.

"If all else fails, we'll open and shut the doors like big waggly ears," grins tour guide Ravi. "That makes the elephants think we're some sort of really big animal not to be messed with."

True enough, the herd back off. And a few minutes later they're peacefully grazing, chomping on wads of grass the size of hay bales.

Of course, not all the animals in Sri Lanka are as wary of people. Some come amazingly close - like the nosy Sambar deer who popped his head through the van window in Horton Plains National Park.

We're on a safari in a country with enormous national parks, each with its own unique plants and animals.

Uda Walawe is elephant country and the best place to see them is down by the waterhole or river where they gather to drink and cool off. Grandma's always first to arrive and she sprays water across the shallows to flush out any crocodiles that might be lurking beneath the surface.

Satisfied the coast is clear, the rest of the herd come running. The babies haven't learnt to use their trunks so they lap up water like kittens.

Their older brothers and sisters splash around and chase the occasional pelican or water buffalo who drift too close.

At dusk, when everybody else had left through the park gates, we settle down to watch the animals from the comfort of our own camp beside the Walawe river.

The Mahoora campsite is luxury in the wilderness. Our tent has its own patio, living room, double bed and even a shower room with a flushing toilet. Five-course dinners are served on tables lain with white linen cloths, sparkling china and gleaming silverware.

Lanterns strung romantically in the trees keep the wildlife away but the midnight trumpeting leaves you in no doubt that they're out there, watching.

In the morning, I go for a paddle in the river where brilliantly-coloured birds called green bee eaters and kingfishers swoop and dive. One has a beak that seems to belong to a much larger bird. "That's a stork kingfisher," explains Ravi.

There are strict rules in Uda Walawe against leaving the jeeps except at designated look-out spots. The same goes for the Yala National Park, where crocodiles laze on the river banks.

Don’t be fooled. These estuarine crocs - or salties as they're better known - are one of the most dangerous animals on Earth. Yet they live side by side with the water buffalo who wallow in the shallows in their thousands.

A baby water buffalo decides to join me in the swimming pool at the Yala Village Hotel. He's chased away by an angry attendant and you get the idea this is a daily routine.

The beach bungalows are on stilts so you can sit on your 20ft verandah late afternoon with a glass of Wine and watch the monkeys in the trees prepare for bed.

But not every animal in Yala is so ready to turn in. We set out at dusk in search of the Sri Lankan leopard, who stalks his prey by night.

An animal tracker is helping us look for this rare cat. There are only about 100 left in the wild (if you're an optimist) and a third are in Yala. Ravi came here for seven years before he caught sight of a leopard. Yet we're only minutes into the park when our driver swings the 4WD around toward a rocky outcrop. "Through those bushes,"he whispers, turning off the engine. "Can you see the spots?"

There he is, a large handsome leopard. You can see the muscles ripple across his powerful shoulders as he moves. He's woken up hungry and wants his dinner. We track him to the waterhole where buffalo catch his scent and bound into the depths. Their calves struggle to keep up. Before dawn, one of them is likely to fall prey - but that will happen long after dark when the moon is high and the leopard reigns supreme.

TEMPERATURES in Yala and Uda Walawe routinely top 30°C (86°F) so it's a surprise that we need pullovers for an early morning walking safari in another of Sri Lanka's national parks, the Horton Plains.

The birds here are outrageously tame. A cheeky Pied Bush Chat poses for photos beside the trail and sings as if trying out for Fame Academy.

But here even the brightest-plumed birds are upstaged by the views. The cliffs beneath the World's End lookout plunge 3,700 feet sometimes you can see the canopy and chequert jard paddy fields far below. By mid-morning the mist has rolled in and you're alone above the clouds.

The view from our posh tent in another mountain range called The Knuckles is equally as inspiring? although not quite as dizzily high. We sip tea and listening to the shrieks of the brilliantly feathered Jungle Fowls - Sri Lanka's national bird - as they peck and fuss around the forest floor.

However, not all the wildlife in The Knuckles is so loveable. As I'm cooing over a luscious black and white butterfly, I feel a tingling in my feet. Crawling over my shoes and tunnelling through the leather is an army of leeches.

I've seen people in World War Two movies removing leeches with ciggies but, let me assure you, it doesn't work. "Just flick them off with your fingers," advises Ravi, hastily checking his own toes. "They won't come after you along sunny paths so avoid the undergrowth," he advises.

Sure enough, we don't encounter a single leech when we trek through Singharaja rainforest a few days later.

Instead, we are in Sri Lanka's Garden of Eden, the last stand of primeval rainforest in the country and protected as a World Heritage Site.

Some of the best wildlife in this reserve is above your head where fluffy giant squirrels, monkeys and clumsy hawkbills crash about in the canopy.

Even outside the national parks you don't have to go far to spot amazing wildlife.

The Anawilundawa Ramsar Wetland is just a few minutes' drive from the busy highway near Puttalam north of Colombo. Like all the tourist spots, it's well away from any Tamil Tiger trouble.

And first thing in the morning you have the place to yourself as you explore Sri Lanka's largest water bird colony. As I train my binoculars on a flock of wading egrets I almost miss the dragon-like water monitor who strolls across the raised path just a few feet away.

There are also several tourist-funded projects where you can lend a helping paw to endangered wildlife. The Elephant Transit Camp at Uda Walawe raises orphaned babies then sets them free in the national parks.

On our last evening, we join Sunday Mirror readers Marilyn Ditzel and her husband Nick at the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery to help release 600 baby turtles into the sea. Hatchery owner Similius Abrew and his family have dedicated their lives to saving turtles, hatching and setting free 2.5million babies since the early Eighties. Tragically, their whole non-profit operation - along with their albino pet turtle Rosie - were washed away by the tsunami. Now they're rebuilding tanks and hatcheries with donations and practical help from holidaymakers like Marilyn.

"We adore the wildlife in Sri Lanka," Marilyn says. "We expected to come here for a few days' rest but found so much more interesting things to see and do."

And she smiles as she guides a tiny leatherback turtle towards the sea and watches him swim safely away.

Clients Comments

"We recently stayed one night in your luxury tent at Uda Walawe. We would just like to let you know how well we were looked after. K V Jayasekara (Jay) was a fantastic host and did everything to make our stay so enjoyable, he is a wonderful ambassador for your company and for Sri Lanka."

Best Regards
Debbie and Robin Coulson


"Very good experience - Would recommond to friends"

United Kingdom
Visited 10.06.2009 /Udawalawe National Park/ Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"Our expectations were exceeded by the warmth, friendliness & service provided by the camp staff (Also the Ops Manager)"

Joanne Jayamaha
Sri Lanka
Visited 09.06.2009 /Wasgamuwa National Park/ Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"It was awesome trip for us " All Saints Church Youth Fellowship"

Jagath Jayasinghe
Sri Lanka
Visited 09.06.2009 /Wasgamuwa National Park/ Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"This was a fantastic Trip. Well done everybody"

United Kingdom
Visited 05.06.2009 /Udawalawe National Park/ Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"We Had a fantastic time. Staff were very kind and helpful"

Abbi Wheeler and Tom Morse
United Kingdom
Visited 05.06.2009 /Udawalawe National Park/ Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"Staff Superb - Whole experience was magical"
Damian Billington
United Kingdom
Visited 05.06.2009 /Udawalawe National Park/ Mahoora Standard Safari Camp

"My First Safari - All Very good"

Julie Edwards
United Kingdom
Visited 05.06.2009 /Udawalawe National Park/ Mahoora Standard Safari Camp

"We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of camping in the rainforest and the bird walk was amazing."

By Berkett
United Kingdom
Visited 05.01.2009 /Sinharaja Rainforest / Mahoora Luxury Safari Camp

"we have been looked after very well and the food was adapted to what we liked /disliked really enjoyed our time here"

by Stephanie ede
Visited 31/12/08


"That a kids summer camp to be organized. It is important to create awarness amongst a newer generation who have never had the oportunity to experience the wildlife. Maintaining basics along with the execellent service makes all the difference."

Mihiri Wickramasinghe
Sri Lanka
Visited 25.04.2009 /Udawalawe National Park/ Mahoora Luxury Safari Camp


"That a kids summer camp to be organized. It is important to create awarness amongst a newer generation who have never had the oportunity to experience the wildlife. Maintaining basics along with the execellent service makes all the difference."

Mihiri Wickramasinghe
Sri Lanka
Visited 25.04.2009 /Udawalawe National Park/ Mahoora Luxury Safari Camp


"Everything was excellent. A very friendly, helpful and happy team who made our day very enjoyable."

Paul Peagley
United Kingdom
Visited 26.04.2009 /Udawalawe National Park/ Mahoora Standard Safari Camp


"I can not fault anything! All staff were magnificent and made guests feel welcome. The tour guides were very informative. The food was excellent."

Sarah Cripps
United Kingdom
Visited 03.04.2009 /Udawalawe National Park/ Mahoora Standard Safari Camp


"Food has been an amazing experience, and the standard is above expected, and the staff has being very supportive and fantastic,cant complain about anything"

by Sara Basten
Visited 31/12/08

"Campsite -Very Nice Site, Good Location,Food & Service -Excellent BBQ, great location for dinner, curry would be better for breakfast over mustard & cheese Sandwiches.Staff - Very Attentive and helpful, Personable, Knowledgable; Safari - Bundala: Very nice at night , Yala -Good Wildlife"
by Jeffery Kight
Visited 23.12.2008/Bundala National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"A fantastic experience. Would Recommend it to anyone who visits Sri Lanka"
by B.Semply
United Kingdom
Visited 24.09.2008 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"One of the most fantastic experiences I have had,and the people are lovly, Thank you"
by Sony Abboot
United Kingdom
Visited 24.09.2009 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"Very Clean. Setup very good. Best tent I've slept in.Had a amazing time. Something I will always remember."
by Nick Kidd
United Kingdom
Visited 15.09.2008 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"Excellent Camping & Safari. Enjoyed very much. Will recommend to friends & family"
by Karen Kidd
United Kingdom
Visited 15.09.2008 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"Excellent Experience. Staff provided superb ans friendly service."
by Angela Rossi
United Kingdom
Visited 13.09.2008 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"Enjoyed the safari very much -could not fault anything"
by A.Hammond
United Kingdom
Visited 13.09.2008 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"The best safari we ever been on. Lots of animals +birds.Great food + friendly staff. Excellent!"
by Claire Ackerman
United Kingdom
Visited 07.09.2008 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"An Excellent Experience overall. Staff very willing to please"
by M.Bodiam
United Kingdom
Visited 05.09.2008 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"The location + Park was fantastic. Seeing all the animals was great.Food was excellent. We have had a fantastic trip. A big thank you to everyone"
by Ginney Hibbert
United Kingdom
Visited 17.01.2009 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp
"We enjoyed our time here. We last camped 37 years ago on our honeymoon. This was delighfull compared to the camp in Kenya"
by Mattew Martin
United Kingdom
Visited 13.01.2009 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Luxury Safari Camp
"We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay at your camp. We shall be back"
by Nicola Dillon
Sri Lanka
Visited 17.12.2008 /Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp

"Had a very enjoyable experience. Everyone has being professional with a friendly attitude"
by Gloria Mundy
United Kingdom
Visited 27.12.2008
/Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp


"We have been looked after very well & the food was adapted to what we likes/disliked. Really enjoyed our time here. Thank you"
by Stephanie Ede
United Kingdom
Visited 31.12.2008
/Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Luxury Safari Camp


"Great Experience with lots of photographs to remember the safari
by Nicola Giles
United Kingdom
Visited 29.12.2008
/Udawalawe National Park / Mahoora Standard Safari Camp

"In December my wife and I visited UdaWalawe. We greatly enjoyed this safari. Best wishes and thank you all the team for an excellent safari. I have put some photos of this trip on my website - see;"
By David Hawgood
- London, England
Visited 09/12/05

"The Naturalist is an expert. All the staff are so much caring, personally
looked after great"
By Dhanuka Dickwella
Visited 09/09/05

"I thought it was a trip to paradise. Thank you"
By Russell & Lynn Hunt
Visited 09/09/05

For the attention of Eshan Kandanarachchi

Dear Eshan

It was a pleasure to meet you.

Sam and I would like to thank you and all the camp staff for a truly enjoyable and memorable stay.

Our time at Wasgamuwa National Park was one of a number of highlights we had in Sri Lanka .

Now having experienced everything first hand I look forward to recommeding this to our clients.

With kind regards,


Tony Hook
Sales Consultant - India , Orient & Australasia
Abercrombie & Kent Limited
St Georges House, Ambrose Street , Cheltenham, Gloucestershire , GL50 3LG
Tel: 01242 547840
Fax: 0870 1339772


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