There are places you’d rather not share with the wider world. Back of Beyond’s jungle retreat at Dehigaha-ela on the fringes of the Minneriya park beyond Sigirya is one of them. So this post is a little sacrifice in the name of YAMUnism.
For me, this is really the best place to stay in the vicinity of Sigiriya. Well designed mud and wood cottages in the middle of the jungle that, with their open plan and swish bathroom fixtures, manage to feel almost luxurious. Well outright luxurious given that you’re far off the beaten path, sleeping on (comfortable) mattresses on the floor of a tree house.
You sleep surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the jungle (you can hear the elephants) and wake up to views over a thick forest canopy. You can see rock squirrels, monkeys, mongooses and deer without leaving your room, sometimes without leaving your bed. Within the forest-canopy but still within the hotel/lodge’s grounds are beautiful,full streams with deep pools for swimming and flowing cascades,really mini-waterfalls under which you can bathe. It’s a free spa in a pristine wilderness – you even get those little fish that nibble away at your dead skin.
Despite the absolute wealth of the natural environment in its immediate vicinity Back of Beyond’s main draw remains its proximity to the elephant herds in the Minneriya and Kadualla national parks. They arrange reasonably priced tours to Minneriya, a little commercial, Kaudulla, excellent, and Eco park, still relatively undiscovered. Seeing hundreds of elephants in their natural environment is always breathtaking, I’ve done this dozens of times and it never gets old. However, even without the the elephant-safari Back of Beyond is well worth a visit. You’re somewhere beautiful, away from everything, yet secure and comfortable. The food is delicious and local – river fish, pol rotis string hoppers with infinite village vegetables for dinner, the location outstanding and the rooms – pretty unique. At Rs 8000 for locals (much less than the tourist rate) it’s not cheap but absolutely worth it. For one night’s luxury on a budget tour, or for a longer stay if you can afford it, highly recommended.