Jetwing Yala is a luxurious but very green resort in Yala - two adjectives you don't usually use together.
The hotel is designed on massive premises, snug inside plenty of naturally flourishing greenery, becoming a part of it than intruding on it as most hotels tend to do. The place has a massive 75-meter infinity pool, extremely spacious rooms, but my favourite part was the 'tented villas'.
The rooms are all very spacious and simple, with warm colours, wooden floorboards, large bathrooms and private balconies that look out onto either the beach or the pool or the surrounding green. Bed & Breakfast in a Superior room costs about Rs. 22K, while the other rooms (Deluxe & Family), even on full-board, stick around the Rs. 30-35K margin.
This resort's tented villas are what it's really all about. There are only ten available, and basically these are massive tents that work as rooms, set up on their own gazebos, with a private porch.
Your own private 'butler' will cart you to and from your villa, winding through the resort's green-spun pathways where you'll bump into the occasional rabbit or monkey.
The tent itself is pretty epic, with a very efficient portable Air Conditioner, tasteful furniture, a bed so cushy you don't want to get out, a huge state of the art bathroom and an outdoor shower space too. The tent is big, warmly lit and with little elephant prints on them so there's this feeling you're inside a whimsical little circus tent.
Save for the much needed A/C, the tented villas pride themselves on being 'outdoorsy' - away from WiFi and TV, and more in touch with nature. The porch outside actually makes for a wonderful space to sit down with some tea, especially at night with all the stars out. Sounds fancy as shizzle, and it is - about Rs. 40K for full-board. However, if it's a one-off special outing and you've saved up, I would personally recommend the experience - there's nothing like it.
Jetwing Yala has got both the main restaurant and also the main bar - service and ambience are excellent at both. We tried the crab meat appetizer, beef burger and grilled seer fish at the bar - the ingredients are clearly high quality so the food is good, although in smaller portions than warranted (about Rs. 1000 per dish), and lacking a bit of seasoning and spice, probably more suited to European tastebuds. We had seafood and lambchops at the main restaurant, and the portions are much better here, the presentation still good, although there was nothing too memorable about our dishes taste-wise.
What stood out about both restaurant spaces was how well they utilized the environment around them. The main bar has an outdoor space that looks out onto the neat Yala ocean, with cushy seats out front that are just turned towards the view - a great, albeit very windy space, for a drink and conversation.
The main restaurant has green creepers across its front, dangling down to the porch floors, setting off a pleasant nature friendly ambience especially in the evenings. You'd much rather eat out on the porch than in the A/Ced dining hall inside. Stepping down from here you can walk out through a green-cocooned pathway to the beach.
The beach here is huge and the waves can get rough - loads of shore space, some Jetwing-Galle type rocks to sit up on, and speckled sand dunes. It may be a pain to get here through the hills of sand, but once you do, it's a great, private place to spend the day.
The picture above isn't from a Yala safari, but they are adorable monkeys that were running around the balcony area of the hotel late in the evenings. The monkeys are harmless but you'll see them monkeying around on the hotel roof or diving across a pathway every so often. The hotel arranges safaris to the Yala National Park nearby if you're interested in spying out for the elusive Lankan leopard. The safari vehicle costs Rs. 4500 and an entry ticket is Rs. 400 (the safari is included in a package if you're staying in a tented villa).
Jetwing Yala is a very interesting place to stay at, as it's one of the handful of places on the island that manages to successfully combine the charm of being outdoors with luxury and comfort. At about Rs. 22K per night it's also very reasonable considering the quality of ambience and service.