Escaping into Elephant territory at Governor’s Camp – Udawalawe

Imagine yourself doing this. Swinging gently on a hammock, the sound of the river carelessly lapping at your feet, the unending sounds of a myriad birds chirping around you, the warm breezes caressing away the daily grind left behind in the city. Sounds too good to be true? This is possible. Just head out to the Governor’s Camp.

If you want an ideal family holiday destination, the Governor’s camp has all the trappings of a fun filled vacation.

Run by hardcore campers, Chelan and Sita Goonetilleke, this idyllic Camp in Uda Walawe is situated on the banks of the Kiriibbanara Wewa. Set in three acres of waterfront land, this is one of two secure camp sites created by this duo.

Just four hours from Colombo along the Ratnapura Wellawaya road, the Udawalawe Camp is discreetly off road. Chelan says that sigh boards are required but until then, Priyantha the caretaker cum concierge patiently awaits your arrival at the turn off to lead the way.

I was not expecting this and was pleasantly surprised at the vastness of the Camp. A large ‘pavilion’ is the dining/indoor area under a cadjan thatched roof and is ideal to sit around and read, play board games or simply stretch out and relax. Leading off along paved walkways, is a long dormitory styled cadjan sleeping area. Ten single beds lay side by side with individual mosquito nest. Reminiscent of midnight feasts and frivolous bedtime chatter. Attached is a double -bed room for anyone who want some privacy. And unlike many places, the pillows are great! On a warm night, the tats can be rolled up to let in a cooling breeze which will also heighten the exciting sounds of the nocturnal creatures. Perfect!

Whilst the beds can accommodate only 12 persons, fly sheet tents are available that sleeps eight per tent. These tents will be set up in the garden and gives the whole adventure a whole new meaning. According to Chelan, these Camps can accommodate up to 40 plus people at any given time.

If anyone is inclined to rock their nights away under the night sky, three hammocks are available.

The two outdoor bathrooms are clean and comfortable and even have hot/cold showers. If the full moon light is not sufficient, the solar lights are good enough to light up your evenings. Apparently, a solar colour TV and CD/cassette radio are also available. However, we didn’t have the need for them. The magical sounds of the surroundings were enough entertainment.

Whilst the Udawalawe National Park is approximately 10 minutes away, wildlife lovers can enjoy the safaris. For others, the camp provides a vast selection of activities to keep you entertained. For the outdoor lovers there are balls and hoops available for basketball and netball, cricketing gear and even a croquet set! Five gleaming off road bikes are all pumped up and ready for the explorers.

No one breaks camp without a dip in the wewa. Plenty of floaters, body boards and life jackets are available. Get geared up and paddle yourself across the wewa on one of two kayaks or canoe. Or maybe try the excitement of paddling a ‘paroo’. This is a flat raft that has to be paddled whilst standing up. The bird life on the decaying tree trunks in the middle of the wewa is worth the effort.

With Priyantha, Amare and Daya to prepare your meals and ever willingly chop up the ambarella, straight from the tree, into an impromptu achcharu, you are spoiled for comfort. Don’t expect five star cuisine, but this is good enough. BBQ nights are also on offer.

With the entire country on ‘travel’ mode, holiday destinations are much sought after. In fact, on most weekends hotels at popular destinations become ‘crowded’ with every next door neighbour stepping on your toes much less your nerves. Therefore, places like the Governor’s Camp are ideal destinations to get away from the madding crowd and offers you a holiday destination  where you can just be yourself and not dress to impress or shout to be heard.

Similar to the Udawalawe Camp is another camp on seven acres of land in Yala, about 7kms from the Yala National Park entrance. The sea, with ‘perfect’ bathing pools is just 400 meters away from this camp. According to Chelan, other Governor’s Camps  have been set up in Wilpattu and in Vakarai.

Some call this basic. I call it a wonderful place to enjoy the wilderness and experience the outdoor. Besides, this is as affordable as it gets. So for anyone with a bone of adventure and fun, head on down to this camp. You will not regret it.

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