- Secluded location on edge of national park
- Very ecofriendly
- Great for wildlife spotting
Situated right on the edge of the Gal Oya National Park, this secluded ecolodge is ideal for nature enthusiasts. It’s off the beaten track and tucked away in a part of the park that’s serene and undisturbed, yet at the same time bustling with wildlife. Designed to make guests feel at one with nature, the ecolodges are constructed from a range of natural materials and are set in a mountainous area that affords breathtaking views of the surrounding area.
Guests stay in rustic wooden bungalows that are spread out across the lodge’s grounds. They’re designed to seamlessly blend in with the surrounding scenery and thanks to their floor-to-ceiling windows and doors, they allow guests to enjoy gorgeous views whenever they want. Each bungalow has a bedroom with a comfortable king size bed, as well as a private living area and a bathroom with both indoor and outdoor showers, not to mention double sinks. The tables and chairs found in the bungalows have been handcrafted by local villagers using traditional techniques. As well as the bungalows, there’s a larger villa that’s aimed at families or couples wanting a bit more space to themselves. It sits on the highest point of the grounds and each of its two bedrooms has its own wraparound veranda.
Gal Oya National Park is the main catchment area for Sri Lanka’s largest reservoir, Senanayake Samudraya, and is known for its herd of elephants that can be seen throughout the year. It’s one of the least visited of Sri Lanka’s national parks and is among the best preserved. One of the park’s many highlights is the boat safari, which takes visitors among a number of small forested islands that are popular with birds and elephants, who can often be seen swimming in the surrounding waters. While staying at Gal Oya Lodge, there are lots of activities for guests to take advantage of, such as park hikes, riverside picnics, birdwatching walks, bicycle tours and jungle drives - all of these are led by knowledgeable guides who will tell guests all about the area and its many resident animals.
The ecolodge’s restaurant serves both Sri Lankan and western dishes, with meals freshly prepared using locally sourced ingredients. Those interested in picking up some cooking tips can meet the chef for some cooking courses. As well as a restaurant, the ecolodge has a bar and an outdoor swimming pool that’s open year-round.
Those who are travelling with children should consider booking the villa as it’s more convenient and has more space. Because the ecolodge is set within a national park with wildlife roaming freely, it’s suggested that parents keep an eye on their young ones at all times. Children of all ages are welcome here.
We have put together some feedback from our lovely holiday, and do let us know if there is anything particular you would like feedback on that we have missed. I hope that you will be able to feel what a great time we had from this. We have just worked through the holiday in chronological order as it is easiest to think what we did then!
Ouirgane Ecolodge - lovely place to stay, a real oasis. The food was good and enormous portions, we came nowhere close to finishing them. Mohammed also had found out what we would be eating at lunchtime with the Berber family and ensured that we had a different menu in the evening which was very thoughtful. Loved the pool, especially as it was so hot. Also appreciated having filtered water available so that we did not have to buy huge amounts of plastic water bottles.
Mohammed was very helpful and quickly was able to sort out a car to take Jessica and Alan to the lunch stop on the day one village trek which made a real difference as otherwise they would have had to miss out on the whole day.
Our guide for the trek, Hussein, was good company. He had good English and was able to chat about all sorts of subjects but was also knowledgeable about the local Berber communities and taught us a few words. Lunch with the Berber family was enjoyable.
Dar Adrar - loved the trip up with the mule! Great location. Quite simple but had everything we needed. Again we liked having filtered water available. Hamid was very helpful and always available to answer our questions, fill up water bottles, make a mint tea upon request. Food good and a vegetarian option was always provided for Emily, portion size more reasonable!
Day trek - with the same guide Hussein as for Ouirgane. Alan, Daniel and Emily went on this as Jessica was not up to a day walk. They had a good time but ideally would have preferred it to be a bit more challenging. However, this was part of the trip that had to be rearranged at the last minute and worked well as part of that. Also, the cook for lunch was deemed to have produced the best food of the trip so far - meatball tagine - and they enjoyed being able to watch him prepare the meal, which was the only time this was possible. It was amazing what he was able to produce with one burner and a tiny knife!
Mountain biking trip was fabulous. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. Girls loved the e-bikes, both these and the mountain bikes were of very good quality which we were impressed by. It was very tough ascent for the three of us on mountain bikes but a great descent. I can’t decide if I would opt for an e-bike or not if we went back as I did have a great sense of achievement at the end of the day but I was exhausted! Our guide (Rashid?) needed to repair Daniels chain which broke and he was able to do this really quickly which was great. Jessica came off her bike and we had to patch her up with some plasters, it was not clear whether our guide carried a first aid kit. We had our own so it was fine but if they don’t carry one it could be worth suggesting that clients carry one themselves. The lunch stop was another good one with a great view over the valley and good food and plenty of water which was required after such a challenging morning!
Riad Sila, Rebali Riads - fabulous villa, fantastic pool. Fatima and Mohammed looked after us very well. The only thing I would suggest is having a filtered water tap available as we did have to buy a lot of water bottles. We ate 3 evenings at the villa and food was good, although sometimes not quite what we were expecting. The Moroccan salad we had as a starter was amazingly delicious. Breakfasts were lovely.
We did a lot of the activities on offer:
Surfing - 2 hour lesson. Three people did this and had a great time. Thoroughly recommended
Cooking lesson with Hayadt and Attila in Essaouira - they didn’t speak much English but our French was sufficient and they were really friendly and chatty. We loved being taken around the souks and buying ingredients. They showed us how to make couscous as we expressed an interest and this was great. Alan was pleased to find someone who took the time to show him exactly how to prepare the mint tea we had been enjoying everywhere! Enjoyed making the tagine but actually it was the other bits that really made the trip.
Quad biking - 1 hour trip down the beach. Was fabulous! Great fun.
Sea had big waves and was great fun for swimming.
Sad to leave!
Riad Dar Hanane - lovely place to stay. Getting there behind the handcart was an experience in itself and we did indeed get lost the first time we went out! Mohammed gave us a little introductory talk over the obligatory mint tea when we arrived at the riad with a simple map and rough outline of where to go and how to find our way back which was very useful. The rooms were fabulous particularly the grand suite room with the mezzanine which the kids had and which was plenty big enough for the three of them to share and not be on top of each other. Breakfasts were delicious, we enjoyed using the pool to cool off in the afternoon and the roof terrace was a great place to relax at the end of the evening.
Half day tour - our guide Mohammed was very friendly with superb English. It was an interesting and enjoyable morning and a good introduction to Marrakech. We really enjoyed being able to see various artisans at work, as well as the guy stoking the hammam fires and being able go into the bakery to see the loaves cooking in the oven. These were things that we couldn’t have done on our own. The lunch at the King’s Tangia restaurant was brilliant, the meat was absolutely delicious and it was different to anything else we had had whilst in Morocco which was a welcome surprise. We had a great morning and are very pleased we did it, but whether it was value for money we can’t quite decide as it was a very expensive option, so any recommendation to friends would come with this caveat.
All transfers worked well with drivers where they were supposed to be at the right time and we were kept informed of timings etc by the relevant hotel person the night before leaving. Mohammed who met us at the airport on arrival and who did our transfer from Ouirgane to Imlil and then the coast to Marrakech was excellent. Mustafa, who was our driver from Imlil to the coast, was safe and courteous but he drove so slowly that the transfer took over an hour longer than it should have and it was starting to get a bit irritating by the end.
I seem to have written quite a bit. Not sure if this is the sort of feedback you are after! We had a fantastic holiday and have been, and will be, talking about it in glowing terms to friends. Morocco is a very interesting and friendly place to visit and has whetted the appetites of the kids to be a bit more adventurous with travel.
Thank you so much for all your help with the arrangements and rearrangements. Our holiday in Morocco was everything we hoped it would be! We have already recommended you to others and will continue to do so.
Jacky W reviewing Toubkal & Valleys Trek on 31 August 2022
We had an absolutely fantastic time, thank you! My comments here contain just very minor things which could have improved it - please don’t take it as any criticism of the holiday which we absolutely loved, but small tweaks which could have improved it even further!
Arrival and transfer were superb - lovely to be met straight off the plane and smoothly transferred straight to the waterfront.
You should note that Lawhill no longer has a dedicated reception - this caused a couple of issues getting into the accommodation and meeting our guide. Just worth letting people know as nothing which wasn’t overcome with a couple of calls to the complex reception.
The accommodation itself was ideal for us - spacious, clean and a great base to relax and go out to dinner.
Our guide from AWOL, Bevan, was first class - really friendly knowledgeable and great with the kids. 10/10!
The tours were a perfect balance for us of interesting stuff for adults and children
If I could change anything from our holiday, I’d have had an extra day at leisure in Cape Town, so much to do in the city itself.
Also worth noting the cable car to Table Mountain seems to be closed during August - just worth noting in advance as we had planned to do that. The aquarium was a good second best though which the kids probably enjoyed more!
Departure was a pain - our car didn’t turn up at 4.00 as per the schedule which was a pain, particularly that early in the morning. On contacting them, they said it has been booked at 4.45 - an extra 45 mins sleep would have been good - just worth double checking those in future.
Transfer to Madikwe was superb again and really easy
Accommodation was good - I guess this might be because we originally booked a couple of years ago, but the bed for the kids was a bit small for a 9 and 11 year old. Our bed was so big however that Chloe just bunked down with us so no problem at all. Food and service was first class.
Our safari guide, Pride, was amazing. I’d recommend a private safari to anyone - we were able to be flexible with times and destinations (for example on one day he picked us up a couple of hours early to we could drive much further into the reserve which was rewarded with some cheetahs, another day we went on an all-dayer rather than morning and evening) - mixing things up to see more made a great experience even better.
Transfer back to Johannesburg was just as easy
Johannesburg hotel was ok - nothing special but for a transfer hotel it did what we needed!
Transfer to and from the resort was seamless
The resort is lovely - food, accommodation and facilities all great. After such a busy start to the holiday we didn’t really take full advantage of all the water sports but anything we did do was really easy and great fun. Would definitely recommend it to others!
For a family like ours the drinks package wouldn’t have been good value so pleased we just went full board (having a few drinks during the day and a bottle of wine with dinner our bill came to about £450)
Just to note a specific plus from the resort: I has some issues with my banking whilst away - the resort waived the fees on my phone call back to the UK to sort it out. Little things like that really make a great impression and reflect so well on the management.
Thank you again for all your work helping us get there in such difficult times. Great memories of a superb holiday for all the family!
Matt W reviewing South Africa Madikwe Safari and Mauritius on 31 August 2022
Well overall it was an amazing trip and we really appreciated the guidance on places to go. On the ground, Victor was very helpful and we liked the mix of places.
The two stand out places and accommodations were Arenal Observatory Lodge and El Remanso - the latter being perfect in so many ways. The day trip to Cocovardo National Park was outstanding.
We enjoyed Tortuguero too - basic accommodation but excellent location and the guide there was outstanding.
Monte Verde was ok - average food, average place to stay.
With hindsight we’d skip Uvita altogether and go to Drakes Bay where snorkelling seems more accessible.
Overall an excellent holiday, which went very smoothly and a good mix of things to do.
Francesca L reviewing Costa Rica Wildlife Holiday on 30 August 2022