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Rafters Retreat

Kitulgala

Overview

Adventure, action and living with nature is key in this Robinson Crusoe hideaway.  Owner, Channa, is the epitome of life in the woodland and on the river - safari shorts, braces, a woolly beard and a love of wildlife. Channa is an excellent host, inviting families, single travellers and adventurous couples into his self-built tree houses.

10 eco lodges have been built on his family estate in dense forest alongside the River Kelani- set of the famous film "˜Bridge on the River Kwai".  Join fellow guests in watching the film in the comfort of Channa's 85 year old ancestral home.  Channa runs a 3-day adventure programme (2 nights) packed with bird-watching, mountain biking, pre-historic Beli Lena caves, a day white-water-rafting (fine for age 6+ and non-swimmers).  Rafters Retreat is an exciting contrast to the silence of the ancient cities or cultural Kandy City.

The surrounding hill country is teeming with every fruit and vegetable imaginable.  Fruit orchards and lowland tea plantations entice you to take a stroll in the early morning.  Reward yourself en-route with a fresh mangostine or wood-apple or stop by at a local farmhouse for buffalo curd and treacle.

Service is 100% within the context of eco-projects, welcoming, friendly and with lots of tuition on living with nature - but don't expect any frills.  April to November is the best time to visit Kitulgala to enjoy all the adventure and stunning lush countryside which is only 1½ - 2 hours from Kandy or the airport.

 

 Highs
 

 Lows

  • Entering the team spirit to beat the 7 rapids of the River Kelani
     
  • Waking to the sound of natural streams, hungry woodpeckers and the shafts of light squeezing through the wood-slatted walls
     
  • BBQ's by gas light and debating the sights and adventures with new found friends and family
  • Mosquitoes come and go with the winds and climatic thermals so take plenty of repellant.
     
  • Little storage space so you'll be living out of a suitcase for a few days
  • Not for the fainthearted May - August: the jungle can be wet and you may find the odd leech! But it's also the best time to go rafting.

 

   

   Child Friendly
   Groups Welcomed
   Bird Watching

Rooms

10 eco lodges/tree-houses set 6 ft above ground level. Each has twin beds, lampshades and hooks made from natural woods from the estate.  Roofed with palm leaves and walled by wooden slats, yet discreetly modernised with electricity and plumbing.  Balconies overlook the river through the trees and wooden ladders lead you up and down from the lodges.  Mosquito nets and fans keep nightly bugs away but plug points are also available for additional insect repellents.  Bathrooms are annexed from the rooms and have modern toilets and corrugated iron showers. The water is direct from natural springs but sadly, so is the temperature.

Channa's first lodge was a slight experiment and the bathroom is down a ladder into a "˜dungy'.  Fun and spacious unless you need the loo in the night and then the ladder is really testing.

 

Dining

The restaurant is open to the woodland and set on two floors. Tables and chairs are all from the local wood and can get a little hard on the "derrière' after a few hours.

Breakfast and lunch menus are fixed - Western or Sri Lankan breakfast and rice and curry for lunch using local organic vegetables and meat/fish from Colombo.

Dinner is either a BBQ or Sri Lankan fried rice or noodles.  The menu is limited but tasty and relished after a days cycling or rafting.  Special dietary requirements must be advised in advance as stocks are kept to a minimum.  Chef will cook and clear away but a self-help approach and helping hand is always welcomed.

Things to do & local tips

  • White-water-rafting excursions down the River Kelani grade 2/3 rapids (mild) and non-swimmers and children over 6 years can safely take part. The rafting course runs over 7km providing 2 hours of excitement. Transport, equipment and tuition are all provided.
     
  • Mountain bikes are available to explore the countryside or join the group to Beni Lena caves, but they appreciate some notice.
     
  • Channa's knowledge of birds is second to none and binoculars are complimentary.  Discover 23 of Sri Lanka's 26 endemic birds from water fowl to woodland birds to hill-country eagles.
     
  • Head into to the village to discover bongo practice in the village hall on Sundays, and a whole host of craftsmanship including kithul treacle and toddy makers, basket weavers etc.

For recommendations on places to see, activities and local transport in Kitulgala, click here.