The Rainforest Eco Lodge in Sri Lanka’s Sinharaja Rainforest is not for the faint-hearted, less mobile or anyone with an aversion to leeches.
The lodge is located 1,000 metres above sea level, and at the bottom of the mountain we transferred from our car to a huge, high 4-wheel drive truck, which was not easy to climb into. The 18km journey up a twisting narrow track took an hour and we tried to take in the spectacular views as we bumped and jolted along.
The 16 chalets, converted shipping containers, were well-spaced in two lines facing each other, down the side of a valley. Our chalet, 03 – Layard’s Parakeet, wasn’t the furthest from the main building, but the long, uneven stone path made us puff, and it wouldn’t suit anyone with walking difficulties.
Our long, narrow chalet was simply decorated with bamboo walls and ceiling and had a practical wooden floor. Lots of windows let in light, but blinds needed to be pulled for privacy. The bed was comfortable, but tricky to get in and out of, as it was low and there was very little space around it. It was simply made with just a sheet, but blankets, spare pillows, and hot water bottles were available. The room was well equipped with a safe, tea and coffee making facilities, complimentary water and a fridge with reasonably priced wine, beer and soft drinks. Umbrellas and torches were provided, and both were required during our two-night stay. A large sofa overlooked an outdoor decked area with forest views, and it was here we had our first sighting of the endemic, purple-faced leaf monkey.
The bathroom, through a fierce set of western style saloon swing doors, were impossible to go through easily or quietly. There was a walk-in shower with hot and surprisingly powerful water, double sinks, hairdryer next to a mirror and plenty of space for our toiletries.
The main building, over several floors with metal walkways, had the bar, lounge and open-sided dining room which was simply furnished. All our meals were included in our rate.
Breakfast was ordered the night before with a choice of English or Sri Lankan style, with both including juice, bread and jams, yoghurt or fruit and tea or coffee. The Sri Lankan breakfast was an absolute feast with a stacked plate of roti, doughnut shaped savoury breads (ulundu vadai) and squares of compressed rice (kiribath). This was followed by chicken, fish and vegetable curries, dahl, spicy sambal, and coconut chutney. It was very delicious, but the following day we opted for scrambled eggs on toast.
Lunch was a three-course traditional Sri Lankan meal, but having had such a wonderful breakfast, we asked for something lighter, and sandwiches were produced without fuss.
And just in case we weren’t full, complimentary afternoon tea was served at 5pm in the bar.
Dinner was again huge, starting with warm home-made bread rolls and butter flowers, followed by a starter (e.g. spring rolls with mango salsa), soup, a choice of three main courses including vegetarian and fish options, and finally dessert or fruit.
And so to the leeches. The main activities were bird watching and hiking, when the leech socks provided by the lodge were essential. However, the blood suckers somehow penetrated our clothing and drew blood, so each time we returned to our room, we took off our clothes and checked we weren’t bringing them back in with us.
This was the first time we’d slept in a shipping container and encountered so many leeches: it’s a stay which won’t easily be forgotten.