Wild Wild East – Glamping in Gal Oya and a meeting with the Vedda tribe!

The Wild Glamping Eco Resort in Sri Lanka, nestled in the old village of Rathugala in Gal Oya, offers the rejuvenation we might all use.

  • The Wild Glamping eco escape takes sustainable living seriously and will nefariously inspire you to adopt an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
  • I became acquainted with the Vedda (or Vadda) tribe, saw the prehistoric caves where they lived, as well as, the writings on rocks that show their puerile ingenuity.

I had always been interested in sustainable living prospects and was keen to learn more about them. So, when I saw Sri Lanka experiencing economic upheaval, I knew it was the perfect time to visit and learn about how the people there were coping. As it turned out, I was not the only one with this idea.

When I arrived on the island, I found that many others were also, interested in learning about sustainable living. It quickly became apparent that Sri Lankans are very knowledgeable about eco-tourism. They had been living this way for centuries and were able to share a wealth of information with us.

I was particularly impressed by the way, they can keep their traditional ways of life while still supporting sustainable tourism. The experience was truly eye-opening, and I know that I will be able to apply what I learned there to my own life and hopefully help to make a difference in the world.

The art of living

We had been planning our eco-escape for weeks and were so excited, to finally be on our way. As we pull up to the entrance, I can see the two lanterns and circular signboard that dangle from the green wooden frame. Our ride, a thatched-roofed jeep with purple trimmings, arrives, and we begin to drive a few kilometres through the verdant farms.

The Bingoda Mountains quietly loom in the background as we make our way to the restaurant that serves as the gateway to this eco-escape. As we pull up to the cottages, I can see the mountainous backdrop, and I know that it is time to let go of all of my anxieties and cave to the tranquil warmth of nature.

I could feel my body beginning to relax as I settle into cottage 6, and take in the sights and sounds of this beautiful glamping spot. I spent the next few days exploring the valley and enjoying the peace of our surroundings.

The 30 acres of deforested Chena field that once abutted Rambakan Oya is slowing me in my tracks. The first thing that strikes me about the farm is the watchtowers. They dot the landscape, seemingly at a slipshod, but I know they are there for a reason. The second thing was the greenery.

The farm is lush and verdant, like an oasis in the middle of a desert. As we drive through the ring of mountainous panorama and savanna woods, I am astounded by the beauty of it all, which leads to this eco-luxury retreat with solar-powered tents and natural therapies. The swimming pool is the focal point, with the restaurant on one side and the tents on the other, all set against a stunning backdrop. It is a true haven from the outside world.

The sun had long since set by the time the Vedda tribe began their blessing dance. All around us, the jungle came alive with the sounds of their drums and singing. The tribe gathered in a circle around the fire, and the Vedda shaman began the ceremony. He blessed our souls with the smoke of the fire, and the drumming and singing went on into the night.

This evening, we had a traditional dinner of pumpkin soup with deep-fried medu and sago wadas as accompaniments, drumstick Sambhar, chicken curry, yellow vegetable curry, Vellayappams, Pol roti (coconut flatbread), steamed rice, and handmade ice cream for dessert. The food was delicious, and the conversation around the campfire was enlightening.

We learned about the Vedda culture and their way of life. We also learned that they are working to integrate into the modern world, while still maintaining their traditional way of life. I had always been a restless soul. I was never content to stay in one place for too long and always felt the need to be on the move. So when I heard about the Veddah tribe and their holistic regime, I was intrigued. Could this be the place where I would finally find some peace? 

After a long day, I was ready to relax in my tent. I was assigned tent number 6, which had a white wooden bed with a tribal design for a headrest, large soft pillows, a side table, four fabric windows, two wooden benches, a white dressing table, a walk-in closet, two battery-operated night lamps, a fan, an AC, and glass water bottles.

In the semi-natural washroom, the basin and shower were fashioned of metallic buckets, whereas the premium toiletries found their place in coconut shells. Beyond the bucket shower, I could see the solar panel via the awning opening out to nature. I was surprised at how nice the shower was, considering it was just a bucket. I washed up and then climbed into bed, feeling refreshed and relaxed. I turned on the battery-operated night lamp and read for a while before falling asleep.

Nature walk

Amidst this tranquillity, I awoke before sunrise, to the sound of the birds and the jungle, and marked my attendance for a walk in the surrounding farms. The fresh air and quiet were exactly what I needed, and I slowly started to feel like myself again. It was on this walk that I finally found what I had been searching for all my life.

A sense of peace and contentment. I knew then that I had found my home. After a hearty breakfast of fresh farm fruits, I set off into the wilderness with my guide, where I saw some of the most amazing trees, and the Veddah showed me how to find food and shelter in the jungle.

Reducing carbon footprint

The term “carbon footprint” is often used interchangeably with “environmental impact.” Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases you produce in a given year. It includes both the “direct” emissions you produce, such as when you drive your car, and the “indirect” emissions resulting from the electricity you use to power your home.

You can reduce your carbon footprint by making changes in your daily life, biking or walking instead of driving, using public transportation, eating less meat, and using less energy at home. You can also support green projects that help to reduce emissions and protect the environment. Wild Glamping Gal Oya is one such project. They are committed to green projects and seem to be making an effort to put straightforward changes into action.

The sun peeked through the trees, casting a warm glow over the solar-powered tents at Wild Glamping in Gal Oya. It was fascinating to see how the sun’s energy was being used to power the eco-friendly tents, and everyone was impressed with the technology. It was a perfect day for an adventure, and that’s exactly what I was planning.

The first stop was the deforestation adventure, which took me through the lush forest to see the devastation caused by illicit logging. It was a sobering experience, but one that everyone agreed was important. Last but not least was the farm food tour, where I learned about the local food scene and tasted some of the best produce in the area. It was a delicious way to start the day, and everyone was left feeling, full and satisfied. I had heard so many good things about Wild Glamping, and I was excited to finally try it out for myself. 

From the moment I arrived at the campsite, I was immersed in nature. The solar-powered tent was well-lit and very comfortable. The electricity did go out a few times during the day, but it was no big deal. The natural settings of this location made it pleasant to go without a fan or an AC for a few hours. I was able to unwind amidst nature, making use of modern amenities.

I found solace in knowing that my carbon footprint was much smaller than it could have been. Wastewater is treated and used in specially designed reed beds. Throughout the retreat, stone and glass containers are used instead of plastic. While taking in so much natural beauty at once can be overwhelming, I was grateful to have a place like this to retreat. It’s clear that eco-tourism is on the rise, and there’s no better place to experience it than at Wild Glamping in Gal Oya. But keep the tent zipped up at all times to keep the bugs out. 


The next morning, I decided to go for a walk around the estate’s farm. I was amazed at how many different vegetables were growing there, and I was even more surprised to learn that they were all organic.

No pesticides or chemicals were used, and everything was hand-cultivated with love and care. I knew that eating organic was important, but I had never really understood the significance until I saw the farm for myself. As a guest, you may even choose your ingredients and have the chef Chandana Kumardasa prepare a personalised meal for you and your loved ones. It was an incredible experience. 

I foot stepped in the dew-covered grass, and I smiled to myself as I walked towards the fields. Today was harvest day, and I was excited to see what we would be able to bring in. I knew that bananas, green chillies, long beans, snake gourd, Lufa, and lemon were all on the list. I also knew that we would be able to get a good haul of all of them.

I loved the peace that came with living in the countryside. I had gone from being sceptical about living a reclusive lifestyle to genuinely enjoying it. My restlessness had pared, and I consciously chose to live in the present. Thrilled by my cerebral smashes, I celebrated by indulging in organic lunch fare at the on-site restaurant.

Banana blossom with sprat mellum, brinjal Moju, and okra sambal whet my appetite for Mysore dhal curry and chicken black curry. Whereas the aromas of pumpkin prawn curry and organic white rice drew me in as I filled my tummy with potato tempered, beans dry curry, Katuru Murunga Melluma, and papadam. It was all so good that I couldn’t choose a favourite. 

As I ate, I reflected on my journey. I had come so far, and I had learned so much. To expend some calories, I walked to the adjacent Rathugala Tourism Village, where the Veddah tribe showed me around their ancient abode. The village was filled with the smell of wood smoke and spices and the sound of friendly chatter. The Veddah people were so hospitable and welcoming, and I soon found myself enjoying a conversation with them around the woods.

Into the homes of the Vedda Tribe

The Veddas were once forest people who foraged, hunted, and lived in tight, convivial communities in deep-forested caves in Sri Lanka. Gunabandilaaththo, the tall, curly-haired Vedda, pointed at a shadowed rock shelter rung by lurching trees. He wore a colourful sarong around his waist and had a little axe slung over his left shoulder.

He pointed towards a bleary area and said, “This is where the men and women resided, and this is where the children lived. We roasted rabbits, deers, and wild boars, to eat, and there was where our leader slept,” He continued by showing a platform covered in a bright layer of rocks. Gunabandilaaththo then narrated how the Veddas would sing and dance around the bonfires in the evenings, and how they would work together to prepare the food and shelter.

There is a real sense of community and connection among the Veddas. Gunabandilaaththo said that it was hard at first, but slowly the Veddas began to adapt to their new way of life. He is proud of how far his people have come. Although they no longer live in the forest, they have kept their culture and community alive.

Gunabandilaaththo led me on a hiking excursion and even showed me how to hunt like Vedda. He told me about his Danigala Maha Bandaralage lineage while we were walking! It’s a title they received in 1476 from the Kandyan kings. Long before Indo-Aryans arrived in Sri Lanka from India around 543 BCE, the Vedda were already residing across the island in the Danigala mountain and the surrounding forests.

Vedda customs are still practised today, in a few isolated communities. While the seven families who lived in the Rathugala cave continued to follow their patronages for a little longer, searching for food in the jungle and farming alongside Sinhalese farmers, they eventually mixed with merchants from nearby villages. But now, with the Vedda community reclaiming their heritage, things are gradually beginning to change with a growing interest in these indigenous Sri Lankan tribe. 

Later, Gunabandilaattho led me into the mud houses, which are close to the cave where their ancestors lived, and was proud to share his history with me. One was equipped with b&w photographs by Dr Richard Spittel, who frequently visited the Vedda habitats in the early 1900s; another had a map of their former residences, images of caves, and Veddas statues.

Even though most Vedda people are now Buddhists, their theology is firmly rooted in them. “We teach our kids not to take leaves or other plant life if they don’t need it and to never cut trees near streams because doing so will cause them to dry up. Many young Veddas are oblivious of their history yet they have a profound love for food. They still spend days foraging in the bush, sleeping in caves, catching fish and hunting wild animals to cook over the fire,” Gunabandilaaththo concluded.

The Good of the Goodbye

After the village tour, we went for a hike through the woods. It was on one of those rare, idyllic days when the world seems to be at peace that I found myself on a hike through the woods. I was amazed by the beauty of the forest and the peace it brought me. At the same time, I was intrigued by the way of life of Vedda people and the way they interacted with their natural surroundings.

That evening, over dinner, I bonded with Putri Anindya, an Indonesian photographer, and Dotz, a traveller from Singapore. We discussed life over freshly brewed Ceylon tea and jaggery-sweetened desserts. The melodic bird sounds had substituted the clamour of clouds and the tranquillity of the Gal Oya and the aroma of its myriad flora had begun to grow on us.

It was a wonderful day that left me feeling more connected to nature and at peace with myself. And, while my wellness break, like all good things, folded, I returned more connected to myself, prepared with the strength to confront a new normal.

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