Jetwing Yala: Chasing Asia’s Leopards

As we drive off on board the safari jeeps, the dusty red, clay road ahead of us is only just a modest start to our prolific wildlife explorations for the day, at the Yala National Park – the Park is known to have one of the highest leopard concentrations in the world while it is also home to a number of Asian elephants, sloth bears, peacocks, crocodiles and a plethora of flora and fauna.

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Our driver, a young, funny fellow, well trained in leopard spotting from any considerable distance otherwise unattainable to the human eye, is a refreshing burst of jokes, combating our fatigue from the subduing heat.

Nothing on the road yet, some complain, until we suddenly come to a shrieking halt: an unidentifiable creature leisurely crossing our path.

This is how daily life unfolds at Yala, Jetwing’s newest hotel in the midst of some of Asia’s paramount wildlife. Blissfully insulated twenty minutes away from the main road, what initially looks like army quarters from afar is soon revealed to be a zen hotel surrounded by lush greenery, set on a 38 acre land adjoining the Indian Ocean. The panoramic views are sure to make you gasp!

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Jetwing Yala exudes simple elegance from every corner, while focusing on sustainability; it hosts the largest privately owned solar park in Sri Lanka. Whether it’s the surrounding wild habitat, or the interior’s colors and details, the property offers its guests a back to nature feeling. All guestrooms (with a choice of Superior and Deluxe accommodations) exhibit muted, earthy tones, with a splash of turquoise or red.

The King coconut I was zealously sipping out of as I walked into my room, perfectly matched the green tones of the canopy bed. The Superior room I would now call home was no ordinary space, but a spacious dwelling to rest, dine and lounge on my very own terrace.

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The finest feature, however, is surely the bathroom. Larger than most hotel rooms in other parts of the world, this bathroom teased me from the very beginning, with its showerhead under the clear blue sky and liberating feeling, due to lack of unnecessary doors, bulky bathtubs and slippery floors.

One other extraordinary feature is the infinity swimming pool, with seemingly fresh water from the ocean. Don’t be surprised to see guests stay well into the night into their robes, having transitioned from the pool onto the beach where cocktails are served. Jetwing Yala is just the place to do so. From a blanket full of stars to a first glimpse of a burning sunrise, your stay here is full of rewards.

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Dining is another. From lotus curries and the island’s spiciest dishes, to Western delicacies and Japanese delights, to a sinful palette of desserts, Jetwing Yala is a gastronomic journey in itself that is both diverse, as it is delicious.

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So grab your Lion (the Sri Lankan beer, what else?!), and join the beach party for the night. This may be Jetwing Yala, but no lions, or leopards, for you tonight …

Monica Suma

Monica Suma is a Romanian-American freelance travel writer and blogger, always on the hunt for art, good food and all things Cuba. Through storytelling and an insatiable pursuit for whimsy, she contributes to a variety of publications such as Lonely Planet, BBC Travel, Business Traveller and more. Follow her adventures live on Instagram and Twitter.

How Millennials Relate to Adventure and The Outdoors

As a Millennial, one of roughly 80 million Americans born between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s, I know that understanding my diverse generation can be challenging.

While ample research and media coverage has focused on our addictions to cell phones, laptops and social media, more could be understood about how Millennials relate to adventure and the great outdoors.

For insight into this topic, let’s look at the shifting marketing practices of outdoor retailers — those responsible for “selling” nature.

Speaking at an Outdoor Industry Association trade event, Jill Levinsohn, who lead a research project on the future of outdoor retail conducted by design and innovation firm, IDEO, found that “many young people view the outdoors as something that starts at their front door, is part of everyday life and is best experienced with friends and family.” Levinsohn added that to reach Millennials, retailers must “think of it as going from ‘Outdoorsy’ to ‘Outsidesy.’

If you look at the marketing messages of outdoor and adventure retailers, you may notice a shift away from high-octane images, like a solo kayaker traversing a waterfall, to images of groups experiencing a picture-perfect nature scene in a more leisurely fashion. This is the idea of adventure and the outdoors that Millennials are drawn to. Here’s why:

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Millennials want to be together

 Millennials are highly social creatures who, according to research conducted by HVS, a travel and hospitality consulting firm, “are more likely [than any other group] to travel socially with friends and family.” HVS also notes that more than any other generation, Millennials will travel to pursue their personal and shared group interests, such as food, entertainment, shopping and outdoor activities.

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Millennials want unique and special experiences (that they can share online)

There’s an old Millennial saying, “If you hike to the top of a beautiful mountain and don’t take a selfie, did it really even happen?” Alright, I’ll admit I made that up, but nonetheless, it holds truth.

According to a survey conducted by Chase Card Services, “Three in four Millennial travelers post to social networks at least once a day while traveling.” HVS add that when it comes to accommodations, Millennials search for “something extra” and the “cool factor,” as “they do not wish to Instagram a photo of a boring room to share that with their friends.”

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Millennials want the finer things 

Millennials don’t like being too far from creature comforts. Leading travel and hospitality public relations firm, Turner PR, says, “Millennials are adventure seekers. [They] want to be immersed in the local culture while still maintaining the conveniences of home while on the road.”

Findings from the Chase Card Services also note that “Millennials are a tech savvy generation that values social connections, convenience and opportunities to indulge in luxuries.” The survey also found that more than any other group, Millennials are willing to indulge in luxury services while traveling.

What does this mean for Millennials and the outdoors?

When it comes to adventure and the outdoors, Millennials appear to natural born glampers. Here’s why:

  • Millennials want to be together – Like camping, glamping (glamorous camping) is an activity made better with the addition of friends or a significant other.  Simply put, sitting around a campfire alone is no fun.
  • Millennials want unique and special experiences (that they can share online) – With friends in tow, Millennials crave unique experiences that reflect who they are. Glamping experiences like sleeping in a safari tent on the beach in Fiji at Maquai Beach Surf Resort or in a treehouse in Costa Rica at Finca Bella Vista certainly fit the bill. Plus, glamping is guaranteed to produce a social media worthy photo.
  • Millennials want the finer things – The word ‘glamping’ can be misleading. It just sounds expensive. While you can indulge in splurge-worthy $1,000 per night accommodations, there are plenty of affordable ways to glamp that provide luxuries far beyond a tent with a sleeping bag on the ground — like staying in a cabin at Dale Farm Holidays in the United Kingdom, a yurt in Canada at Wya Point Resort, or an Airstream trailer at Santa Barbara Auto Camp in California.

Speaking from experience, I know that Millennials enjoy the great outdoors in different ways. No matter whether you like to get dirty or prefer a more refined experience, as long as you get outside and put down your cell phone (fine, just a few photos for Facebook) you’ll be on the right track.

Trevor Morrow is a Los Angeles based travel who runs the experiential travel blog TrevorMorrowTravel.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @trevormorrow.

Trevor Morrow

Trevor Morrow is a Los Angeles-based travel writer, blogger, and photographer who specializes in luxury and adventure travel. His work has brought him around the world and his work has been published across the web by outlets like Men’s Health, Outside, Business Insider and more.

Glamping Review: Patagonia Camp

Inside Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia, there are many fabulous and transporting options for lodging, most of them highlighting the incredible natural riches of the area. But perhaps nothing will get you closer to the outdoors than a stay at Patagonia Camp and its collection of 18 luxury yurts on the edge of Lake Toro.

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Patagonia Camp has an ecological mission to minimize its impact (as well as its guests’) on the environment. For example, instead of mowing down trees (like the lenga, a tree indigenous to Chile)) that surround the property to make space for your bedroom, all the camp architecture is placed on wooden stilts and platforms. Patagonia Camp also recycles its water through a waste treatment plant, which is why you’re discouraged from using your own bath amenities and should instead go to town on the ones already in yurt. And before visions of ho-hum shampoos and soaps clog your mind, know that the hotel collaborated with a company in Santiago to create products that are not only biodegradable but sweet-smelling, too. The travel-size bottles of body treats are packed with ingredients like aloe vera and lavender that will make you forget you ever brought your own stuff. I loved the shampoo so much I took it with me at check out.

Amenities

The All-Inclusive option, which is what most guests go for when booking here, includes a variety of perks, from local transfers and the park’s entrance fee to an open bar, meals and a selection of excursions. More intrepid (read: fitter) travelers will definitely want to do the Torres Base Trek, one of the famed hikes in Patagonia that will inflict all sorts of physical demands such as the final 45-minute uphill climb to the foot of the Three Towers, one of the geographical icons of South America. Patagonia Camp’s location right by Lake Toro, however, affords its guests plenty of exclusive excursions, too, like fishing on the lake and a fairly easy hike to one of the nearby waterfalls. If you want to spring for activities not included in the program but well worth the added expense, kayaking on Lake Grey is one of those Bucket List experiences you never thought you had. An afternoon spent paddling around with floating glaciers close enough to touch is simply unforgettable. All of it is guided by kind (and thankfully patient) locals who have mastered this area and, more than likely, the English language. Patagonia Camp is constantly developing new excursions to give travelers truly immersive opportunities when they’re in Patagonia. Who knows what new-fangled itinerary they’ll come with next?

Front desk

After a day of adventure that will acquaint you to Patagonia’s natural majesty, you’ll retreat back to camp for a little R&R before that evening’s meal. The main house is essentially the one-stop shop at Patagonia Camp. It’s where you check in, there’s a lounge where you can hang out and perhaps meet other guests, there’s a small bar where you can try some Chilean vinos, and it also houses the main dining room where all meals are served. Almost everything that comes from the kitchen is local and sourced from Puerto Natales, a small town outside the park. One of the more spectacular meals at the camp is the traditional lamb BBQ, which is organized three nights a week. An entire lamb is slow-roasted for five hours leaving it deliciously tender. Its served with all sorts of sides and vegetables, filling enough to reclaim all the calories you would lose after a full day’s hike.

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The yurts themselves aren’t particularly huge (each is about 300 square feet in total plus a terrace), but they are wonderfully decorated with locally handcrafted furniture like the pale wood desk and bed plus colorful woven textiles and plush animal hide area rugs. Each unit is simple, uncluttered and stylish. The bed is placed directly under a clear patch of the yurt’s roof allowing you to soak in star-lit skies before going to bed. It’s a fantastic inclusion that you may not think you want but given the low air pollution in Patagonia, you’ll (especially city dwellers who never see the star) be glad it’s there. And the large windows that look out to the lake will constantly remind you of just how gorgeous and unspoiled this pocket of the world is. Leaving the curtains open at night and letting the stream of sunlight to wake you up in the morning is the perfect start to a day in Patagonia. And the bright turquoise of Lake Toro will be the first thing you’ll see.