Gal Oya: Digital Detox in the Wilderness
Have you ever felt like discarding your electronics, giving up your fiercely competitive lifestyle and heading out into the wilderness? Surrounded by rolling mountains, Gal Oya National Park’s pristine ecosystem is certainly one such place that’s worth escaping to – even if it’s only for a short vacation.
Located in Sri Lanka’s Uva and Eastern provinces, the park’s jungle wilderness is home to the iconic Gal Oya Dam, the largest reservoir in the country. This vast body of water and the park’s dense jungle is a spectacular feature of the region, and yet it remains virtually unexplored and off the radar for most visitors to Sri Lanka.
Don’t expect to remain connected while you’re exploring the park. There’s no Wi-Fi for miles, and even getting a good phone signal in most areas is not a reality. For this reason, Gal Oya Lodge – the park’s only accommodation option – is rustic, but it has all you will need, including wonderfully appointed lodgings, an excellent team of local guides and some of the best food to be found in the country.
And just when you think a Sri Lankan safari is nothing out of the ordinary, Gal Oya Lodge offers you the opportunity to go on a safari by boat – one of the very few places in Sri Lanka where this is possible. Forget about eating dust, grinding gears and the whining engine of a jeep, on this safari you’ll glide over the glassy waters of the lake to spot wildlife from the safety of your boat.
Gal Oya is known for its elephant herds that can be seen throughout the year – sometimes swimming between islands, or bathing on the lake’s edge. Crocodiles can be spotted too lazing along the sandbanks or sliding silently into the water, while all around there are the sounds of the echoing forest – home to birds, monkeys, and other indigenous creatures. The boat safari also includes a picnic break on a remote island overlooking the lake in a location so captivating that you may enter an almost Zen-like state.
Visitors to the lodge can even dig deeper into the culture and history of Gal Oya by joining a walk with the chief of the Vedda tribe, the forest-dwelling, indigenous people of Sri Lanka. The forest comes alive as he explains his tribe’s use of medicinal plants, the location of their ancient hunting grounds and cave dwellings, as well as stories of how these hunter-gatherers survived in the ancient jungles of Gal Oya.
Other options include a leisurely hike with a resident naturalist along trails close by to Gal Oya Lodge, where you can observe the abundant birdlife. The area offers a number of easy trails through the forest to the nearby lake, which you can hike along without a guide.
Gal Oya National Park is one of those places where things don’t need to be scripted and the itinerary doesn’t have to be set in stone. Go with the easy pace and you will be surprised at how much you can achieve offline, cut off from the rest of the world.
For more information on Gal Oya and other attractions in the region, get in touch with us at [email protected].