Marianne David looks out –The apex predator here, the Lankan leopard has been stealing the spotlight from other wildlife destinations around the world, bringing in celebrity visitors and boosting Sri Lanka’s profile as a nature lover’s paradise, especially since the end of the war.
It’s no surprise then that Cinnamon Wild Yala, John Keells Hotels’ world class game lodge located on the periphery of the Yala National Park, has gone to great lengths to protect the leopard and its habitat.
The perfect place from which to experience sensational safaris and many other exciting experiences, the property was formerly the iconic Yala Village. It was refurbished in 2011 with a Rs. 400 million investment and re-launched as Chaaya Wild. After meeting all standard operations and processes required of a Cinnamon property, it was transformed as Cinnamon Wild .
From the lodge, it takes less than 10 minutes to drive to the park, which boasts not only leopards but also elephants, deer, peacocks and peahens, rabbits, wild boar, crocodiles, water monitors and land monitors, over 200 kinds of birds, rusty spotted cats and golden jackals, amongst many other kinds of wildlife.
“For Cinnamon Wild, which sits on the periphery of Yala, the biodiversity that surrounds us is what makes a stay at this property unforgettable. Seeing the top carnivore in Sri Lanka can always be spectacular. Our commitment to research and protect this top cat is sincere and will continue in the future,” Keells Hotel Management Services Head of Eco Tourism and Special Projects Chitral Jayatilake told the Daily FT.
It is estimated that there are about 40 to 60 leopards in the park, in addition to over 200 elephants. Although in Africa a leopard’s range spreads over 50 to 75 square miles, in Yala the territory range is around two to five square miles, which makes Yala extra special when it comes to sightings, leading to its well-deserved fame.
Kicking off a media briefing at Cinnamon Wild , John Keells Group Head of Brand Marketing – Cinnamon Hotel and Resorts and Vice President Dileep Mudadeniya said the people who are coming to the country are savvy travellers looking for more experiential tourism.
“It is our responsibility as a responsible tourism partner and hotel chain to provide such experiences. With Cinnamon Wild being located in a strategic and important place, it is our responsibility to develop such projects, not only from the hotel’s point of view but also from the travellers’ point of view,” he said, adding that responsibility and sustainability are two key words at Cinnamon properties.
Outlining the sustainable efforts being carried out by Cinnamon Wild in his presentation, Jayatilake revealed that leopards living on the periphery of the park visit cattle farms and prey on young calves. The half-eaten carcasses anger farmers and revenge attacks by villagers leave leopards in great danger. The leopard pen project titled ‘Project Leopard’ was initiated in order to mitigate this and achieve a win-win situation.