But since late 90s, Kithulgala started to open out to the world of adventure as one of the best destinations in Asia for White Water Rafting (WWR).
As the pioneering White Water Rafting entity in Kithulgala, ‘Base Camp’ was created in the year 1999 by Upul Nayanajith, who leads the way as the first rafting guide under British White Water Rafting expert Peter Black.
Located in Kalu-kohutenna, an ancient sleepy riverside hamlet just a couple of kilometres towards Ginigathhena, ‘Adventure Base Camp’ bordering the best of ‘white waters’ in the Kelani Ganga, is a real hideout to enjoy the essence of nature with a rafting experience.
It is an exclusive resort offering the ultimate in adventure activity, relaxation and seclusion from the hustle and bustle of city life. ‘Actually, I do not want to categorise, ‘Adventure Base Camp’ as a hotel. It is totally an ‘outbound leadership training and confidence building activity base centre’ for adventure groups. Waterfall Abseiling, Rope Adventure- high rope and low rope, Jungle trekking, Rock Sliding with Confident Jump and White Water Rafting are our specialities’ said Upul, the proprietor and Operations Manager of the property.
This amazing place is considered one of the best hide-outs in the Kithulgala jungle for adventure and nature lovers. ‘In the late 90s, WW rafting was for Colombo adventure elite and for foreigners only and there were no proper accommodation entities for overnight stays. So my guru Peter Black was keen on starting a decent accommodation place for rafters and that’s how the ‘Adventure Base Camp’ was initiated’ said Upul.
Starting in the year 2000, as the very first professional rafting centre in Sri Lanka, ‘Adventure Base Camp’ grew into one of the biggest adventure, leisure and outward bound training centres in Sri Lanka.
With a two-storey building as the main structure, today ‘Adventure Base Camp’ offers 18 luxury air-conditioned rooms, 22 non A/c rooms, five permanent camping tents for six campers each and a dormitory for 120 pax. It has a large outbound training centre at the other corner of the Resort, with two 150 pax each restaurant facing the beautiful river frontage, overlooking rafting routes.
Apart from all these activities, ‘Adventure Base Camp’ opened its 200pax banquet facilities for corporate and social functions.
‘We are confident that guests enjoy multiple sensations... the exhilaration and thrill from nature’s powerful forces at work. Kelani is the best white water rafting ground in Sri Lanka and it is graded as level three in the world ranking. The five, six and seven levels are found in South America, Africa and the USA. Our Rafters are highly skilled, well experienced, trained and licensed under the BCU (British Canoe Union)’ Upul explained.
The stretch of Kelani River six km downstream from the villages Kalukohutenna and Kalugala towards Kithulgala provides ‘grade two and three’ rapids for white water rafting. The upper 4 and 5 sections are suited to the experienced white water rafting adventurers. In between the rapids are a few calm stretches of 7 km run that takes about 90 to 100 minutes to complete the adventure.
‘Adventure Base Camp’ serves mainly Sri Lankan authentic cuisine along with all other cuisine from around the world, according to individual’s choice. Even packed lunches can be prepared for outdoor activities, while room service options are available’ Upul said.
One day excursions are popular with family units. These one-day excursions will give the guests an exposure to adventure and engaging in some leadership training activities. ‘We offer different packages for different teams-corporate units, true adventure lovers, family gatherings etc. Two to three day real outbound day training, adventure excursions, family leisure excursions can be arranged with accommodation up to 50 people on sharing basis, apart from camping and dormitory. At the end of the day we arrange campfire and BBQ sessions by the river’ he said.
‘Rafting, hiking, trekking, canyoning, rock climbing, outbound leadership training and team building are some of the activities available at the resort’ explained Upul.
Canyoning is an outdoor activity that combines route finding, rappelling, problem-solving, swimming, and hiking. ‘Adventure Base Camp’ is one of the premier places in the country to host these exciting activities. ‘Day trips can be arranged with rafting facilities, lunch, tea/coffee and snacks for Rs 2500/- per head. With BBQ Rs 3500/-.’ said Upul.
Apart from all adventure activities, ‘Adventure Base Camp’ offers excursions on request. Beli Lena caves, 8 km from Kitulgala revealed the remains (ten skeletons) of ‘Balangoda Manavaya’, Sri Lanka’s oldest inhabitant. Sri Pada excursions, Makandawa Forest excursion, Nuwara Eliya, Horton Place, Kandy are some of the other popular excursions.
By Sanath Weerasuriya
Pix by Shan Bandu Weerasinghe