Sri Lanka’s parks don’t have the scale, or quite as much “big beast” appeal, as Africa’s best reserves, says Michael Buerk in The Daily Telegraph. The country’s long-running civil war, now thankfully over, has shielded them from mass tourism, however. Between Yala National Park and the Indian Ocean, sits Chena Huts, a new safari lodge in the south of the island. It’s an exclusive and luxurious retreat, and something of a “Paradise Regained” now the war is over. One night, at the restaurant on the beach, the lobster had to be put on hold while a wild elephant “ambled through the lodges on his way to play in the surf”.
• Rooms from £946 in high season, with all excursions included. See UgaEscapes.com/chenahuts
A brush with bears in Finland
At the height of summer under the midnight sun is the best time to spot brown bears and wolverines in Finland, says Hazel Plush, also in The Daily Telegraph. Plush’s base was a wooden lodge in the forest, next to a lake near the Russian border. With a hunting knife on her hip and binoculars to hand, guide Sabrina looked like she could give Ray Mears a run for his money.
“‘Bear!’ someone whispered… but we’d all seen him emerge from the trees, sniffing the air as he sauntered towards us… With dinner-plate-sized paws, he overturned rocks and snaffled the meaty scraps hidden beneath, then strolled on, passing a mere five metres in front of us,” says Plush. “Any closer, and he could have nabbed my ham sandwich.”
• A four-day package costs from £499 per person. See Explore.co.uk
Japan’s tranquil forests
Japan’s Tohoku region is home to the country’s “most beautiful forests”, says Lydia Vasko in Singapore’s The Straits Times. Towada-Hachimantai National Park, for instance, has trails through oak, cherry and maple trees. “It is one of the best places to see the leaves change colour” this autumn. Further south, the subtropical island of Yakushima is home to ancient cedars, nestled between “wooden walkways and stones covered in emerald moss”. There, you can indulge in the art of shinrin-yoku – wandering through the trees, breathing in the “deeply fresh forest air”, before falling back to the natural spa at the Sankara hotel.
• Rooms from £472 per night, see SankaraHotel-spa.com