Mr. Radheesh Sellamuttu, Managing Director of Leopard Trails.
Radheesh recognized from a young age the phenomenal wildlife biodiversity of his country Sri Lanka. Inspired by the golden era of British explorers of early 19th century wild Ceylon, Radheesh left his business career to start designing adventure trips in Sri Lanka. His company, Leopard Trails tented safaris, allows a modern wildlife experience in “spectacular solitude and soothing comfort.”
What do we need to know about Radheesh Sellamuttu?
I went to boarding school in Australia and completed my schooling in Sri Lanka. Academic excellence was important to me growing up. I have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Imperial College London. My post-graduate qualifications and professional experience are in finance. I am passionate about wildlife, trading stocks, cooking Sri Lankan food, and spending money on experiences!
How did you start Leopard Trails?
Being immersed in the nocturnal noises of the jungle while enjoying the comforts of first class service appeals to me. I spent my school holidays camping in Sri Lanka’s national parks. Other safari experiences in Africa and India inspired me to craft a similar experience at home in Sri Lanka, which has a phenomenal wildlife product. I saw a need for wildlife tourism. One night, deep inside Yala National Park the idea germinated while chatting with like-minded friends who later became partners.
How has Leopard Trails evolved over the years?
When we started with our Yala camp, I would do a lot of the work myself and micromanage everything. Now, with a larger team things have become more relaxed and I can oversee work off my smartphone. In 2014 we launched our second camp in Wilpattu. Working with and empowering the local community is important to us but it has presented unique challenges. Wilpattu experienced the worst flood it has seen in decades in December 2014, and we had to evacuate our equipment with the help of the military. We have evolved to learn from each challenge and I have learned the value of guides who are truly passionate about their job and are the true ambassadors of our wildlife.
How is Leopard Trails the best in tented safaris in Sri Lanka?
We focus on constantly innovating and adapting to provide experiences that evoke strong human emotions. What really sets Leopard Trails apart is our guiding team, and the safari experience we offer. We seek out the best of the best with both education and experience. While knowledge is key, we emphasize the delivery of knowledge and interacting with customers when picking our guides. We have learned from experts who have trained the military on animal tracking, those with experience guiding on other continents, those passionate about photography, and those involved in reptile research such as the human-crocodile conflict in Sri Lanka. Our latest initiative is to learn to identify individual leopards. This has inspired our guides and helped us gain a deeper understanding of the lives of leopards.
Responsible tourism and sustainability is one of our core values. How does Leopard Trails incorporate sustainable practices in its business?
We always adhere to national park rules, and demonstrate ethical wildlife viewing practices. We would rather have a laugh with our guests telling them about ironic instances of males being more ornate than females in the animal kingdom rather than speed to a sighting with dozens of vehicles and disturbing the animal. We also source our supplies and employ about half of our staff from the local area including laborers, carpenters, welders, and transportation providers. We use glass water bottles on safari, our Wilpattu camp runs entirely on solar power and our next big goal is to convert to electric safari vehicles.
If a traveler had one day to spend in Sri Lanka, what is the best of the best that you could offer that guest?
A home cooked meal on arrival with an evening photo safari using the best equipment followed by snacks and drinks at a waterhole as the sun goes down. Return to camp for a hot alfresco shower and a cosmic safari on clear nights or a short presentation on leopards while dining on barbecued garlic butter jumbo prawns. Rise early for a dawn safari with high hopes to spot a leopard.
Your friendly Sri Lanka travel expert,