inharaja Forest Reserve meaning ‘Lion Kingdom’ is the best known Rain Forest in the country and has been identified as important biodiversity hotspot. The Park was originally declared a forest reserve in 1875 and due to its international importance it was designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. It is situated 172.1 km from Colombo via the Southern Expressway and is accessible from any of its three entrances; Pitadeniya, Kudawa and Morning Side. The vegetation at Sinharaja is that of a tropical wet evergreen forest with large trees that grow to heights of 35m to 40m and even going up to 50m, believed to have unbelievable genetic potential, waiting to be tapped. Some families of Dipterocarpaceae show an endemism of over 90%, of the 211 woody trees and lianas, 66% or 139 of them are endemic to the forest reserve. The lower plants such as Ferns and epiphytes of the 25 endemic species 13 have been recorded within Sinharaja itself. The secondary forest type is mainly made up of minor forest and scrub brought about by human activity. The forest reserve benefits from both monsoon rainfalls - the south-west between May-July and north-east between November-January each year. The average temperature recorded is between 18-27 degrees centigrade, with February being the only dry month experienced in the park.
The forest reserve recognized as a living heritage, though relatively smaller than other National Parks, it extends over an area of 11,187 hectares, bordering the three districts of Galle, Matara and Ratnapura. The forest reserve receives an annual rainfall of 3000-6000 mm throughout the year. Two important rivers; namely the Gin and Kalu Ganga (Rivers) and many other waterways are fed and nourished by the waters that flow from thisverdent forest reserve. The forest cover is denser than other dry zone parks making it more secure for the wildlife yet making it a little harder for visitors to take a glimpse of the larger mammals such as the Leopard and Elephants. This tropical rain forest believed to be home for almost 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic wildlife draws thousands of visitors wanting to explore and experience this natural wonder that is rich in endemism; an inevitable treasure trove bursting with various species of flora and fauna. The high diversity of vegetation within the reserve has made it a favorable sanctuary for various species of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, amphibians and plant life; all co-existing within the ecosystem.
The larger mammals are the Elephants (only few seen on the Rakwana side) Leopard, Sambar, Fishing Cat, Rusty Spotted Cat, Barking deer, Mouse deer, Jackal and Wild boar and the commonly seen endemic Purple-faced langur and the Toque macaque, a reddish brown monkey. The smaller mammals include, Porcupine, Otter, three types of squirrels; Giant, Small striped and Flying, two species of Mongoose- the Badger and Brown, two species of Civets; Ring-tailed and Golden Palm, many species of Bandicoot, Rats, Bats and even the very rare Pangolin. Some of the reptiles are Python, Green pit viper, the Hump-nosed viper and Rough-nosed horned lizard. It is known that 50% of the endemic amphibian species of the country are found in Sinharaja; this includes Greater hour-glass tree frog, Wrinkled frog, Reed frog and the Torrent toad.
Sinharaja has recorded over 154 species of birds and is known to have a ‘mixed-species feeding flocks’ or informally called a ‘bird wave’ where two or more species feed and move together. This unique sight witnessed at Sinharaja sometimes consists of flocks containing 30-50 birds of various species sometimes 10-12 species, erupting in various bird sounds as they feed and move within a short time. Taking lead in this exercise is the Orange-billed babbler and the Crested drongo. The endemic birds witnessed here include Ceylon Lorikeet, Layard’s parakeet, Jungle & Spur fowl, Sri Lanka Blue magpie, Sri Lanka Grackle, Ceylon Hanging parrot, Ceylon Grey hornbill, Ashy-headed laughing thrush, Layard’s parakeet, Spotted-wing thrush, Brown-capped babbler, Ceylon Hill mynah, Red faced malkoha, Legge’s flower-pecker amongst many others.
Udawalawe National Park lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, in Sri Lanka. The national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River, as well as to protect the catchment of the reservoir. The reserve covers 30,821 hectares (119.00 sq mi) of land area and was established on 30 June 1972. Before the designation of the national park, the area was used for shifting cultivation (chena farming). The farmers were gradually removed once the national park was declared. The park is 165 kilometres (103 mi) from Colombo. Udawalawe is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan elephants. It is a popular tourist destination and the third most visited park in the country.
Udawalawe lies on the boundary of Sri Lanka’s wet and dry zones. Plains dominate the topography, though there are also some mountainous areas. The Kalthota Range and Diyawini Falls are in the north of the park and the outcrops of Bambaragala and Reminikotha lie within it. The park has an annual rainfall of 1,500 millimetres (59 in), most of which falls during the months of October to January and March to May. The average annual temperature is about 27–28 °C (81–82 °F), while relative humidity varies from 70% to 82%. Well-drained reddish-brown soil is the predominant soil type, with poorly drained low humic grey soils found in the valley bottoms. Mainly alluvial soils form the beds of the water cources.
The habitat surrounding at the reservoir includes marshes, the Walawe river and its tributaries, forests and grasslands. Dead trees standing in the reservoir are visual reminders of the extent of forest cover before the construction of the Udawalawe Dam. Green algae, including Pediastrum and Scenedesmus spp., and blue green algae species such as Microsystis, occur in the reservoir. Areas of open grassland are abundant as a result of former chena farming practices. There is a plantation of teak beyond the southern boundary, below the dam, which was planted before the declaration of the park. Species recorded from the park include 94 plants, 21 fish, 12 amphibians, 33 reptiles, 184 birds (33 of which are migratory), and 43 mammals. Additionally 135 species of butterflies are among the invertebrates found in Udawalawe.
The scenic and serene village of Kitulgala is situated west of Sri Lanka, 95 km from Colombo on the Colombo-Avissawella- Hatton Road in the Sabaragamuwa Province. From Colombo, Kitulgala can be reached via the Colombo-Avissawela- Ruwanwella route. Kitulgala is where the famous film “The Bridge over the River Kwai” the World War II epic film directed by David Lean was filmed. Being situated in the wet zone Kitulgala receives rainfall from two monsoons every year, giving the region its lush green vegetation, verdant mountains and the impressive Kelani River’s cascading waters.
The Kitulgala Forest Reserve (Makandawa Forest Reserve) covering 1,155 ha was established with the objective of protecting the catchment of the Kelani River. It is a secondary lowland rainforest gradually moving towards higher elevations and is accessible by crossing the Kelani River by boat (usually a traditional dugout canoe with an outrigger) and it is sometimes possible to wade across during the dry seasons. The forest reserve with its rain forest habitat, similar to the Sinharaja Rain Forest is home to many endemic species of fauna and flora, in addition to scenic waterfalls; such as the Makulu Ella and Lenakiri Ella.
The bird species found here include 54 rare species; this includes the Green billed coucal, the Chestnut-backed owlet, Yellow-fronted barbet, Ceylon jungle & spur fowl, Layard’s parakeet, Ceylon lorikeet, Ceylon rufous babbler, Red faced malkoha, Ceylon blue magpie, Sri Lanka spot-winged thrush, Grey hornbill, Common hill mynah in addition to the newly discovered Serendip Scops Owl and many migrant waders who visit the forest reserve during the migration season. The mammals commonly seen here are the Grizzled-tailed giant squirrel and the rarely seen Red slender loris.