2020 Feb 6
Encompassed by a sea of dark clouds, the Sinharaja rainforest remains the last lowland rainforest of Sri Lanka. It serves as a mystic and beautiful hotspot for biodiversity, providing a habitat for at least 139 endemic plant species and nearly half of the country’s mammals. Being one of the world’s only rainforests left that are relatively unharmed, Sinharaja holds its title as a World Heritage Site as declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1988.
Visiting the Rainforest
Rain should be anticipated year-round, however, there is a lesser chance of precipitation from January to April and August to September. If you seek wildlife, it is best to enter the park from the North since it is less disturbed by human intrusion from villages within the repository. The Pitadeniya entrance is more suitable for viewing the hidden waterfalls. When travelling to the Sinharaja rainforest, it is essential to have a knowledgeable guide or tracker to accompany you considering how dense it is. They can be hired at the entrance to the park for a cost of around LKR 600 or through . A guide’s eyes are trained to spot animals that are commonly missed by inexperienced first timers.
However, you should still keep your head on a swivel for an extra pair of eyes would only help. Furthermore, the only way visitors are permitted to travel is by foot. A skilled escort would be advantageous in navigating through the perplexing trails because of its sparsity in signs. With its abundant rainfall, trekkers must also be prepared to bear the jungle’s plethora of leeches and mosquitoes. Applying insect repellent or even salt would help cut down the chance of one of these dreadful encounters. Nonetheless, it is highly advised that you keep a routine lookout of your legs. It is also recommended that you wear trousers and socks appropriate for its relatively consistent temperature. Aside from that, feel free to take in the endless marvels and wonders this natural reserve has to offer.
Things to Explore
The forest is home to a broad array of flora and fauna, of which the majority are native to Sri Lanka. Keep your eyes peeled for some of the rarest birds in the country like the Sri Lankan Blue Magpie, Red-Faced Malkoha and the Green-Billed Coucal. What makes these birds unique is that they are part of mixed-feeding flocks, where six or more breeds cluster and set out together to forage for food. This phenomenon is exceedingly unusual, making it a treat for birdwatchers.
One impressive landmark to visit, a prominent attraction of the Sinharaja forest reserve, is the Kiruwana Ella Falls. About 5km east of Kotapola, these falls are some of the largest in Sri Lanka, with a height of up to 60m in some stages and a width of 60m at peak rainy season. If you do decide to go here, stay cautious of the slippery trails, ensuring to note your escort’s instructions.
Not too far by, you can find the Kotapola Ella Falls, a source used for generating hydroelectric power to the nearby village of Kotapola. Despite its beauty, this is one of the more underrated locations to find. To reach the waterfall, locate the Kosmodara bridge located on Kotapola – Urubokka Rd. Then walk about 750 meters towards Mugunumulla.
The Sinharaja rainforest also includes several religious monuments to exhibit the Buddhist culture of Sri Lanka. Situated 6km south-west of Deniyaya, lies the Kolawenigama Temple. When observing the structure of the temple, you can see it resembles that of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. The Kolawenigama Temple was built by King Buwanekabahu VII as a means for villagers to protect the Sacred Tooth Relic by offering their blessings. Additional similarities can be seen within the shrine including its Kandyan frescoes that date back to the Kandy era around 500 years ago. Despite some destruction it had undergone throughout the years, the temple still remains a point of interest for tourists. Further south and just a little westwards of Kotapola is the Getabaruwa Raja Maha Viharaya. Approaching this site is slightly more challenging than the previous temple because of its much steeper access route. However, you will eventually reach the summit of the famous Getabaru Kanda to find an ancient rock temple from the early 17th century built in to a natural cave, a remarkably attractive sight to the eye. The temple’s scenic environment includes a golden statue of the Buddha along with a variety of rare medicinal plants and indeginous animal species.