Sri Lanka is a land like nowhere, honestly, because of the country’s beauty. The rich culture, heritage, and traditions are why many tourists consider this one of the best travel destinations. Nature and natural beauty should not be taken for granted. The sandy beaches, the tremendous misty hill country, the waterfalls, the fauna and flora with lush green forests, and the tea estates create more beauty and value to the country as one of the top tourist destinations. The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is the most important and popular when discussing dense green forests. It is an essential resource to the country and the world and was named a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1988.
The location of the Sinharaja Rain Forest
This popular UNESCO heritage site is located across 18900 acres of land within the Sabaragauwa and the southern provinces of the island. Rivers bound it on three sides: the Napola Dola and Koskulana Ganga from the North, the Maha Dola from the South, and the Gin Ganga from the southwest. Also, on the west, it is bordered by the Kalukandawa Ela dn the Kudawa Ganga. You can take the ancient footpath near the Beverly tea estate by the Denuwa Kanda if you love a trail or hiking experience.
Reaching the Forest reserve is simple. You can get to the forest through Rathnapura, Kiriella, Kalawana, and Weddala if you are from the Nothern or Western parts of the country. You can enter the forest from Deniyaya if you are from the South. Also, if you come from Hambanthota, Udawalawe, the Entrance is Rakwana.
The specialty of the forest reserve at a glance!
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is the hotspot of biodiversity on the island. It is located in the southwest of the island in the lowland wet zone in the Sabaragamuwa and Southern provinces of Sri Lanka. It is the last viable area of primary tropical rainforests on the island, highlighting that we should not take it for granted but protect it with utmost care. The site covers 18,900 acres or 7,648 hectares. It is an altitude from 300m to 1,170m.
They are covering up the primary and secondary forests. The landscape of the area is so unique. It comprises a range of ridges and valleys. The annual rainfall over the last decades ranged from 3614-5006mm, and most showers form the southwest monsoon, which falls from May to July, and the North East Monsoon from November to January.
The climate of Sinharaja Rain Forest
The Sinharaja forest reserve area has a very mild and cooling climate with an annual temperature of Approximately 23.6 C. The site receives rainfall of more than 2500mm annually. The rain is very well managed and distributed within the two monsoon seasons.
Sinharaja Rain Forest is rich in endemic species of Sri Lanka!
More than 60% of the trees of the Sinharaja forest are endemic to the island, and many are rare. It is the same with the wildlife as well. The bird species, butterflies, mammals, and many insects make a fantastic combination.
The reptile species and the rare amphibians should not be ignored too. All of them are a perfect blend of the rich biodiversity of the Sinharaja rainforest. It is the best place to observe the mixed species of bird flocks and is considered the world’s most comprehensive bird flock study.
Apart from the bird species, the forest is home to 830 endemic species. Two hundred seventeen of them are trees and woody climbers, which are found in the low wetlands. Out of them, 139 are recorded as reserve species, including 16 rare.
It is important to note that the Endemism among the mammal species and the butterflies is also more significant than 50%. Among the rare species of animals and birds, the endemic purple-faced langur, Sri Lanka wood pigeon, leopard, Indian elephant, Sri Lanka blue magpie, ashy-headed babbler green-billed coucal, Sri Lanka white-headed starling, and Sri Lanka broad-billed roller are joint.
There are plenty of endemic and rare birds as well!
If you love observing birds and would love to watch the birds, a birding trip to Sinharaja is worth going. You can keep about 21 to 33 endemic bird species; the number could be even more. The logging roads provide excellent access to places where you can see a mixed combination of birds. Orange-billed Babbler, Crested Drongo, Red-faced Malkoha, Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush, Green-billed Coucal, Lesser Yellow nape, Orange Minivet, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Black napped 5 Monarch, Yellow-fronted Barbet, White-faced Starling, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Bronze-winged Pigeon, Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lanka Myna, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Legge’s Flowerpecker, Brown-backed Needletail, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Green Imperial Pigeon, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Frogmouth, Sealy Thrush, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Black-throated Munia, Layard’s Parakeet, Black Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Dark fronted Babbler and Velvet fronted Nuthatch. You could also look for the subcontinental endemic Sri Lanka Frogmouth in the evening.
The plant life
The vegetation of the forest reserve is known as a Tropical lowland rainforest or a tropical wet Evergreen Forest. It has the loftiness of dominant trees, primarily straight and tall. The average weight of the trees is between 35- 40 m. some trees even rise to 50m. The undergrowth is seldom and dense. You can also see many shrubs on rock shelves.
Topography of the rainforest reserve
The topography of the Sinharaja rainforest is unique. The elevation ranges from 200m to 1300m. The ridges and valleys create a rolling terrain that assumes an East-west trend in the Northwestern part of the reserve. The other parts have ridges ad valleys, considered North-west/southeast alignments. The peak Hinipitigala is the tallest, with a height of 1150 m height. Other significant ridges in the reserve are 550-800m tall. Moulawella, Kosgulana, Sinhagala, Kohileatambe, Dotalugala, and Tibbottagala are the other famous ridges within.
Most precious things that can be seen in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Maha Hedaya – A medicinal Plant
It is a privilege to find this rare medicinal plant on the premises of the Sinharaja forest reserve.
The Senkanda Cave
It is believed that a hermit named Senkanda lived in this rock cave. The legend about the hermit is as follows: Once, a person came into this forest to get rattan and get lost in the woods. The hermit found this villager and let him spend the night in his cave. The villager observed the woods, got more information about the forest from the hermit, and reported those to Kind Wickramabahu. By that time, the kingdom of King Wickramabahu was then based at Gampola. When an enemy attacked the domain, the King fled and hid in the rock cave of the hermit, and later the King built his empire in this forest.
This is the highest peak among other small mountains within the forest reserve. People in the area believe that the National and religious flags were hoisted at this peak during ancient times. This peak’s height is roughly 800 feet from the mean sea level.
The famous Pus Wela
The giant endemic liana called “Pus wela” near Kodimale is about 200 to 300 years old. It is a beautiful ornamental liana, which is unique and enhances the natural beauty and the value of the forest.
If you love hiking, this is one of the best trails around the royal pond. It is very famous among those who visit this forest. You can enjoy its tranquilizing natural beauty. The trail is Shady and cooling beneath the thick canopy of trees, and it is indeed a beautiful creation of nature.
The Royal Pond
It is said that the Queen and the other royal family members used this pond for water sports during King’s period. The legends say there is a golden pot with the valuables of King Keerthi Sri hidden at the bottom of this pond. Villages also believe it appears on the pond’s surface once a year and then disappears. According to folklore, the people who tried to get the pot on several occasions had been drowned dead. Some also say there is a tunnel from the middle of Kandy Lake to this pond.
The Marble Seat
The flat marble rock inside the forest, is believed to be used as a resting place by the royal family, who visited the woods to enjoy the beauty of nature. But currently, it has been removed from there and has been kept inside the Sri Dalada Sylvan to offer flowers.
Nature trails of Sinharaja Rain Forest
Two popular nature trails of Sinharaja Rain Forest lead to the peak of Moulawella and Sinhagala. Both of these nature trails start at Kudawa Conservation Centre. Both of them are equally enjoyable and charming. The courses run through The forest, which is densely crowded with tall trees. Small streams of crystal-clear cool water make a home for various fish and other water creatures. You meet many like this during the trails. The mixed species of birds are a lovely wight to enjoy during the course.
Sinhagala Nature Trail
The trail starts at the Entrance to the Kudawa Conservation Centre, Weddagala, Kalawana, and ends in Sinhagala Peak. The total length of the course is 2.4 km. It takes about 5-7 hours to hike, and the best months are December to April.
Mulawella Nature Trail
This trail starts at Kudawa Conservation Centre, Weddagala, Kalawana, and ends at Mulawella Peak Length of the course. It takes about 1-2 hours of Hiking, and the best time for the hike is during December to April.
Conserving the Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The need to conserve this last extensive primary lowland tropical rain forest in Sri Lana is high. Many endemic species of plants and animals need to be preserved for generations.