An overview of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Welcome to Sri Lanka’s very own “Lion Kingdom”. Well, at least that is what Sinharaja means in native Sinhalese. While the origin and explanation behind this famous national park’s name is up for debate, its significance and value to the island nation is not. Designated a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve is more than just any national park – it is one of the region’s core biodiversity hotspots. Spanning approximately 189 square kilometres and located within the Sabaragamuwa and Southern Provinces, the reserve is home to many endemic species of all types, including trees, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and many mammals.
On any given day, you can expect the reserve to be covered by rain clouds, which makes the region deceptively charming – in its own right. The abundance of rain means that the forest reserve’s deep soils are constantly replenished, helping it sustain its lush and dense vegetation. The rain within the region is also an importance source of water for many of the water resources that many of southwestern Sri Lanka’s inhabitants depend on – making it a critical and vital biodiversity spot. If you consider yourself a conservationist, a visit to Sinharaja should be a trip you need to make, and we strongly recommend you chat with the locals – particularly the insightful park rangers and guides.
Sinharaja’s ecological and water balance in the region largely stems from the fact that it is bordered by the Koskulana Ganga and the Gin Gana. You should consider a hike across an old footpath that takes you through the reserve and along the rivers, giving you tremendous views of the forest reserve’s highest peak – Hinipitigala, which stands tall at 1,171 meters. Despite the wet climate, navigating this beautiful part of the country is something we can assure you will be a serene and enchanting experience.
Unfortunately, given the dense greenery and vegetation, wildlife sightings are often very spotty, and you would have to be very lucky to catch a glimpse of animals as you would at the island’s other famous parks like Yala. The sightings are made more difficult by the fact that the reserve is home to only around 3-5 elephants and 15 leopards, making large mammal sightings rarer. However, one cute and fascinating animal you need to look out for is the endemic purple-faced langur, which is the most common large mammal you would likely spot in the reserve.
While large mammals may be difficult to come across, if reptiles are a species that fascinates you, then Sinharaja has many pleasant surprises for you. The reserve is home to the endemic green pit viper and hump-nose vipers. Be careful, though, as these snakes are among some of the most venomous on the island. Make sure you are always accompanied by guides and/or rangers who are capable of ensuring that your experience at the reserve is a safe one!
Given its ecological significance and importance to the region, the park is heavily regulated and monitored by the government and its authorities – most notably the Forest Department. For this reason, keep in mind that if you do plan on visiting the park, you would have to purchase your entry tickets from the nearby Forest Department office located in the town of Kudawa – you could also book your government-sanctioned accommodation from the same office in advance, in addition to trying out many of the other bungalows in the area.
Sinharaja offers its visitors a unique and truly breath-taking experience. From its climate to its biodiversity, the reserve is a main attraction for the increasing number of environmental conservationists visiting the island. Do not be surprised to meet a few students from all parts of the world studying the region’s ecosystem. Have a chat with them and learn more about how you can make a difference too!
Would you like more information about the region? Please get in touch with us or check out the other sections below!