Sinharaja Forest – the Green Treasure Trove of Sri Lanka
“It is difficult to imagine how bizarre Sinharaja forest the largest extant Gondwana forest in southern Asia(Gondwana supercontinent existed 180 million years ago) is, it is the super bio-diversity hotspot in Sri Lanka with the highest concentration of endemic fauna and flora, majestically standing in the heart of Sri Lanka’s wetland, beyond the reach of the lumberman’s axe in 1977. Today it is fully secured and cherished under the emblem of “world heritage site” granted by UNESCO.
“Sinharaja” is a Sinhalese word and it means “Lion King. Sinharaja forest is the oldest forest patch of the island and it has many names such as UNESCO world heritage site, man and biosphere reserve, national heritage wilderness. Sinharaja forest occupies 118425 acres in the wet zone of Sri Lanka. The forest was first known to the island as “Sinhalaye Mukalana” (Forest of the Sinhala whose boundaries were unseen), later it was changed to Sinhalaye Raja Vanaya (The Royal Forest of the Sinhala) the name was further changed and became Sinharaja.
The beauty and scientific value of Sinharaja forest are beyond the imagination of most of us, protecting this biodiversity treasure trove is really important. We include this unmatchable natural jewel in our Sri Lanka adventure tour package with five hours trek accompanied by one of our rainforest experts.
Exploring Sinharaja rainforest during your Sri Lank tour is a rare opportunity to immerse in a fascinating wild palette. The Sinharaja rainforest is a rare opportunity to submerge yourself in a vital vegetation, almost as wet as the nearby sea, and has a never-ending vibration with life than any other forest.
Sinharaja rainforest is the eco-system with the largest combination of species in Sri Lanka. Unexplored, mysterious, concealed, large part of Sinharaja is still not known to the world and most of the jungle is inaccessible due to dense foliage. Unlike Amazon where you have the easy access to the interior of the forest using the Amazon river, Sinharaja does not provide navigable water resource to the interior of the forest. Perhaps this might be the reason that most travellers in Sri Lanka overlook Sinharaja against other places such as cultural sites, beaches, mountains etc.
In our Sri Lanka adventure tour, we include Sinharaja rainforest with an overnight stay in a nearby hotel. The travellers have the opportunity to spend a day in Sinharaja, you will find that Sinharaja is incomparable to anything that you have seen before, and the fauna and flora, mountains, borderland villages that are hidden in the jungle will be amazing travel memories.
The Sinharaja forest is 11,187 hectares in extent and when it is contiguous with Panagala, Moapitiya-Runakanda, Dellawa, Warathalagoda, Neluketiya and Delgoda forest reserve swell up to 47370 hectares, making it the largest constituent of the green canopy in the wet-zone amounting to about 43%.
Accommodation in Sinharaja forest
There are only very few up-market hotels in the vicinity of Sinharaja forest but there are many accommodation providers with small properties and providing the visitors clean and secure accommodation at an affordable rate. If you are heading to Sinharaja in the peak holiday season in Sri Lanka (from November to April) it is strongly recommended to have your accommodation finalized before arriving here. It might be difficult to find a place to sleep at the last moment during the high-occupancy period.
Sinharaja Sumitrayo (friends of Sinharaja) and Sinharaja village trust are two important organizations that are represented by the adjoining village community. A large number of villagers depend on the bounty of Sinharaja and the Sinharaja forest is an important income generator for some. These 2 organizations are fully focused on protecting the forest through the knowledge sharing, and skills among the members about the importance of conservation of Sinharaja forest while using the forest for financial gains. They have turned the village resources to the benefits of the travellers, without any negative impact on the forest. Same times villagers also benefitted from these programs. One such important initiative was an expansion of homestays that already in practice for some time in the area. As a traveller, anyone can support these communities by using the homestay accommodations provided by villagers, while enjoying warm, welcoming and personalized service to the travellers.
Inquiries for homestay through:
Tel: 0094-45-5681977, 009411631334, email:email@example.com
Hiniduma Rainforest community
Tel: 0094-91-2232585, Web: earthrestoration.org
The department of forest maintains dormitories for the visitors at Kudawa and Pitadeniya entrances. The reservation of rooms possible only at the headquarters of the forest department in Colombo from Monday to Friday during the office hours.
There are many members of the Sinharaja guide association, who are primarily young people from the nearby villages. They are providing guided village tours and jungle trekking to the travellers. Seerendipity tours always use the service of these young village boys who are very knowledgeable on the Faun and Flora of Sinharaja. These young boys are well trained to be rainforest guides through the projects and seminars sponsored by government and non-governmental organizations.
Access to the forest
There are 2 access points to the Sinharaja forest, Kudawa Sinharaja forest entrance and Pitadeniya entrance. Kudawa forest office is situated north of Kalwana about 120 kilometres from Colombo and the Pitadeniya entrance is located south of Deniyaya and Mediripitya about 180km from Colombo. Entrance ticket and guiding service can be obtained at the entrance for a fee and it is required.
The extent of Sinharaja forest
The Sinharaja forest is estimated to be 13 miles or 21 kilometres and it is only 7 kilometres or 4.3 miles along the north-south axis. Sinharaja is the most valuable forest patch in the island and harbours the most number of endemic fauna and flora species in Sri Lanka. Sinharaja forest has a large collection of trees, plants and animals, facts and figures about the vastness of the fauna and flora of Sinharaja are still not known to the world. But undoubtedly Sinharaja forest records the highest bio-diversity among all forests in Sri Lanka and it is a valuable repository of natural wealth.
There had been several exploration missions in the forest, but due to the biological complexity, no one has been able to ascertain the true value of the forest so far. A complete study of the forest cannot be fulfilled within a few days. Due to the vastness of the diversity, it may take even a lifetime to complete the exploration of the ferns, trees, and the creatures and reveal the secret of this forest patch.
Bio-diversity of Sinharaja forest
The number of amphibians recorded in the forest is 19 and out of them, 10 species are endemic to the island. From the 65 butterfly species recorded in the forest 21 species are endemic. Many rare species of butterflies found in the forest and some of them are occurring very rarely in other parts of the country such as Common Birdwing (Troidus helena), Blue Mormon (Paoilio Polymnestor), Blue Oakleaf (Kallima philarchas). Twenty-one species of endemic reptiles recorded in the forest and the number of non-endemic species of reptiles recorded as fifty-one.
The richness of Flora in Sinharaja is exceptional Ferns, Colourful flowers, vines, and trees of the canopy and upper canopy creates a thick forest cover and creates gloomy settings in the body of the forest. Bim Orchid (Arundina graminifolia) can besotted many places during the trek. There are two carnivore plants species can be found in the forest namely green bandura and red bandura. Red bandura is less occurring in the forest than its counterpart green bandura (Nepanthus distillatoria) and the red bandura. Red bandura believed to have medicinal value and useful when treating whooping cough.
The Jungle fowl (Gallus lafayetii ), the national bird of Sri lanka, which is endemic to the island can be spotted here with many other indegenous bird species such as Layard’s parakeet (Psittacula calthripae), the Spurfowl (Galloperdix bicalcarata), the Ceylon Hanging Parrot (Loriculus beryllinus), the Ceylon Wood Pigeon (Columba torringtonii), the Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush (Garrulax cinereifrons), Ceylon Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis), the Red-faced Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus), the Brown- capped Babbler (Pellorneum fuscocapillum), and the Ceylon Blue Magpie (Urocissa ornate).