The Horton plains national park better known as hill country wonderland is considered to be one of the most important forest reserves in Sri Lanka (about Sri Lanka). It is recognized as one of the biological hot spots due to its very high biodiversity. The Horton plains national park is situated in the central part of the country towards the southern end of the central province.
Being one of the last remaining mountain forests lies at the elevation of 2300 above sea level, it has a very strange atmosphere and beauty unique to the reserve. Many species of endemic fauna and flora of the wet zone forests can be seen in Horton Plains. This biodiversity hotspot is part of most Sri Lanka nature tour packages.
Horton plains national park with a unique atmosphere, fauna and flora are a forest at the elevation of 2300 meters above the sea level. As the name suggests part of the reserve is a plateau of grass supposed to be originated after clearing the primaeval forest by the Stone Age man of the country (Homo sapiens balangodensis) (Read more on stone-age man of Sri Lanka). The historical forest believed to be inhabited by Stone Age man more than 28000 years ago. Archaeologists have discovered many artefacts, stone implements that were supposed to be used by the historical man and proved to be many thousand years old, after the carbon 14 method.
Importance of Horton plains as a catchment area
Horton plains is an important catchment area in the country with very high annual rainfall, which is nearly 5000 mm. Walawe, Bogawanthalawa Oya and Mahaweli are some of the most important rivers for the island and, which starting from Horton plains. Kirigalpotta (2393m) and Totupolakanda (2359m) second and third highest mountains in the country are also located within the borders of the Horton Plains.
Biodiversity of Horton plains national park
With a unique mixture of trees and plants, this natural wonder covers 3160 hectares in the mountains. It has both Grassland or Patana and Sub-mountain wet evergreen vegetation, which spread in the direction of west and mingle with Peak Wilderness Sanctuary.
Horton plains used as a hunting ground starting from mid-18’s and which caused the extinction of hill country elephants from the country. By considering its importance for the environment, ecology, and biodiversity, it was declared as a nature reserve in 1969 and later on further increased its importance being declared as a National park in 1988.
The worlds end considered being one of the most important attractions of the national park and one of the most visited places within the nature reserve. The world’s end drops 884 meters abruptly from the ground and provides a beautiful view over the tea plantation below. Worlds end is located 3 km from the entrance and needs to have nearly one and a half-hour walk to reach the viewpoint.
Horton Plains is the home for many species of endemic freshwater fish and birds species. Some of them are the Yellow-eared bulbul (Pycnonotus penicilatus), Sri Lanka white-eye (Zosterope ceylonsis), and Sri Lanka whistling thrush (Myiophonus blight). Strong wind in the park, cold nights with mist and frost make the trees to be bent and huddle resulting in small trees with twisted trunks. One another characteristic of the trees are small leaves in order to save the heat.
purple-faced langur locally known as the bear monkey is only seen in the high elevation such as Horton Plains. The unusual dense coat of these vertebrates is an adaptation to the cold climate in the region. Barking deer (Muntiacus munt-jak), Jet black giant squirrels (Ratufa macroours), wild boar (Sus scrofa), Sambhur (Rusa unicolor) and fishing cats (Felis viverrinus) also inhabits in the park. Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) one of the biggest mammals in the country also inhabits in Horton Plains.
Trekking through Horton plains national park
A world apart from Sri Lanka, the plains can be used for trekking and it provides a nine-kilometre circular walk to the world’s end, where the cliff plunges dramatically for nearly 1,000m, offering marvellous of the south. The Horton Plains are inhabited by many species of animals such as sambar deer, monkeys, leopards many species of birds and many numbers of amphibians.
Surrounding of Horton Plains is a charming countryside with many sites for trekking and number of waterfalls. There are a few sites where one can perform Canoeing and rock climbing as well.
This is why you should be careful while visiting the world’s end?
World end is one of the most visited spots within the borders of Horton Plains national park. One can have a breathtaking birds-eye view over the surrounding low-land area from the world end. Visiting worlds end is included in every Horton plains national park visit. The travellers encounter worlds end as they walk along the trek in the park.
A newly married couple arrived from Netherland recently and they were enjoying the cool and fresh breeze in the forest reserve of Horton Plains. It was their first foreign trip after the marriage. They were just wandering along the footpath in the forest while enjoying the beautiful sceneries across the grasslands and patches of forests. After a while, they reached the world’s end.
Worlds end is a precipice with an 870 meters drop. Undoubtedly the end of the world is the best location to see the great vistas of the low land. The couple was fascinated by the interesting blend of nature in the park. With great enthusiasm, Mathleen hurried to make several photos. It would be an important reminiscence of their first Sri Lanka trip after the wedding. Mathleen was trying to judge the best angle to take a photo of his wife with a beautiful background. Unfortunately, Mathleen lost his balance as he moved backwards and fallen off the peak.
Fortunately, it was not the end of Mathleen even though he was fallen off the 870 meters precipices. He was lucky enough to grab a branch of a tree as he was slipping down through the woods. He was hanging on to a tree branch for about 3 hours until the rescue mission was started. He was about 35 meters down the cliff.
There had been many tourists at the end of the world as Mathleen was fallen off the mountain, but they were not in a position to rescue him. And “Linda” his wife was helpless in the foreign soil. The news was passed to the park rangers and police paving the way for the rescue operation.
The first attempt of rescue operation with the help of a helicopter had to be abandoned due to the bad weather conditions in the area. As the hopes fading away and no other option to think of to rescue the valuable life, a brave soldier of the Sri Lankan army appeared on the scene. He was Corporal Sudesh Nalinda attached to the Nuwara Eliya army camp. Knowing the danger of the mission he was not afraid to take the risk of going down the precipices. Momentarily, Sudesh started to move down and reached exhausted Matheleen after a perilous journey, who was hanging on to a tree branch for many hours. Later Matheleen was rushed to the hospital due to minor injuries and discharged on the same day.
Matheleen and his wife did not forget to visit the soldiers, who helped them in the nearby camp and extend their gratitude. The couple was received with great warmth and they had the opportunity to have a friendly chat with the soldiers, who took part in the rescue mission.