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Kumana national park
Kumana national park is an ultimate dream destination on the island for any wildlife enthusiast. Kumana is situated 391km from the commercial centre of Sri Lanka. The park is shared by two districts namely Ampara and Monaragala. It is also known as Yala East Park. Kumana wildlife sanctuary spread over 18,149 hectares. Kumana is popular among the tourists as a place for bird watching and a camping site. Kumana is one of the most important places included in Many Sri Lanka tours for bird watching. Yala is the most visited wildlife exploration site in Sri Lanka and foreign tourists are not failed to include it in their Sri Lanka road trips.
An unspoiled park almost completely cuts off from civilization. Four wheel drive vehicle is the most suitable to roam around the park due to the difficult terrain. This wildlife heaven was closed for more than 18 years due to the Civil war.
The park mainly consists of Dry and arid zone vegetations. There is a large number of lakes with fresh water within the borders of Kumana national park. These estuarine are inhabited by crocodiles; some of the giant crocodiles are as much as five meters in length. Crocodiles can be best witnessed in the early morning and afternoon, while they are gaping at the sky with opened mouth. The crocodiles reduce the body temperature in this manner by passing out their body heat through their mouths.
Kumana is divided into two blocks and forms a fascinating region of scenic beauty, consisting of lagoons, many natural and restored water holes, rocky outcrops, ridges, open parkland, scrub jungle and patches of forests. Kumana Oya which flows along the southern borders of Kumana is one of the important water sources of the park. It creates Kumana estuary and Villu before it flows into the sea. The confluence of Alakola ara and other streams flow to Kumbukkan Oya and smaller streams such as the Giri kula and Bagura ara flow to their respective lagoons.
According to the historical information the park had been civilized in the ancient time. It had been inhabited by early settlers of the country from 3rd century BC to 10th century AD. Approximately 24 km. of the eastern boundary is sea coast where three species of sea turtles come to nest undisturbed by human activities, but the eggs are preyed upon by natural enemies such as wild boar, crab and jackal.
Contiguous with the sea coast is the serene, undulating sand dunes with the vegetation peculiar to such an environment and five lagoon sand spits across the Girikula, Andarakala, Bagura, Itikala and Yakala. These have a variety of aquatic fauna and flora.
Kumana is generally popular for its avian fauna. To see migratory birds coming from overseas, the best season is January and February. Nesting season of local birds is the best season for witnessing the hundreds of thousands of national birds. Kumana Villu teaming with nesting birds and their fledgelings during this period.
There are two nesting seasons, December – April and June – September. One can see the nests and the eggs from a safe distance, without disturbing them. Especially the 285 hectares Kumana mangrove swamp is inhabited by a large number of aquatic bird species. in the marshy swamp where Kiral and Hambu trees grow, birds like Pelicans, Painted Storks, White Ibis, Spoonbill, Eastern Grey heron, purple Heron and all species of Egrets nest, lay eggs and look after the fledgelings. Occasionally raptors and other birds of prey would swoop down on the unsuspecting chicks and carry them away for food.
A beautiful sight to behold is the floating nests of the Pheasant-tailed Jacanas and Black-winged Stilts. Illegal timber harvesting had been taken place, during the 18 years period as it was closed for general public. People from the nearby areas of Pottuvil and Panama had taken over the park and burnt and destroyed many trees. To the dismay of nature lovers, there had been barbeques arranged for foreign tourists coming from Arugam Bay. Even though Kumana is particularly popular for bird watching it is inhabited by a large number of wild animals such as elephants, wild boar, deer, monkeys and crocodiles. Even leopards were spotted in the park on several occasions.
Bird watching in Sri Lanka – bird migration
Sri Lanka is located at the extreme southern point beyond the south of India. The stretch of ocean from Sri Lanka to the South Pole contains no other land. Therefore migrant birds, which are flying in the direction of India, choose Sri Lanka as their final destination. Sri Lanka is one of the most popular destinations among migratory birds in the world, merely because of the location on the world map. There are over 460 bird species are recorded at this moment. About half of these are breeding residents. There are 3 flying routes across India along which immigrant birds come to Sri Lanka; the western route, the eastern route and the Andaman Island route.
The western route
This route lies along the western coast of India. Those birds using this route begin their journey from the northern and northwestern parts of the world. After reaching extreme south of India, which is called coumarin point, they fly further across the southern coast of India and arrive in Sri Lanka; most of these birds enters the island between Mannar and Kalutara.
The migrant birds from Europe, West Asia including western Siberia, & from the western regions of Himalaya including Kashmir are known to be using the western route.
The Eastern route
This migrate route starts from the northern and northeastern parts of the world and lies along the Eastern coast of India, towards southern India. Birds using this route flying further in the direction of Sri Lanka and reach the island passing the Indian coast between Kalmier point and Rameswaram. Most of these birds are flying from East Asian countries such as eastern Siberia and Mongolia. Birds from eastern regions of Himalaya including Tibet are also known to be using this route.
Andaman Islands route
Apart from the above-mentioned two migrant routes some of the birds are using the Andaman Islands route. This route falls across the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean. It is believed that these migratory birds, which are using the Andaman Islands route, start their journey from South East Asian and East Asian countries.
From October to April falls the main migration season of the birds in the island. It is believed, that birds are using the same route, on the return journey. However, some birds are known to be using the different routes on the return journey. Sri Lanka proved to be a top birding destination. All different types of birdwatchers will be able to find their likings here. This small island contains descriptions of 435 bird species including 110 migratory species. It is 26% of the total number of birds. During the Migratory period from November to February, birds visit Sri Lanka.