Muturajawela wetland is a Ramsar wetland just north of Colombo near the popular beaches of Negombo, is a vast tract of land- most of Muthurajaela is hidden under the water even in the driest period of the dry season. Most travellers who travel to Negombo primarily are sun-worshippers; they enjoy the sun, sea and sand, most travellers of Colombo skim over historical places, shopping malls, temples and recreation centres but most of these travellers miss one of the most important natural attractions of Sri Lanka, which is none other than Muthurajawela wetland.
The history of Muturajawela believes to be going back to several centuries from modern time. It had been a thriving rice field in the western part of the country. According to the historical information, Muthurajawela had been the main source of rice for the people of the Kotte kingdom. During the kingdom of Kelaniya, there had been a mangrove forest in Muthurajawela.
The name, Muthurajawela itself is derived from one particular rice variety cultivated in Muthurajawela. Muthurajawela, the word can be divided into three parts Muthu =pearl, raja=King and wela= rice field, denoting “the field, where a variety of rice, looks like mutu (pearl) cultivated for the king”.
There is another legend with regards to the beginning of the name of Muthurajawela. When King Sri Wira Parakramabahu (1473-1497) reign the country, a farmer called Muthuraja arrived in Sri Lanka and introduced a variety of rice from India. The king was very pleased with the introduction of new rice variety due to its unique taste. Later the farmer was provided with all the labour and other facilities by the king, in order to carry on the cultivation of rice in Muthurajawela. Not only the farmer was given the kings patronage but also the rice field was named after the Indian farmer who introduced the rice variety.
The rice cultivation was abandoned with the arrival of Dutch on the island. Dutch administration built the Dutch canal that goes through Muthurajawela. The canal begins in Negombo and goes along the beaches of west coast up to North-West Sri Lanka. The canal was used for transporting goods from north-west Sri Lanka to Colombo and Negombo. Unfortunately, the salty water of the canal mixed with the freshwater of Muthurajawela, making it unsuitable for rice cultivation. The abandoned rice field has gone through many ecological changes in the past and it has turned to the most important wetland in the island today.
Muthurajawela is situated around 10 kilometres from Colombo and its borders are marked by Negombo lagoon from the northern direction, Hendala towards the south, Uswetakeiyawa and beaches of Pamunugama towards the west and Colombo-Negombo main road in the direction of East. Muthurajawela wetland had been far bigger in the past than today, but due to the encroaching a portion of the valuable wetland is turned into farmland and settlement. This habit of filling the valuable wetland with earth continues even today.
Today Muthurajawela measured to be around 20 Square kilometres. According to naturalists, it is one of the most important wetlands with very rich bio-diversity in the country. About 40 species of very rare flora species can be found among the 179 species of grass, plants, shrubs and trees in Muthurajawela.
It has a very high concentration of avian fauna species. Especially Muthurajawela is inhabited by a large number of aquatic bird species. 130 different species of birds recorded in Muthurajawela, out of which 85 species are resident birds while 45 species rare migrant bird species. Muthurajawela wetland is the home for many rare species of fish in the island. There are several species of butterfly also can be seen in Muthurajawela. Muthurajawela was declared as a wildlife reserve on 31st October 1996. Muthurajawela is divided into two parts and part one spread over 1028 hectares while part two occupies more than 250 hectares. Muthurajawela is one of the most popular places among the holidaymakers on the island for bird watching. The best way to explore Muthurajawela is with a boat and boat tour is offered as a one-day excursion from nearby hotels.