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Sinharaja Forest Reserve

Sinharaja Rainforest

sinharaja forest reserve
Malinduishan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is the best-known and least disturbed rain forest in Sri Lanka. It is also the last viable remnant of Sri Lanka’s tropical lowland rain forests. Sinharaja Forest Reserve has been identified as an important biodiversity hotspot that has biologically unique characteristics. In December 1988, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve was added to the UNESCO world heritage list.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve

sinharaja forest
Malinduishan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sinharaja Rain Forest is located within Sabaragamuwa and the Southern provinces of the southwest lowland wet zone of Sri Lanka. It is bounded by rivers on three sides. It consists of an area of 18900 acres (7,648 hectares). The length of the Rain Forest is about 21km, and the width from North to South is about 3.7km. Sinharaja starts 90m above sea level and expands up to an elevation of 1170m.

The forest reserve is benefitted from both southwest and northeast monsoon rainfalls. It gets south-west monsoon rainfalls between May-July and north-east monsoon rainfalls between November-January each year. The forest reserve receives an annual rainfall of 3000-6000 mm throughout the year. The average temperature in the reserve is between 18-27 degrees centigrade. February is the only dry month experienced in the forest reserve. As it frequently rains here at Sinharaja, the best months with less rainfall to visit the reserve are January to March, August, and September.

Sinharaja Rain Forest is a narrow strip of undulating terrain. It consists of a series of ridges and valleys which are drained by a network of streams. These streams flow into the Gin Ganga on the southern boundary and Kalu Ganga, via the Napola Dola, Koskulana Ganga, and Kudawa Ganga, on the northern boundary.

Sinharaja Rain Forest
Themalka12345, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The forest is densely crowded with tall trees growing in close proximity. The vegetation at Sinharaja is that of a tropical wet evergreen forest. Sinharaja rain forest consists of large trees that grow to heights up to 50m. Over 60% of the trees are endemic and many of these are rare species. High levels of endemism are recorded for the lower plants like ferns, epiphytes as well. The forest cover is denser than that of other dry zone parks. Therefore the forest is more secure for wildlife.

Sinharaja Rain Forest

This tropical rainforest is believed to be home for almost 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic wildlife. Therefore thousands of visitors including the scientists like to explore and experience this heritage site that is rich in endemism.

The high diversity of vegetation within the reserve has made it a favorable sanctuary for various species of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, and amphibians. Many threatened species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies are found in the reserve.

Photo by Nadeeshan Nirmana

The larger mammals are the elephants, leopard, sambar, fishing cat, rusty-spotted cat, barking deer, mouse deer, jackal, wild boar, purple-faced langur, and toque macaque.

The smaller mammals include porcupine, otter, giant squirrels, small striped squirrels, flying squirrels, badger mongoose, brown mongoose, ring-tailed civets golden palm civets, bandicoot, rats, bats, and pangolin.

Some of the reptiles are python, green pit viper, the hump-nosed viper, and rough-nosed horned lizard. Out of those green pit, viper and hump-nosed viper are commonly found and are endemic to Sri Lanka.

It is known that 50% of the endemic amphibian species of the country are found in Sinharaja. These include the greater hour-glass tree frog, wrinkled frog, reed frog, and torrent toad.

Also, many species of birds are seen in the canopy of woods. Sinharaja has recorded over 154 species of birds and is known to have a ‘mixed-species feeding flocks’ or informally called a ‘bird wave’ where two or more species feed and move together.

Nineteen out of Sri Lanka’s 20 species of endemic bird species in Sri Lanka are found in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. The endemic birds witnessed here include Ceylon lorikeet, Layard’s parakeet, jungle and spurfowl, Sri Lanka blue magpie, Sri Lanka grackle, Ceylon hanging parrot, Ceylon grey hornbill, ashy-headed laughing thrush, Spotted-wing thrush, brown-capped babbler, Ceylon hill mynah, red-faced malkoha and Legge’s flower-pecker.

Two important rivers; namely the Gin Ganga and Kalu Ganga and many other waterways are fed and nourished by the waters that flow from Sinharaja Forest Reserve. The water resources consist of small streams of clear cool water, which are home to a variety of fish, toads, and crabs.

Sinharaja Rain Forest Location

Sinharaja Rain Forest has situated 172.1 km from Colombo via the Southern Expressway. It is accessible from three entrances namely Pitadeniya, Kudawa, and Morning Side. From northern or western parts of the country, you can reach Sinharaja Forest Reserve via Ratnapura, Kiriella, Kalawana, Weddle. From the South, you can enter Sinharaja Rain Forest from Duniya. If you are coming from Hambantota, Udawalawe you can enter Sinharaja from the Rakwana side.

Photo by Nadeeshan Nirmana

There are two main nature trails that can be experienced at Sinharaja Rain Forest. One leads to the peak of Moulawella and the other ends at the peak of Sinharaja. Both of these nature trails begin at Kudawa Conservation Centre (KCC). These trials are equally enjoyable and will experience long and bumpy drives by foot to Sinharaja.

In Sinharaja Forest Reserve, leeches occur in abundance even during the dry season. As long trousers alone will not help to protect the legs, it is important to wear leech socks which will be provided at the entrance of the reserve. Also, it is advisable to stay either at the border or in a nearby location to be early in the morning at Sinharaja for bird watching.

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