Make your way through the dense, luscious forest that is bursting with an enormous variety of wildlife – endemic flora and fauna spanning an area of 18,900 acres of land.
Located on the south-west lowland that falls into the Sabaragamuwa and southern provinces, it is 171.9 km away from Colombo via the southern expressway, approximately a 4 hour drive. This is one of the main rainforests that’s recognized due to the fact that it a habitat for 50% of the country’s endemic species of animals including the mammals, reptiles, insects as well as rare amphibians. It is a haven for the nature enthusiasts out there – there’s still so much to discover in their point of view.
Steeped in legend, this rainforest attained its name from Lion (Sinha) King (Raja) since it was a legendary belief that the origins of the Sinhala people is from the union between a princess and the lion king who once lived in the forest.
Nature lovers from all over the globe visit the forest for another important reason; it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. The forest was designated as a biosphere reserve in 1978. It is a highly protected area because it is currently the last virgin rainforest that’s relatively undisturbed by urban development and the modern era, and measures must be taken to keep it the way it is – untouched in its own magical way.
A lot of awareness is being held for the conservation of the forest, and one of the priorities is that the number of visitors allowed into the forest is very low, only by permit that needs to be obtained. This is a completely justifiable approach because if a steady amount of people were to be allowed in the natural beauty of the entire forest would be stripped away.
There are many things to see in the forest reserve, but the main thing to look out for would definitely the enormous varieties of birds. There are over a 147 varieties that have been identified so far, and they are all extraordinary and special. Jungle Fowl (Gallus Lafayetti), Spur Fowl (Galloperdix bicalcarta), the Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and the Ceylon White-headed Starling (Sturnus albofrontatus) are just a few out of the tons of other types that can be seen. Something that can be regularly seen at the Sinharaja forest is the flocks of birds including mixed species that go through the forest in harmony. It is a mutual relationship observed among birds, a method by which they improve the availability of feed.
Most of the birds have a distinct signal that is used when they sense danger through a predator – as soon as the rest of the flock hear the signal they immediately freeze so the predator isn’t able to find their location, and when they hear the ‘all clear’ signal they come out from where they hide.
Another important species in the forest reserve are reptiles – 21 species have been recorded which consist of the Earless Lizard (Otriocephalus scutatus), the Rough Horned Lizard (Cerataphora aspera), the Python (Python molurus), and the Hump-nosed Lizard (Lyiocephalus scutatus). There are the venomous snakes in the forest which are the Green-pitviper while is arboreal, the Hump-nosed Viper. The Cobra is seen occasionally while the Russel’s Viper has been observed in secondary vegetation, although not seen in the undisturbed forest. Two very rare species have also been recorded in the forest, and they are the fossorial species Rhinophis tricolorata and Haploceros ceylonensis.
The Sinharaja forest vegetation can be described as a tropical lowland rainforest. It’s a green abundance of plantation and beautiful flowers on every surface of the forest, every type of species – birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and fish all co-existing harmoniously and it is quite a sight. The forest has many layers to it – from the canopy, sub canopy, under-storey, shrub layer and the ground layer. It receives between 3000-6000 mm of rain over the year, and a minimum amount of 200 mm during non-monsoon periods. There are over 340 timber species that are found, out of which 192 are endemic to the country, and 19 out of those are endemic to the Sinharaja forest. The diversity of vegetation that’s in the forest is the perfect environment for the different types of birds. There are a lot of plants that are present with benefits to man present in Sinharaja. The palm Kitul (Caryota urens) used to get jaggery, a common substitute for sugar used widely in areas where this tree grows. Most people use it because it is a bit healthier than sugar itself. Another one is Weniwal (Coscinium fenestratum) which is used for medicinal purposes, used intensively not only by villagers but people in the urban areas too.
There are a couple of mammals that are found in the forest, the leopard being one of the few – although a very rare sight there is still evidence that they’re present due to their excreta. The current status of the leopard in Sinharaja hasn’t been studied properly so the population of leopards is unknown. Fishing Cat, Rusty Spotted Cat, Barking deer, and Sambar are the other mammals. There was a logging project that started in 1971; but before that elephants were common in the periphery of the forest. Unfortunately they have not been seen in the western sector since 1974. Bats are another characteristic group of mammals that can be found in the forest reserve. Six species have been recorded in Sinharaja, and it is interesting that the Fruit Bat hasn’t been recorded in the forest. The only frugivorous species identified is the Short-nosed Fruit Bat has been sighted at Kudawa, on the outskirts of the forest.
How to Get There
From Colombo to Sinharaja
By Car – Driving to the forest reserve from Colombo will take approximately 4 hours, 18 minutes via the southern expressway and 203 km in distance. Epic Sri Lanka Holidays will arrange a car for you according to your itinerary.
From Nuwara Eliya to Sinharaja
By Car – It will take around 5 hours, 55 minutes in total to reach Sinharaja from Nuwara Eliya via the Colombo Galle Wellawaya road.
From Galle to Sinharaja
By Car – The drive from Galle to Sinharaja will take approximately 2 hours, 37 minutes via the Galle Deniyaya Madampe highway.
From Horana to Sinharaja
By Car – It will take around 3 hours, 33 minutes via the Pelawatta Kankotayawatta Tinniyawela road to reach Sinharaja from Horana – and is considered as one of the easiest routes to the forest premises.
The high rainfall is owing to two monsoons: south-west monsoons during May-July and the north-east monsoons during November-January. The high annual temperature of the Sinharaja is typical of the tropics, recording little seasonal variation, but with marked daily ranges. The lowest mean monthly temperature has been observed during the wettest season and the highest during the driest season.
Food and Drink
Forest Edge – This restaurant is located in Deniyaya, which is close to Sinharaja, and features Chinese, Sri Lankan and Asian cuisine. They’ve got the Ala Carte menu, as well as a whole other variety of dishes, mainly specializing in the traditional Sri Lankan cuisine which is rice and curry – the staple food of the locals. It is definitely a unique experience anyone would enjoy.
Bird watching in Sinharaja – One of the main highlights in the forest is the variety of birds that can be seen, there are over 270 varieties that have been identified which are all extraordinary and special. Therefore it is a bird paradise for all bird watching lovers.
Trekking in Sinharaja – Trekking through Sinharaja would entail many different trails such as the Mulawella Peak and Singhala Peak Trails. Others are for bird watching, butterfly observation and within the Arboretum.
Kolawenigama Temple – The temple is located 3 km away from Deniyaya, and it resembles Kandy’s famous temple of the sacred tooth relic. It was built by King Buwanekabahu VII because of the efforts taken by the villagers to protect the tooth relic.
Kiruwananaganga Falls – Undoubtedly one of the most striking in the country with picture white mist surrounding it, this impressive waterfall is 60 metres high and up to 60 metres wide during the rainy season.
Getabaruwa Raja Maha Viharaya – Placed in a very scenic environment, the Getabaruwa Raja Maha Viharaya is located between the Rakwana, Morawaka and the Sinharaja mountain ranges. Well known for the large statue of Lord Buddha sleeping with a statue of Mugalan Thero at his feet and a statue of Sariuth Thera at the side of his head.
Day Trip to Sinharaja Forest – A day trip to the Sinharaja Forest from your destination, in which you would cover attractions of the forest and participate in various trekking and nature trails encountering many species for bird and wildlife.