Madu River Mangrove Safari and Fish spa

Discover Sri Lanka’s lush mangroves and rich wetland ecosystem of exotic plants, birds and animals, on a journey of exploration down the Madu River passing through the wet zone of Sri Lanka in the Galle district.  A unique experience of a river safari on a boat that cruises through mazes of diverse mangrove forests and mini islands, ending with a natural foot fish spa.


  • Encounter an experience of a difference on a boat ride navigating through lush vegetation and mangroves
  • Be amazed by the stunning complexity of the forests when passing through tunnels of mangroves
  • Hear the chirping of many birds that inhabit here of which the cormorants and kingfishers are most common
  • You can witness many butterflies that add beauty to the surroundings
  • Indulge in a foot massage where fish nibble away the dead skin giving the ultimate foot therapy you need


The Madu River and its mangroves is a wetland ecosystem complex located within two sub-districts as of Balapitiya and Karandeniya in the Galle district of the south coast, approximately 80 kilometres away from Colombo. Surrounded by swampy marshlands and mini islands brimming with luscious mangrove forests that serve as a habitat to some of the most fascinating animal species, this river gives an insight into the development of life in Sri Lanka.

Mangroves are evergreen forests that grow along protected coastlines in tropical regions. The total area of the river covers 915 hectares; 770 hectares include open water whereas the rest of the 145 hectares cover islands. The mangrove forest covers 61 hectares and 14 of the 24 species of mangroves are found in the area.
Interesting facts of the Madu river are that in the past the river had provided access to the main land via small boats and it was used as one of the main water channels that had connected towns during the Sinhala kingdoms.

The river hosts 10 types of wetland vegetation which are home to a total of 303 species of plants belonging to 95 families. The entire species of plants include 19 endemic species, 8 locally threatened species and 9 foreign species. It has been found that among the species of mangroves, there is a rare and threatened species. 248 species of fauna have been found, of which 20 species are endemic, 30 species are locally threatened. However it is evident that this Madu river provides shelter and protection to aquatic life such as prawns, shrimp, fish, crab and much more. Wildlife includes the largest animal found in the area, being the wild boar. There are plenty of smaller mammals such as monkeys and squirrels that jump and scurry around, making for a pleasurable sight. 31 types of reptiles do inhabit the area such as snakes, lizards and crocodiles. 50 species of butterflies and 25 types of molluscs are also found in the area.

It is a treasure box for biologists and ecologists to discover many more species. Not forgetting the fact that there are hundreds of beautiful birds that flock around the area. Weave through the mangroves and you’ll definitely spot some of the 111 delightful species of birds in their natural habitat – a welcome change from the routine beaches. Notice cormorants and kingfishers which are a common sight.

The natural beauty of the river encompasses mini islands which are of wetlands. There used to be around 64 islands many years ago but some have sunk and there are 25 islands that remain. Of these remaining islands, there are 15 which have a great landmass and some are inhabited or covered with forests and shrubs. A Buddhist temple, ‘Koth Duwa’ that dates back to the years of ancient kingdoms, sits in the heart of one of these islands. It has a splendid Buddha statue. The smallest island along the river is known as ‘Satha 5 duwa’ since it resembles the shape of a 5 cent coin and it hosts a small devalaya.

People of the villages along the Madu river earn their income from either the cinnamon industry where fresh cinnamon is flaked and peeled or the fishing industry since you would see fishermen perched either on tree branches or poles waiting to catch small fish or shrimp.

It was noted that during the Tsunami in 2004, the mangrove forest had protected this region by being a natural barrier hence the value of these mangroves.

The Madu river mangrove safari is a wonderful excursion not to be missed during your Sri Lanka holiday. This activity of two hours will take you on a journey through interesting passages weaving in between mangrove forests, giving an insight into one of Sri Lanka’s remaining wetland ecosystems. Witness the rich flora and fauna along the river with beautiful birds and animals.

The excursion will end with a relaxing fish therapy that is provided along with the river boat tours which is available in Balapitiya. It is carried out in fully established artificial ponds of doctor fish where at the end of your journey, the boat will float and you can dip your legs into the ponds, the fish will nibble away the dead skin from the feet thereby giving you a natural foot massage.

Epic Sri Lanka Holidays have experiential tours that offer this excursion or you can choose to create your own tour by contacting the tour consultants for further assistance and inquiries.