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2012-01-22

Kottawa Forest

Kottawa Forest Reserve (Arboretum), which is situated about 19 km northeast of Galle, is a small (15-hectare), isolated patch of low country rainforest displaying all of the features of a typical wet evergreen rainforest. Tall trees with buttressed trunks and overlapping leaf canopies struggle upwards to reach any available sunlight and prevent the sun from penetrating to the forest floor. As trees are the dominant plant species, Kottawa is considered a climax community, which is a healthy sign for the forest's longevity. Any vegetation that does grow is dominated by Dipterocarpus species and tree ferns, while orchids and mosses inhabit the tree bark.

There are over 170 tree species identified in the area of which about 100 species are endemic to Sri Lanka. Seventy or so bird species have also been recorded, including 12 endemics such as the Yellow-fronted Barbet, Brown-capped Babbler, Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lankan Spurfowl and Grey Hornbill. It is also a good place to spot some of the island's beautiful butterflies (e.g. Birdwing, Tree Nymph, Clipper, Blue Oakleaf), as well as the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Toque Macaque and Giant Squirrel, which dominate the forest canopy. Among the reptiles are some of Sri Lanka's non-venomous snakes and endemic agamid lizards. The unpolluted streams that traverse the forest harbour a variety of fish including many endemic species.

2012-01-15

Hiyare Rain Forest



Private efforts aid conservation at pristine rainforest
By Adilah Ismail, Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara
Drive along a twisting road to Udugama from Galle, and you will stumble upon one of the best kept secrets of the South. The Hiyare forest reserve, a lush 600-acre picture-postcard rainforest, located only 17 km from the city, is a veritable paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, with its pristine beauty and wealth of flora and fauna.

The serene depths of the rain forest.

An artificial breeding place for frogs

A Kangaroo lizard

Arriving at Hiyare, we enter the premises of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle, to be greeted by an endearing baby porcupine which scuttles around, sniffing newcomers unabashedly. After a final sniff of approval he bobs under some foliage and watches us from afar.

This baby porcupine is one of the many injured juveniles brought into the society’s Animal Rescue Programme at Hiyare for medical treatment and rehabilitation. Under this programme, injured wild animals are treated, rehabilitated and then released back into the wild. They are also monitored closely after release to make sure they have settled in suitably. The programme has thus far provided medical care to an assortment of animals and recently saw 22 python eggs being hatched.

While 80% of these rescued animals are treated and then released into the wild, sometimes circumstances make it impossible. The three-legged Hog deer, which gazes diffidently at us from its pen, is a permanent resident as it cannot fend for itself in the wild having lost a limb as a result of a road accident.

The Animal Rescue Programme is one of the many activities carried out under the Biodiversity Conservation Effort at Hiyare - an initiative between the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle, the Municipal Council of Galle and Nations Trust Bank. The project consists of a series of conservation activities centric to the Hiyare rainforest.

“Our ultimate goal is to educate interested parties about conservation at a species level,” explains Anusha Madhura de Silva, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle.

Madhura de Silva

“While the bank carries out corporate activities, it places enormous emphasis on giving back to the community. Global warming is one of the biggest threats posed to our environment and although to a large extent its adverse effects haven’t been felt in Sri Lanka, it is only a matter of time before we too are critically affected. It is in lieu of this pressing need that the Biodiversity Conservation Effort was initiated last year,” says Nuzrath Hameed, Manager, Strategic Marketing of Nations Trust Bank.

The Biodiversity Breeding Centre set up in April this year is one of their noteworthy projects. Located slightly apart from the main premises, the centre houses a number of glass tanks where endangered species of freshwater fish such as the Cuming’s Barb and Ornate Paradise Fish, as well as the endemic Anthroprogenic shrub frog are bred under the watchful eye of researchers. The project aims to enable the observation of their breeding habits; to increase their numbers and reintroduce them to areas where the population is significantly low.

“As the breeding habits of amphibians are still unknown, the breeding programme will undoubtedly be a breakthrough in conservation,” explains Madhura steering us through the finer aspects of this effort. The Bank funds all facets of this project – from labour wages to provisions.

A view of the reservoir

A comb tail fish at the Breeding Centre

At home in Hyare: The Hog deer

The Wildlife Conservation Society believes that to begin conservation, it is essential to know about nature. They conduct workshops tailored to the requirements of various interested groups. These include treks to the rainforest and hands-on training inside – as Madhura gesturing towards the 600 acre rainforest, so aptly put it – ‘the biggest laboratory of all’.

Their field centre located on the outskirts of the rainforest overlooks the reservoir and is equipped with a well-resourced library, a laboratory containing equipment suited for biodiversity conservation, a lecture room for presentations and a large dormitory for overnight stays.

“While research is usually concentrated on certain areas of the country, undiscovered fragmented forest patches are important as they contain a staggering amount of undiscovered diversity,” says Madhura. He adds they are grateful to the Director of the Wildlife Department as well as the Municipal Council of Galle for supporting the society’s activities, since its inception in 1993.

Among its many activities, the Society also carries out educational workshops in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa to spread awareness about venomous snakes. Their book on Sri Lankan freshwater fish is due for release in December.

Trekking through the damp leaves, the smell of earth permeating the air and gazing at the various creatures which dart from one shrub to another, it is clear that the attraction of the Hiyare rainforest lies in its purity. Not as well known as other forest reserves like Sinharaja and visited solely by genuine nature lovers, mankind’s mark is noticeably absent at Hiyare.

With global warming and pollution rapidly affecting our ecosystem and resulting in the loss of many rare species, these conservation efforts are a step towards nurturing and protecting Hiyare’s rich diversity for the future.

Hiyare's attractions

A low country tropical rain forest, Hiyare has a large man-made lake within its boundaries.
Endemic species recorded at the Hiyare rainforest include the Sri Lankan Green Pigeon, Ceylon Rose, Two-spotted Threadtail, Black Ruby Barb, Sri Lankan Green Pit Viper and the Sri Lanka Purple-faced Leaf Monkey.
The Forest Department manages one part of the rainforest while another section- the reservoir catchment area is administered by the Wildlife Conservation Society under the aegis of the Municipal Council of Galle.
To visit the rainforest for educational or research purposes, contact the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle through the Municipal Council, Galle.
Hiyare's amazing biodiversity

118 Bird species - 13 endemic
33 Freshwater fish species - 13 endemic
78 Butterfly species - 3 endemic
55 Dragonfly species -12 endemic
34 Reptile species -14 endemic
18 Amphibian species-13 endemic
28 Land snail species -13 endemic
29 Mammal species - 13 endemic
(Wildlife Conservation Society, Galle)
copied from http://sundaytimes.lk

UNAWATUNA BEACH






With its romantic sunsets, friendly smiles of the locals, amazing coral reefs, delightful seafood and as a great place to let your hair down on a good night out partying, Unawatuna Beach can be considered to be the most desirable location for a romantic or enjoyable tropical holiday. With a unique theme concept of a Sri Lankan fishing village, Unawatuna Beach, together with its amazing turquoise blue sea, sandy beaches and sunset views, is an ideal tourist location.
Protected by a double reef over the bay creates a natural pool that make bay safe for swimmers. From the midway of the stretch the swimmers are able to reach to the Rock island. Galapiteala reef and Napoleon Reef, multi level dives brings in the opportunities to enjoy an exceptional marine life: Napoleon Wrasse, Bat Fish, Golden Moray Eels and numerous other colorful species of fish.
Besides swimming, Unawatuna beach is also famous for snorkeling and surfing in view of the reef. The wrecks of sunken ships make Unawatuna beach popular among the scuba divers too. A boat ride of 20 to 30 minutes takes the diving enthusiasts to locations of wreck dives.

The wreck of “Rangoon” British steamer sunken 100 yeas ago, still lying upright with its masts intact, is a popular diving site. Sunk within the same area is the “Tango”. The other location, a wreck of a cargo ship called “Lord Nelson” is about ten years old. Diving schools at Unawatuna are at the service of the diving enthusiasts: they assist, equip and guide the tourists to engage in diving at the beach.

Kanneliya rain forest

Kanneliya Rain Forest in the Galle district, a rich biodiversity hotspot known world over, is threatened with a mystery disease.

The disease that resembles the 'Rust' that completely destroyed coffee cultivations 150 years ago, covers the leaves of the affected plants with a brick red coating, blocking its food production process that may lead the plants to wither.

"It is spreading at an alarming rate in and around the forest reserve," the forest officers and the residents lamented adding that the authorities don't seem to have realized the danger this disease could pose its rich vegetation, diverse to that of even 'Sinharaja', according to experts, since no action has been taken so far to identify the problem let alone find a resistant to it.

"The officials in Colombo were alerted a long time back but no one showed up as yet," a jungle trekker working for the Forest Department as a guide to visitors said.

This disease, has not spared the domestics such as coconut, arecanut, rambutan and ornamental plants in home gardens in the surrounding villages.

The affected plants appear as if the leaves have been poured red paint on them. The disease seem to have affected the bottom parts of the trees in the forest as leaves on the top part still retain their ordinary green colour.

"It has not destroyed the plants completely so far, but we are disturbed at the rate it is spreading and by the fact that it contracts to anything within its path," a concerned villager whose known by nom de guerre Patti Aiya said.

Inside the forest reserve, from creepers like Weniwel to tall 'Hora' trees bared its red leaves and the disease seem to have already engulfed large areas of the unique forest.

Some of the Kanneliya residents voiced that the disease could have contracted from the oil palm cultivations that borders the forest reserve. Large patches of trees in these cultivations had brick red leaves but without a proper study, what caused the disease will remain a mystery.

Other than world heritage site Sinharaja, Kanneliya is the last large remaining rain forest in the country and it is regarded as one of the most biologically diverse areas in Sri Lanka as well the world. It shelters 220 species of animals, out of which 41 are endemic.

Of the 26 endemic birds, 20 varieties can be seen in this terrain including several species that are listed endangered. The area boasts of 234 woody plants out of which 52 percent are endemic. Moreover, 27 floral species here are listed vulnerable and 45 are in the rare plants category. For its unique ecosystem, the Forest complex was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2004.


2012-01-14

Galle


Galle enjoys a nice coast line. And it's a district that enjoys a great variance of scenarios, from beaches to marsh lands to dry planes to hills.


To add to the natural beauty, Galle has a great history too. The history goes in to King Solomon's time. It is believed that Galle is the ancient seaport "Tarshish", from which king Solomon drew the ivory and other valuables. It's been the most prominent seaport before the western rule of the country. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays and Indians were doing business through Galle port. The 'modern' history of Galle starts in 1505, when the first Portuguese ship was drawn by a storm and the captain Lourenzo de Almeida came near Galle. But he did not land. Later they occupied many Sri Lankan Coastal towns, and by 1597, built a small fortification in Galle.


Later, Portuguese had to surrender to the Dutch armies. In 1640, the Dutch took over Galle. It was them who built the Fort in the year 1663, in the way it's seen now. They built a fortified wall, using solid granite, and built three bastions, sun, moon and star. There was a developed town center, and a whole lot of buildings.


After the British took over the country from the Dutch, in year 1796, they kept the Fort in the same way, and had it as the administration center of Galle.







Place to Visit around Galle
Dutch Fort,
Galle Museum,
Hiyare Raain forest,
Kanneliya Rain forest,
Koggala,
Unawatuna,
Rumassala,




















2012-01-13

Sri Lanka



Set in the Indian Ocean in South Asia, the tropical island nation of Sri Lanka has a history dating back to the birth of time.  It is a place where the original soul of Buddhism still flourishes and where nature’s beauty remains abundant and unspoilt.

Few places in the world can offer the traveller such a remarkable combination of stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, captivating cultural heritage and unique experiences within such a compact location.  Within a mere area of65, 610 kilometres lie 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 1,330 kilometres of coastline - much of it pristine beach - 15 national parks showcasing an abundance of wildlife, nearly 500,000 acres of lush tea estates, 250 acres of botanical gardens, 350 waterfalls, 25,000 water bodies, to a culture that extends back to over 2,500 years.

This is an island of magical proportions, once known as Serendib, Taprobane, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, and Ceylon. Discover refreshingly Sri Lanka!

When the noted writer Sir Arthur C Clarke made his home in Sri Lanka in 1956, he claimed the island jewel of the Indian Ocean was the best place in the world from which to view the universe. The author of 2001: A Space Odyssey passed away in 2008, but no doubt the futurist would have logged on to Google Earth to gaze back at his island home from an online universe. And concealed in the sky-high imagery of this teardrop-shaped nation, he would have recognised an amazing diversity for somewhere so compact.

Fringing the coasts is an array of gently arcing golden-sand beaches, now making a comeback after the devastation wreaked by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Zoom closer to spy the giant tanks (artificial reservoirs) built by the first Sinhalese rulers around the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Pollonaruwa. In the Hill Country, a layer of cotton wool clouds obscures the view, mirroring the misty mornings travellers often experience in this area of waterfalls and verdant tea plantations.

Irrespective of their cultural background, Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim locals will welcome you with pride. Pride in their criminally underrated cuisine, pride in their national parks and wildlife, and – especially – pride in their national cricket team. Whether you’re a humble three-wheeler jockey or a British-trained lawyer or doctor, the sport that frequently stops the nation is always worthy of discussion. How will the boys do in the upcoming series against New Zealand? Will the country be ready to host the World Cup in 2011? And have you seen how much that opening batsman from Kandy is earning in the new Indian Premier League?

Faced with funding a war and weathering a global financial crisis, Sri Lanka’s proud population has been doing it tough for a few years. But equipped with a stellar combination of scenery, culture and history, a growing focus on sustainable tourism and (hopefully) a more settled society, Sri Lanka is firmly back on the radar for curious travellers seeking unique experiences.
Jan 06, Colombo: Sri Lanka's tourist arrivals hit a record high in December with 97,517 tourists arriving in the island, the data released by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) Friday showed.
The month has recorded a 15.2 percent increase in arrivals compared to December 2010 while the number of arrivals in 2011 increased by 30.8 percent over the previous year.

SLTDA statistics have recorded 855,975 tourist arrivals in 2011 compared to the 654,476 arrived in 2010.
A record 315,210 tourists arrived from the Western Europe accounting for a 36.8 percent of total arrivals. Most of the European visitors were from Britain.
Another 237,647 or 27.8 percent arrived from South Asia, mostly from India.

Arrivals from Western Europe increased 22.7 percent while arrivals from South Asia increased 35.3 percent in 2011 from 2010.

Since the end of the war against the Tamil Tiger terrorists in May 2009, the country has seen increasing tourist arrivals every year for the past two years.

Sri Lanka launched an ambitious five-year plan under the guidance of the Economic Development Minister to boost tourism in the country. Under the plan Sri Lanka expects to raise the number of arrivals to 2.5 million and to earn annual revenue of US$ 2.75 billion by 2016

Hikkaduwa



The beach of Hikkaduwa is situated 98 km from Colombo towards the south of Sri Lanka. This fun coastal town 14 kms from Galle was the first (1960's) of Sri Lanka's beautiful beaches to be discovered by tourists. Snorkeling and diving in the clear waters are the major past-time along this stretch and is the most environmentally friendly way to see the colorful fish that dart around. The coral sanctuary found on the coast of Hikkaduwa is a large shallow body of water enclosed by a reef, decorated with layers of multi colored corals, witch is home to countless number of colorful fish. Off the beach there is a collection of tine islets surrounded by beautiful coral formations. Many species of fish and large turtles are found here.There are more than four different shipwrecks for diving enthusiasts to explore along with dive shops offering PADI courses and equipment. Plenty of beachfront accommodation and a reputation as the second best surf spot in Sri Lanka by the international board-riding set, and the reason so many visit Hikkaduwa is blatantly clear.

The resort area has now engulfed two or three villages south of it, and is now a 4km strip of hotels, shops, bars, restaurants and guesthouses. The beaches are nice and wide and swimming is safe here, though the currents are stronger south of Hikkaduwa proper. The impressive coral reef runs just offshore and is still populated by exotic fish and sea turtles. Glass bottomed boats are available for visitors wanting to admire the wonders of the deep while keeping their feet dry!

After a shot distance southwards from the center of the reef, it diminishes given rise to a wider sandy bottomed beach with good waves ideal for board surfing and body surfing. You can always rent the necessary equipment needed for snorkeling and surfing. Hikkaduwa is an established tourist destination and the surfing there is quite well known. You won't see the Indonesian style overcrowding here though. The reef is coral so a first aid kit and booties are handy. Localism is usually not a problem though we have seen some tourists get some hassle. Respect them and they leave you alone pretty much. There are many shops selling Masks, Gems, Jewellery, Batik, Antiques and etc. along with several Buddhist temples, all which add spice to life at Hikkaduwa.





The Coral Garden here is considered to be the best out of all such coral gardens found in Asia. There is a reef of lime stones running parallel to the coast. The corals are in between this line of lime stones and the coast. The sea up to about 200 m from the coast is very shallow. The reef of lime stones protects the corals from high tide. The coral type found mostly here is the type locally called "Gampara". These corals are found in various forms , shapes and colours. They are a very fascinating sight especially when there is bright sunlight which gives a very clearer view of the corals. You see some corals in the shape of a cabbage leaf; some are like a lady's fan. Since there is no silt, corals can grow in their natural form and colour.