Tucked away in the beautiful country of Sri Lanka, hides an incredible jungle called Sinharaja Forest Reserve. It has thick fogs, a treacherous environment, and dark and mysterious characteristics.
The jungle’s name “Sinharaja” came from the words Sinha, meaning lion, and Raja, meaning king, combining and translates to as lion-king. The jungle was believed to have been shaped during the Jurassic Era and covers the majority of the Kalu Ganga Basin and the small part of the northern Gin Ganga.
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is the country’s last workable area of primary tropical rainforest, is filled with native trees, and is the home to over 50% of Sri Lanka’s indigenous species of mammals, butterflies, insects, reptiles, and rare amphibians. It has a 21 by 4 kilometer undulating piedmont containing a chain of ridges and valleys and is the most concentrated rain forest in the continent of Asia, having about 240,000 vegetation every hectare.
Between the months of November and January, the forest receives rain coming from the northeast while between the months of May and July, it receives from the southwest monsoon.
Under the wasteland ordinance in 1875, most of the zone was proclaimed as the Sinharaja – Makalana Forest Reserve and in the early 20th century, the remaining was proposed as a forest reserve. 9,203 hectare was separated for watershed protection in 1926 and then 52 years later, in 1978, it was declared as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve. In 1988, 6,092 hectares of forest reserve and 2,722 hectares of proposed forest reserve were inscribed as a National Heritage Wilderness.
To enter the forest, you have three options. The first entry is Kudawa from the north. This is the main entrance going into the forest. It has six dormitories and lodges that can accommodate about 102 individuals while entering from the east entrance, the Morningsite, can mean that only 10 people are to be accommodated. The last entry to the forest which is from the south is the Pitadeniya which is being expanded by Southwest Rainforest Conservation Project and funded by the Global Environmental Facility Programme of the UNDP. This particular entrance consists of buildings for an information center, a dormitory, and a bridge over the Gin Ganga River.
The average entrance fee for adults is about Rs. 644 and for the children, about Rs. 325. A guide is required and will cost you Rs. 1000. If you are planning to take pictures and film videos, you will have to pay an additional fee of Rs. 560.
You get to experience a unique type of adventure when exploring the beautiful forest of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. The area is well–known for its lively biodiversity, untouched rainforests, and home to mysterious groups of rare animals like elephants, leopards, and purple-faced monkeys which has attracted the fascination of people around the globe for a couple of years.
Once you have reached the center of the forest, you will get to experience the feeling of peacefulness that comes with being in contact with an area rich with natural habitat and among the silence, you will get to experience the echoes of the sounds of critters and animals that are present and are living within the forest.
The best time to visit the Sinharaja Forest would be between the months of January and May or August and December. The weather within these months is perfect for touring since they will be able to offer a great view of the jungle. And if you are not a fan of insects, bugs, and mosquitoes, it is highly advisable to avoid visiting during the monsoon season. Since the region receives a substantial amount of rain, it will be a hard and dangerous time for sightseeing and explorations.
The greatest way to experience an authentic adventure in the Sinharaja Forest is by exploring it through hiking or trekking. There is no need to worry though since numerous pathways were established for this very purpose.
The Pitadeniya-Pathan-Oya is a 10-kilometer trek and you get to pass by a Pathan river and the beautiful Hathan waterfall. Kudawa-Sinhagala trail is also one of your options, it is 8 kilometers long and will take you pass the most picturesque area of the beautiful forest. The Neluwa-Kosmulla trail is about 10 kilometer in length, similar to the Pitadeniya, and this one covers the beautiful Duvili waterfalls and a number of caves.
All of these hiking trails will require a great amount of physical and mental fitness but keep in mind that these kinds of activities are not for the faint-hearted. Surely, the forest is worth the hike. Along the way, you will be greeted with canopies of trees overhead and experience the essence of hearing the soft sounds of critters living in the forest.
However, it is important to take notes when exploring the Shinharaja. First is to bring your own bottle of water since the forest doesn’t have a safe and reliable source for potable water. Second, is to bring an umbrella because of the unpredictable weather. Third, bring and apply sunscreen to avoid being sunburnt and insect repellent, as well. Fourth, the forest can be very dusty so it is essential to bring a mask or shawl to cover the face. The fifth is to be vigilant. The forest floor is littered with green pit vipers, which are mildly poisonous species. It is advisable that you are to be aware of your surroundings.
But despite this, don’t be afraid to explore the beauty of the Shinharaja Forest Reserve.