Wildlife & Cultural Highlights of Sri Lanka
Head east from the humid plains around the Sri Lankan capital and you quickly come to the small, relaxed town of Kitulgala, overlooking the wide Kelani River. Carving its way down through lush, rolling forested hills, the largely secondary forests around now make up the Kitulgala Forest Reserve. It is a small but remarkable reserve, noted for its great bird watching opportunities, the finest white-water rafting opportunities in Sri Lanka and as the location for David Lean's Oscar winning classic war film, The Bridge over the River Kwai. Only the foundations for the impressive bridge still exist, much of the 'set' being destroyed for the movie's climate scene in which the bridge was destroyed. Apart from the lack of a bridge, the valley still looks largely unchanged from when the multi-Oscar winning movie was made.
If nature is your main interest then you won't be disappointed. Kitulgala is one of Sri Lanka's wettest areas, a lowland valley facing the full force of both of the island's monsoons. Rainfall in this valley has been known to exceed 5 metres per year! A lowland rainforest environment, much of this forest was selectively logged, unlike the more remote Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve to the South. This doesn't seem to bother many of Sri Lanka's bird species. The river and the forest trails are wonderful places to explore. Sri Lanka's most recently discovered bird species was first recorded here in these forests. Many endemic Sri Lankan birds, such as the green-billed coucal and Ceylon spurfowl exist here and Aqua-Firma's expert birding guides can take you in search. In the hills surrounding the reserve also look for species such as Layard's parakeet and the mountain hawk-eagle. The grey hornbill may not be as colourful as some of its colleagues, but it's another spectacular species to look for in these forests.
Kitulgala is not a reserve to come to if you want to see large mammals, but species you might spot include the highly endangered purple-faced leaf monkey, wild boar, mouse deer and Layard's striped squirrel. Large numbers of frogs can be heard calling at night and smaller reptiles like the hump-nosed and kangaroo lizards can be encountered here. The river's fast flowing nature, combined with numerous waterfalls and rapids means the crocodiles are absent from this area, although it never hurts to check before you jump in! This makes the reserve a great location for a refreshing river swim.
If you fancy something more adventurous, then Aqua-Firma can take you white-water rafting. Kitulgala offers the best white water experiences in the country and depending on the river conditions and rainfall, can be up to a challenging grade 4. Other adventure options we can provide include mountain biking, abseiling down waterfalls and adventure treks.