Sample Eco Tour (21 Days)
2 nights staying at Sinharaja at a Community Eco Lodge inside the Sinharaja Rainforest
After breakfast, around 08.30 AM you will be driven to Sinharaja UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. The journey to Sinharja Rainforest from Colombo through Ratnapura, the 'Gem City' of Sri Lanka and the lush green paddy fields, rubber and tea plantations, mountains rivers and streams etc.
You will reach at the Rainforest around 03.00 in the evening. For next 2 days you will be staying at Martin's Community Lodge. Martin was a former forest warden and the Forestry Department allowed him to stay in the reserve when he retired. He has accommodations (basic rooms with clean bathrooms). Food here is wonderful and vegetarian. If you prefer meat then you will have to inform the host when you get to the lodge. They will then prepare it for you.
Enjoy your dinner while listening to the wild sounds of the rainforest.
After a cup of tea you could explore the rainforest with a qualified and trained rain forest guide. It is your choice either to have the breakfast before you leave for rainforest or taking a picnic breakfast with you as the trekking will approximately take couple of hours. Below, please find some info on Sinharaja Rain Forest.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is one of the least disturbed and biologically unique lowland rain forest now remaining in Sri Lanka. This forest covers and extent of approximately 11187 ha from east to west the length of the forest is about 21 km and its width from north to south is about 3.7 km. The Sinharaja forest was initially declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve (MAB) in 1978, as representative of Tropical Humid Evergreen Forest eco system in Sri Lanka and has been recognized by UNESCO as part of its International Network of Biosphere Reserves. Sinharaja forest consists of a series of continuous ridges, aligned approximately in an east-west direction and lies between the tributaries of the Kalu Ganga in the north and the Gin Ganga in south.
The average annual temperature of Sinharaja is approximately 23.6°C. It annually receives more than 2500 mm rainfall is well distributed with peak periods, during the two monsoons, May-July and October-December. There is no dry spell throughout the year.
The elevation of the Sinharaja reserve ranges from 200 m to 1300 m. It has rolling terrain consisting of a series of ridges and valleys which assumes and east-west trend in the north-western part of the reserve. In other parts of the reserve, the ridges and valleys assume a noth-west/south-east alignment.
The vegetation of Sinharaja may be described either as a Tropical Lowland Rain Forest or Tropical Wet Evergreen Forest. Some striking characteristics of the forest are the loftiness of the dominant trees, the straightness of their bole, the abundance of regeneration and the diversity of species. The average height of the trees varies between 35m-40m. Some individuals rise even up to 50m.Contrary to popular belief the under growth is seldom dense: however dense scrub growth does occur on rock shelves or gaps on the canopy created by falling of over – mature trees. The great diversity of species of Sinharaja forest makes it difficult to distinguish ecological patterns. However, some tree associations have been recognized and these are the Dipterocarps (Hora – Bu Hora) an association Confined to the lower elevations along the Gin Ganga valley and the Mesua - Doona (Shorea) association in the well drained lower ridge areas.
The mesua-Doona (Shorea) association forms the matrix of the S inharaja forest.
The Vegetation of Sinharaja is that of humid wet evergreen forest type with a high degree of endemism. In fact some families such as Dipterocarpaceae show an endemism more than 90%. The untapped genetic potential of Sinharaja flora is enormous. Out of the 211 woody trees and lianas so far identified within the reserve 139 (66%) are endemic. Similarly, high levels of endemism are perhaps true for the lower plants like ferns, epiphytes as well. Out of 25 general endemic to Sri Lanka 13 are represented in Sinharaja.
The total vegetation density, including trees, shrubs, herbs and seedling has been estimated to be around 240,000 individuals per hectare, of which 95% comprise individuals of the ground layer below 1m in height. The density of trees, lianas above 30 cm girth at breast height, ranges between 600-700 individuals/ha. While the number of merchantable individuals of trees of girth greater than 150 cm. ranges between 45-55 individuals/ha.
Preliminary studies on the fauna of Sinharaja have revealed that there is a high degree of endemism among the butterflies, fish amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. In fact 95% of the endemic birds of Sri Lanka are recorded in Sinharaja. Endemism among mammals and butterflies are also greater than 50%.
Out of the larger mammals, although elephants were said to be 'common' in the past, there have not been reports of sightings during the last 15 years. However, there have been reports of a sighting of a few animals in the Eastern Sector. The most common deer species is the ' Sambhur'. The Monk deer and barking dear are also found with in the reserve. Leopards are very seldom sighted, but their frequent presence has been confirmed by tracks and other signs. Badger Mongoose and the Golden Palm Civet have been occasionally sighted. The most commonly seen primate is the Purple faced Leaf Monkey.
Out of the birds recorded in the Western sector of the reserve, 72% were resident non-endemic and 13% migrants. One of the most interesting and colourful spectacles to be found in the Sinharaja is the presence of mixed species of foraging bird flocks, a phenomenon commonly found in rain forests. A total of 100 such flocks were systematically observed, and studies have revealed that some flocks contained 48 species including 12 endemic species. The rare endemic birds to be seen in Sinharaja are the Red-faced Malkoha, the Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, the Ashy – headed Babbler, the white – headed Starling and the Green – billed Coucal the rarest of Sri Lankan birds.
The agamids are the best represented group of reptiles, the most common being the Green Garden Lizard. Of special significance are the sightings of Calottes liolepis and arboreal species, the rarest of all agamids found in the island. The only tortoise recorded in the recorded in the reserve is the hard – shelled Terrapin, while of the species of skinks, the spotted skink can be seen often. Among the snakes the Green Pit Viper and Hump – nosed Viper re commonly found in this forest and are endemic to Sri Lanka.
The amphibians are fairly well represented in the reserve and nine endemic species have been identified. The endemic Torrent toad and the common house toad. In most streams and marshes, the Wrinkled frog and the Sri Lankan Reed frog is also found in Sinharaja. Ramenella palmate a rare endemic species is the only microhylid recorded so far while the yellow – banded Caecilian is the only apodan recorded.
Sinharaja is surrounded by 22 villages with a population of approximately 5000 people. Only two villages, Warukandeniya and Kolonthotuwa are located within the reserve. The long history of human habitation in and around today's reserve, in fact compounds the problem of managing and conserving the forest. Most of the ancient hamlets are found along the southern boundary of the reserve on the bank of Ginganga (a river) with a few located on the north – western side. Numerous ancient footpaths exist on the periphery of the reserve while there are three footpaths that run across the interior of the forest.
The family structure is that of an extended family with parents, children and grand parents living together. The houses have small floor area, averaging 25 sq. meters and are constructed of wattle and daub. The roof is tatched with leaves of a forest tree let called Beru or with Bamboo leaves. Lately however, coconut leaves for tatching and clay tiles have begun to gain popularity as roofing materials.
The staple food of the village is rice, yams such as sweet potato and Manioc (Cassawa), Breadfruit and Jak fruit, grown in home gardens are often used as substitutes for rice. Other plants commonly found in home gardens are vines of betel (piper betel) black pepper and passion fruit. Fruit trees such as papaya and banana are also grown. For most of their other needs the villagers depend on plants often found in the forest. The sap needed for the manufacture of Jiggery is obtained tapping the inflorence of the Kitul palm (Caryota urens).
Another source of income is the manufacture of baskets and mats from rattan on 'wewal'. The villagers also exploit other plant products such as wild cardamom, resinous exudates used as fumigating agents from Nawada (shorea stipularis) and other shorea species.
The exudate from Kekuna (Canarium zelani-cum) is used as a caulk for damaged boats and as glue for domestic purpose. Numerous plants used in the native 'ayurvedic' system of medicine are also collected and sold by the villagers, of particular significance being the stem of Weniwel (Coscinum fenestratum) used by most Sri Lankans as an antidote for tetanus. Beraliya (Shorea megistophylla) provides a fruit which is often used as a substitute for flour.
Although recent studies indicate that villagers do not depend on Sinharaja as primary source of income, the fact remains that, to the villager the forest is an easily accessible store house of wealth awaiting exploitation. Most of the people living in the region are poor and often have large families. Their level of education is low. In addition, employment opportunities like industrial enterprises in the region are very limited. It is therefore not surprising that the villagers view the forest as a commodity that belongs to them and as a place which could give them some sort of livelihood.
The outstanding feature of Sinharaja stated above shows that conservation of its biological diversity and genepool is of vital necessity. Another aspect closely linked with conservation of Sinharaja is the importance of this area as an invaluable watershed. Conservation of Sinharaja would not only ensure the maintenance of water resources and reduce the intensity of floods which is a constant threat in this part of the island, characterized by heavy rainfall.
Forest Department of Sri Lanka is directly responsible for the management of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. It is managed primarily as a unique genepool and as a watershed, hence totally protected.
It is desirable that you, who visit the forest, be sensitive to the need to conserve forests such as Sinharaja. Contrary to the chaos and congestion prevailing in urban areas, it is in forests that the quality of life is best expressed. In addition man finds peace and tranquility in forests.
Allow yourself sufficient time to roam about within this nature green cathedral and enjoy its beauty and majesty whether you be a photographer, artist, scientist or a nature lover.
Please leave it as you find it