ECO-TOURISM / ADVENTURE / NATURE BASED ACTIVITIES AND EXCURSIONS
Eco Tour Information: Eco Team
Recent times have seen a rise in what is known as Agro tourism, both in Sri Lanka and overseas.
Sri Lanka’s complex rice cultivation systems developed over the course of 2500 years, its colossal irrigational reservoirs built by ancient kings and tea plantations in the rolling hills of the upcountry are among the highlights of its rich and diverse agricultural life that has over recent years attracted a niche market of agro tourists to the island.
Programmes under this theme range from visiting organic farms to milking cattle in dairy farms, plucking tea leaves using the traditional ‘bag-on-the-head’ method, checking out home gardens or even working in the many picturesque paddy fields of Sri Lanka!
Though Sri Lanka is a small country, it is primarily agricultural. Thus it is a simple task for specialist tour operators to come up with programmes in this area, for educational and leisure purposes.
Sri Lanka is blessed with a rich fauna including a variety of colourful birds. Of the 427 recorded species, 250 are resident and 33 are endemic to the country. Sri Lanka’s high endemism surpasses most countries due to its geo-diversity ranging from wet to dry zone, forest and hill country to low lands. There’s no end to the fascinating locations from which to spot many of our feathered friends.
Indeed there even exist special bird sanctuaries in the island. Birds such as the brilliantly plumaged jungle fowl are common in forests and sanctuaries throughout the island. The large lakes (irrigation reservoirs) in the dry zone attract numerous varieties of duck, while larger aquatic birds such as the stork, heron, egret, spoonbill, pelican, and ibis can easily be seen in the wetlands.
Areas of exploration include Muthurajawela, Sinharaja, Bundala, Kumana, Udawalawe, Knuckles, Horton Plains, Sinharaja, Wilpattu and Yala.
Caving is a relatively new activity to Sri Lanka but nevertheless one with plenty of scope as the country possesses an impressive range of caves located throughout the country. Many of Sri Lanka’s caves were once prehistoric settlements of Stone Age man. Some of the cave sites worth exploring are Andirilena Cave, Batadombalena Cave, Batatotalena Cave, Belilena Cave, Bogoda Cave, Rawana Ella Cave, Sthripura Cave and Wavulpane Cave. The Wavulpane Cave (aka ‘Cave of Bats’) is renowned for its many beautiful stalactites and stalagmites (approx. 500 million years old) as well as hundreds of thousands of bats that have made it their home! Belilena is a very large cave, in which the 12,000 year old skeletal remains of the prehistoric
‘Balangoda man’ (Home Sapiens Balangodensis) have been found. Some of the caves are connected with the Ramayana legend, others with the tunnel network of King Walagamba, and yet others with the history of Buddhism in the island.
Eco Team provides local experienced guides and all the necessary gear for caving (such as raincoat, head torches, helmets, ropes etc.) making the activity accessible to amateurs and experts alike.
Cycling & Mountain Biking
Sri Lanka offers great biking trails covering mountains, valleys, rain forests, reservoirs, ancient cities, beaches and even remote villages.
Mountain Biking trails are offered with many interesting activities like trekking/ canoeing/Wildlife Safaris/Camping and many more nature and adventure related activates that discerning travelers would love to be part of. Operators offer cycling guides, maps, first-aid, bike repair service and back up vehicles for travellers.
Trekking / hiking
For the keen hiker, there are plenty of opportunities in Sri Lanka’s hill country. The
rivers and abundant water falls in Sri Lanka are another key attraction that allows
hikers and trekkers to enjoy a refreshing dip en-route!
Prominent among these great sites is BELIHUL OYA which provides a splendid base from which to try out a wide variety of hiking and trekking tours through jungle and up mountains. HORTON PLAINS NATIONAL PARK also offers some excellent hikes in rather unique surroundings characterised by forest patches, grasslands and some high-altitude vegetation. Highlights here include the dramatic 880 metre drop at WORLD’S END and the simply stunning BAKER’S FALLS. Then there is the ADAM’S PEAK WILDERNESS SANCTUARY (SRI PADA) where one could begin the ascent at night in order to arrive at the top in time for a magical sunrise when the mystical shadow of the peak is perfectly cast across the clouds. It is one of those truly unique moments that will live on in your memory long after the aches and pains from the hiking have gone!
Also not to be missed is the spectacular KNUCKLES MOUNTAIN RANGE which forms the backbone of the recently declared Knuckles World Heritage Site. The region stretches an impressive 155 sq km, with five major forest formations and a variety of rare and endemic flora and fauna. It is in fact the most scenic part of Sri Lanka’s highlands and contains some of the island’s most breathtaking mountain scenery.
A hiking tour of the island would however not be complete without a visit to the captivating SINHARAJA RAINFOREST where a variety of trails can be tailor-made to meet the specific interests or fitness levels of the group. Dense, dark, wet and mysterious; the 11,187 hectare Sinharaja pre-medieval forest is a rich treasure trove of nature home to a great diversity of animal and plant life, many endemic to the region. This is not all. The HANTANA HILLS that rise above Kandy is yet another excellent site for trekking. Here one can appreciate a magnificent birdseye view of Kandy City and the mighty Knuckles Mountain Range. A well known trail leads through the area’s famous grasslands and forests, and past rural village homes to verdant green tea estates, where female tea pluckers could be seen deftly plucking the leaves and buds of the green bushes for which this country is 406 so famous. Another trail takes one up to the PITAWELLA ROCK POOLS and water fall, the ideal spot for a cooling natural shower and a picnic lunch. Both routes end at a well known tea factory where one can
sample the refreshing local brew and take a tour of the factory to see exactly how this delicious tea is produced. This can be undertaken as a cycling trail too.
There are more trekking trails to be discovered in many other parts of the country such as in and around the southern capital GALLE. For instance, Just a short distance from Galle is the Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya (KDN), a UNESCO-certified Biosphere Reserve which covers both lowland and montane tropical forests. Nestled between two rivers, the Nilwala and Gin, it consists of a series of parallel ridges and valleys, with two lovely water falls Anagi Mala Ella and Narangas Ella and a complex eco-system with lowland tropical forest, wet semi-evergreen forest, submontane tropical wet semi-evergreen forest and montane tropical wetevergreen forest which has been identified as one of the most floristically rich in Southeast Asia. Situated about 18km northeast of Galle will be found the KOTTAWA FOREST RESERVE & ARBORETUM, a 15-hectare low country woodland that displays features of a wet evergreen rainforest. With a wide pathway that dissects the rainforest, Kottawa is easily accessible for visitors of varying ages and physical abilities.
Hot Air Ballooning
Hot Air Ballooning though relatively new to Sri Lanka, is perhaps the most exciting way of seeing the country by floating over Sri Lanka’s exceedingly beautiful landscape including plains carpeted by verdant paddy fields of varying green hues, homesteads of farming communities, lakes, rivers and even World Heritage Sites. This is an opportunity not to be missed.
Ballooning rides normally start from Dambulla and from Galle, though new routes could be added from time to time. As the security situation has improved, balloon operators are looking at introducing more routes. A typical balloon flight is made up of a total travel experience of approx 4-hrs duration. Since Hot Air Ballooning is heavily dependent on weather conditions the best season for flying is October to April when light winds and lack of rain prevail.
Nature Trails and countryside walking tours
For travellers who want more than a mere walk through the countryside, there are those who offer the opportunity to journey on a nature trail through Sri Lanka’s rich and diverse natural environment with a special focus on the key areas of the country’s natural environment. Here you will come across a rich variety of flora and fauna including some rare bird life.
Ever liked to venture off the beaten track? Then its high time you embarked on a rough jeep ride ! Cruise along the sand dunes on the beach between the ocean and the lagoon at KALPITIYA in southern Sri Lanka, ride the 32 hair-pin bends of the Devil’s staircase near BELIHUL OYA, or cross the many streams on the exciting ‘Makara’ (dragon) drive to the GALOYA NATIONAL PARK reservoir. These tours can range from short tours to longer rides such as the ‘cross-country’ jeep tours.
Camping Safaris can be organized at all National Parks and Nature Reserves in Sri Lanka. Here’s an “experience of a life time” you cannot easily forget! Enjoy spending a night or two in the heart of the jungle in the midst of wildlife and
savour nature as it exists in the wild. All camping tours, are all inclusive with accommodation, meals, Government permits/fees, and Jeep Safaris with qualified naturalists.
Depending on the level of comfort you require in the wilderness you may choose from a range of camping products from Standard camping to Luxury. Luxury Camping involves a variety of facilities including a whole tent that includes a washroom equipped with a wall-to-wall carpet of high quality, a flushable toilet with commode, shower with hot/cold water, two comfortable beds and foldable arm chairs with a Coffee table placed in the Living Room, a fresh fruit basket and even a secure place to store your valuables.
In standard camping, visitors are provided with all the necessary services to make their experience a ‘hassle-free’ one. Comfortable mattresses and pillows, towels and torches are among the things that go to make your camping experience extra special. Camp Food is prepared on site enabling the serving of fresh, delicious meals. Chilled beverages will also be made available during Safaris.
Photography & Filming Missions
There is plenty of scope for photography in Sri Lanka, be it our golden beaches, picturesque hill country, wildlife and birds in our National Parks or our cultural and archaeological sites. Film crews and journalists are also supported under these programmes with all necessary facilities provided to capture those rare moments of a lifetime !
Be it wildlife photography, a documentary on the aboriginal people of Sri Lanka, or even a complete blockbuster movie, be assured that the photos or films you take back home with you will be worth many times the time and money you spend on these excursions.
Sri Lanka is home to a great many forests including tropical rain forests and dry zone forests. Some of these are dark and dense and even mysterious while others are more open with plenty of shrub and grassland.
Rock climbing though a relatively new activity in Sri Lanka offers much potential for those indulging in it to stumble upon new discoveries and find new climbing routes in various locations islandwide.
There exist some thrilling routes already in place including the 263m rock face of Sri Lanka’s highest water fall ‘Bambarakanda’, the rock face of the ATHA GALA or Elephant Rock in Kurunegala and the picturesque hilly countryside idyllically located in Kalupahana in Badulla district.
Being an island with an extensive coastline not to mention its gigantic reservoirs and abundance of lakes and other waterways, Sri Lanka is the ideal location to enjoy the exciting sport of fishing while inland fishing can take place all-yearround, deep sea fishing in Sri Lanka is seasonal, with the western and southern coasts accessible only from November to April, and the east coast more suitable for the activity between May and September. However many are those who resort to the rocks dotting the beaches to enjoy fishing in shallow waters with hook and line.
Negombo, Bentota and Hikkaduwa are well known spots for deep sea fishing. Game fish found in the coastal belt include Barracuda, Seer, Great Travilly and Queen Fish. As one goes deeper towards the shelf one will find Sail fish, Blue or Black Marlene, Tuna and Wahoo. As for Inland fishing, well known spots include Bolgoda and Madu Ganga while lake fishing can also be arranged in close proximity to where you are based. There are expert fishing guides who can advice you on the best timing depending on the weather and season. Fish usually caught include Barramundi, Mangrove Jack and Bull eyed Mackerel.
Fishing tours, if done through professional operators, are well worth the price. All equipment including Rods & Reels, Artificial Bait, Fishing Guide and sometimes Marine Naturalists are included in the Fishing tour package while snacks and refreshments are also served. A typical fishing trip would last about 4 hours on average. While many of these take place in an open fibre glass boat, it is also possible to indulge in traditional fishing activities, in a traditional Catamaran or Vallam vessel employing less sophisticated but more traditional methods.
Kayaking and Canoeing
With over a hundred rivers and an abundance of swamps and lagoons as well as interconnected old canals, many going back to the Dutch colonial period, Sri Lanka offers immense opportunities for Kayaking and canoeing. For instance one could, canoeing down the KALU GANGA (aka Black River) that flows from the heart of the island down to the west coast where it meets the Indian Ocean experience constantly changing landscapes and a fascinating variety of flora and fauna.
As an alternative to river canoeing, you may resort to one of the country’s many vast lakes or reservoirs. The calm waters of the Samanalawewa reservoir in Sri Lanka’s Sabaragamuwa province (easily accessible from BELIHUL OYA) provide just the ideal setting for enjoying breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and rich bird life. Yet another popular spot for this kind of activity is the beautiful Bolgoda Lake, the island’s largest fresh water lake, where one can experience its rich biodiversity.
Snorkelling and Scuba Diving
Sri Lanka offers world-class Scuba-Diving and Snorkelling tours. A host of tropical fish including multi-coloured coral reefs and fascinating ship wrecks including those going back to the European colonial era can be explored at several locations off the south coast of Sri Lanka. Among the breathtaking snorkelling and scuba diving sites may be included HIKKADUWA, WELIGAMA and KIRINDA. Top spots include ‘Bar Reef’ , Sri Lanka’s largest reef, easily accessible from the Puttalam district town of 409 KALPITIYA and Pigeon Island, off Nilaveli beach just north of TRINCOMALEE.
All underwater activities are conducted by well-trained and experienced UDI and PADI instructors to ensure your absolute safety and enjoyment. Due to the monsoon seasons, west coast diving and Snorkelling is generally best from November to April, whilst the east coast waters are at their calmest in May- October.
Combining the power of air sports with the speed and maneuverability of water sports, kite surfing is by far Sri Lanka’s most exhilarating and electrifying activity. The world’s fastest growing sport, kite surfing harnesses the strength of both the wind and the sea and is therefore a very environmentally friendly activity. Kite surfing can be done throughout the year in Sri Lanka though the locations are determined by the seasonal monsoons. Kite surfing trips are often conducted on a daily basis during the west coast season (November to April) as a two-day excursion to Kalpitiya on the island’s northwest coast with an overnight stay in a campsite on the beach. Kite surfing excursions to eastern locations (June to September) can also be arranged on request.
Sri Lanka is a year-round surfing destination with a wide range of excellent locations on both the east and southwest coast, each suitable at different times of the year according to the monsoon seasons. Sri Lanka is today regarded as a surfing hotspot by the international surfing community with the east coast’s ARUGAM BAY boasting an annual international surfing competition and HIKKADUWA hosting the National Championships of the Japanese Pro Surfers Association. Among other surfing locations may be mentioned Galle, Midigama and Weligama on the southern coast and Negombo on the west coast.
White Water Rafting
Sri Lanka’s spring fed rivers flowing through wild forest are the ideal setting for a white water rafting adventure. Whether as a full day excursion or as a multi day tour White Water Rafting is yours for the asking.
The island’s main water rafting location of Kithulgala is fed by the Kelani River, one of the country’s largest rivers which flows through its rock strewn sections with the rapids providing ample scope for white water rafting activity. The actual run takes about 1 hour to 3 hours depending on how much time you want to spend in water to complete with encounters of grade 2 and 3 rapids that bear unique names such as Butter Crunch, Killer Falls, Head Chopper and Virgin’s Breast. Rafting rides are usually hosted by professionally trained and experienced guides who always have their clients’ safety in mind.
Geotourism is all about unveiling remote destinations, primarily focuses on exploring the exclusive culture and history of any destination such as geographical attributes of a place, its culture, environment, heritage, and aesthetics. It has been studied that tourists also give high preference to natural and authentic destinations. The Geotourism study reveals that more than sixty one percent of tourists believe that they have a more rich experience, when their travel destination is historic, natural and cultural in nature.
Geotourism also plays a pivotal role in strengthening the economic condition of such remote places, as regional tourism employ locals, use local services, products and supplies. So that as a tourist you contribute to these communities for their development while enjoying destination’s specific features, natural habitats, heritage sites, local culture and aesthetics.
The hand book ‘Geotorist map of Sri Lanka’ published by Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, 569, Epitamulla Road, Pitakotte, Sri Lanka (http://www.gsmb.gov. lk) has described the Geo-Archaeological locations, Geomorphological locations, Mineral Deposits, Geologically important locations and Geotechnical locations in Sri Lanka. Further, some of these locations are described in this guide book under relevant provinces.