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Sri Lanka

Highlights

Trekking at Knuckles Range
The Knuckles mountain range, a World heritage Conservation Area that covers an area of 18512 hectares, is one of the loveliest nature attractions of Sri Lanka. The Knuckles affords intriguing trekking possibilitie and is still to a greater extent untouched zone of significant natural beauty and biodiversity.  The changing terrain of grasslands, rugged mountain peaks interspersed with streams and cascading waterfalls make the Knuckles mountain range the trekker’s paradise.  Serious trekkers and biodiversity enthusiasts can take up a three day hike of 40 plus km trek with a guide.

Adam's Peak - "Sri Pada" Adam's Peak
At 2243m, Adam's Peak is the 4th Highest peak in Sri Lanka but its most prominent peak. Sri Pada is surrounded by exceptionally dense forest, much of it now making up the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. This is not the lush steamy cover one usually associates with the tropics but a cool misty forest similar to that found in the lower reaches of the Himalayas. Giant trees hang heavy with moss, rhododendrons put forth large red blossoms and rare orchids like the Regal and the Chandraraja grow in the dark moist loam.  Adam’s Peak is also called the ‘butterfly mountain’ because of the myriads of small butterflies that fly from all over the island to die upon the sacred mountain.

On the summit of the mountain is a boulder with a mysterious mark or indentation on it resembling a human footprint.  For thousands of years since 1st century BC, this mark has been revered by various religious group and the object of pilgrimage since then.  

The Hatton–Nallathanni route is the most popular trail to the summit of Adam’s peak. This trail is the shortest trail (5km distance) and it is also the trail that starts off from the highest elevation which makes it the trail with lowest elevation gain. It's well paved for the most part and steeper sections are always aided with well laid cement steps. The facilities along the trail such as rest spots, drinking water etc. are also better as compared to the other trails. It takes the average person 5-7 hours to hike the 1000m ascent up to the top.

The best weather season as well as the official pilgrimage season is from December - April.  Avoid long week-ends and full-moon days during this period. Busiest is in Jan and Feb.  An off-season climb can also be extremely rewarding since you will completely be away from any civilization or human contact until you reach the peak.   The trail can be slippery and hazardous during monsoon months.

Horton National Plains
The Horton Plains National Park, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a protected area in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and is covered by montane grassland and cloud forest. This plateau at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres (6,900–7,500 ft) is rich in biodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region. This region was designated a national park in 1988 and contains Sri Lanka's 2nd highest mountain Kirigalpothha (2388m) and 3rd highest mountain Thotupola (2357m) .

The best time of year to visit is from November to March.  The Horton Plains is rich in fauna and the most commonly seen mammal is the Sambar Deer. Other mammal species includes: Sri Lankan Leopards, Kelaart's Long-clawed Shrews, Toque Macaques, Purple-faced Langurs, Rusty-spotted Cat, Wild boars, Stripe-necked Mongooses, Sri Lankan Spotted Chevrotains, Indian Muntjacs, and Grizzled giant squirrels.  Fishing Cats and European Otters visit the wetlands of the park to prey on aquatic animals. A subspecies of Red Slender Loris, the Horton Plains Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus nycticeboides formerly sometimes considered as Loris lydekkerianus nycticeboides) is found only in highlands of Sri Lanka and is considered one of the world's most endangered primates"

Of particular interest to walkers and nature lovers may be the World's End Trail.  The main trail at the park runs for around 5.6 miles (9km).  Beginning in earnest, you will take to the forest.  In a land where elephants roam no more, you can still spot macaques, wild boar, the Sri Lankan Samba deer, and a slew of other animals. As the hike opens up around the grasslands, you will be able to witness the full scope of the park’s natural grandeur. See an assortment of birds such as the bush-warbler, the wood-pigeon, and the dull-blue flycatcher. Try to play ornithologist and identify as many species as you can. Continuing along the trail you will encounter your first significant lookout point, Small World’s End. While this vantage point does provide a spectacular view, stop only for a short while to take a couple snapshots and grab some water. Only a short distance ahead is the big boy: World's End, a 1050m drop.

Sigiriya Rock Fortress
This pillar of rock rises dramatically 200m above the surrounding plains, and is the shortest-lived but most extraordinary of all Sri Lanka’s medieval capitals. Before Sigiriya became a Kingdom, the Sigiriya Rock was dwelled by Buddhist monks from around 3rd Century BC.

Halfway up the rock there’s an open-air spiral stairway leading up from the main route to a long, sheltered gallery in the sheer rock face. In this niche is a series of paintings of buxom, wasp-waisted women, popularly believed to represent either apsaras (celestial nymphs) or King Kassapa’s concubines. Protected from the sun in the sheltered gallery, the paintings remain in remarkably good condition, their colours still glowing. They’re at their best in the late-afternoon light. No one knows the exact dates of the impressive frescoes, though it’s unlikely they date as far back as the 5th century (when King Kassapa reigned).

At the northern end of the rock the narrow pathway emerges on to the large platform from which the rock derives its later name – the Lion Rock, Sigiriya. At one time a gigantic brick lion sat at this end of the rock, and the final ascent to the top commenced with a stairway that led between the lion’s paws and into its mouth. The 5th-century lion has since disappeared, apart from the first steps and the paws. Reaching the top means clambering up across a series of grooves cut into the rock; fortunately there is a handrail.

The spectacular terraced summit of the rock covers 1.6 hectares. Today only the low foundations of structures exist, and the remains are visually unimpressive. Still, it's hard not to be captivated by the astonishing views from this lofty perch, which extend for miles across a emerald ocean of forest canopy.

The “Lion Rock” was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982 and is the country’s most memorable single attraction.  The leafy village that has grown up near its base serves the comings and goings of tourists and pilgrims and is of relatively recent origin.

The Hill Country
The Hill Country lives in a cool, perpetual spring, away from the often enervating heat and heavy air of the coastal regions or the hot dry air of the central and northern plains. Everything here is green and lush, and much of the region is carpeted with the glowing green of the tea plantations, with montane forest hugging the higher slopes.  The Hill Country is a relaxed area where it’s very easy to find the days just drifting by. Higher up into the hills are many towns that are worth a visit, and an abundance of walks and climbs, refreshing waterfalls and historic sites. Popular stops are Nuwara Eliya and Ella.

Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. It is situated about 300 kilometres from Colombo in the southeast region of the country, and covers 979 square kilometres. Yala was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, being designated in 1938.

Yala National Park is best known for its variety of wild animals with 44 species of mammals recorded in the park including Buffaloes, Leopards, Monkeys, Circles, Crocodiles, Wild boars and Bears.. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan Elephants and aquatic bird. The park is one of the best places for sightings of wild Elephants and has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. Note however that with only 35 leopards in the entire park the chances of actually seeing a single leopard is not exactly high.

Feb-Jun/Jul is the optimum time to visit when water tables are low. Leopard, elephant and many smaller animals are competing for the same drinking supply. You are likely also to see sloth bears, deer, wild boar, buffaloes, crocodiles and monkeys. Birds are in profusion – up to 130 species. The park also contains a monastic settlement, Situlpahuwa and other important centres of pilgrimage

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
The Pinnawala (Pinnawela) Elephant Orphanage was set up to provide a lifeline to the orphaned baby elephants and adult elephants lost in the wilderness. In mostof the occasions the mother of the orphaned baby elephants had been killed; and then there have been accidents of baby elephants falling into pits and losing out to the herd; and there were instances the mother elephant had fallen into a pit and died leaving the baby elephant lost in the jungle. There are instances of adult elephants being killed by farmers to protect their paddy fields and crops resulting in baby elephants orphaned.

Visiting Pinnawela is a grand opportunity to enjoy the spectacle up close a large herd of elephants interacting together. The highlight is the elephants at the bathing hours: at 10.00 am and 2.00 pm daily, the animals are walked 400 meters to the river Maha Oya. The visitors seated on the steep rocky banks of the river, are afforded the opportunity, to enjoy the sight of the herd of elephants bathing and playing at the river. The bathing hours are followed up with the feeding hour at the main center of the orphanage. Baby elephants are bottle fed. Selected visitors have a chance of bottle feeding milk to the baby elephants.

Sri Lanka - The Ultimate Island Safari
As much as 15% of Sri Lanka's land is dedicated to national parks, reserves, and safaris. Sri Lanka may just well be the best safari destination outside Africa. Outside Africa, no other country or continent can boast of five, big charismatic animals which also offer a good strike rate and a chance tosee all of them in one trip. Allow us to introduce The Sri Lankan Big 5ive :

The Blue Whale :  the biggest animal in the world. During the season the strike rate is over ninety per cent, off the coast Mirissa. One of Sri Lanka’s finest secrets is that the town of Mirissa, which is one of the world's best locations for watching blue and sperm whales together, as well as pods of dolphins.  This is because the continental shelf is closer to the surface at this point and hence more likely to sigh the world's largest animal. Nowhere else in the world can blue whales be seen in such numbers and with such ease. Whale-watching boats depart usually at 7am for a tour of around 5 hours.

The Sperm Whale : the biggest toothed whale species in the world, found between Mirissa and Kalpitiya. The strike rate is good enough for marine wildlife tourism where visitors engage in multiple visits to sea. Sri Lanka is one of the best places to see this beautiful creature.

The Leopard : the biggest cat in Sri Lanka and third biggest in Asia. Yala National Park in Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world to see the country's top predator.  The leopards have also now become so habituated to vehicles that at present, 3 game drives seem to offer a 95 per cent strike rate.

The Asian Elephant : the biggest terrestrial mammal in Asia, found in 13 countries. But it is not an easy animal to see other than in Sri Lanka which is the best place in the world for seeing it. In addition, Sri Lanka also has the spectacular Gathering of Elephants, a seasonal event in the Minneriya (and Kaudulla) National Parks. At this time, it is possible to observe at least 100-200 elephants gathered within a one kilometer quadrat. There are possibly two places in Africa, where more elephants may gather together in times of drought. But The Gathering of Elephants in Minneriya (and Kaudulla) is the largest gathering of elephants which happens each year.

The Sloth Bear : one of the biggest bears in tropical latitudes. Yala is the best place in the world for seeing the Sloth Bear. Wildlife enthusiasts who undertake 3-5 game drives offers a reasonable chance of spotting the sloth bear.

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