If you want to be isolated from the modernity and its complexions and wanted to be get charmed of flawing water and its purity Sinharaja Forest Reserve is the place to be. Sinharaja is a national park and a world heritage site designated by UNESCO, the largest rain forest in Sri Lanka and a popular hiking site among local and foreign tourists.
Sinharaja covers an area of 23000 acres. It’s a huge observation and hiking premises. Sinharaja is a bird watchers’ paradise. It is a home of over 25 endemic species and many a myriad of others.
Our focus was to see some of the waterfalls which was about within 5-10 kilometers from Pitadeniya entrance which is to the south east of the reserve and the easiest to reach out by public transport. Our journey began from Galle in a Saturday morning around 7.30 in the morning. Our plan was to go to Akuressa from Galle and then to Deniyaya and to Mederapitiya by bus, public transport and then walk to the Pitadneiya entrance from there which is about 3 kilometers long. There were 19 people in our touring party.
We also were to stay overnight in a Forest Department Bungalow which was reserved about a fortnight earlier at Forest Department head office at Battaramulla. We arrived at the Pitadeniya entrance at about 12.45 in the afternoon from where our hike began through the reserve. We had to hike on a footpath from there through the reserve where leeches were in abundance and it is advised to carry anti leech mechanisms with you.
Then we reached the Forest Department Dormitory at Pitadeniya which was another 1.5 kilometers in to the reserve from the entrance. We had to cross a bridge over “Gin Ganga” which starts and flaws through the reserve, which was about 80 meters long and informed the authorities on our presence and we saw three bungalows around it. Also we have been given a guide from there. A little while later a it began a rain pouring heavily and the atmosphere became cooler. In Sinharaja you can’t predict the rain as hikers and visitors are advised to be prepared carrying an umbrella or a raincoat.
Before we check in the bungalow we went to have a bath in the river to a spot we heard is safe about 1 kilometer up in the river and to in to the reserve. The water was crystal clear there that we could see the bottom and it was flawing so that it is pure said the guide. It was not deep there. It was about 5 feet maximum, but he showed about 50 to 60 meters either side and said not to go beyond that as it gradually begins to be deep. We took our lunch with us and had it in the river bank before going for a swim. After having the meal we crossed and went up the river to see a small waterfall there. We returned to the bathing spot and began to swim. It was a wonderful swim. The water was so pure and cool. It was rocky but not that shallow so that it was not dangerous. But during the rainy season water level might rise, said the guide.
After spending about 2 hours there we returned to the Forest Department Dormitory at around 5.30 in the evening and took our belongings and handed over the dried food we brought with us to the kitchen. As stated earlier we had reserved the bungalow and we were advised to bring dried food with us and hand over to the kitchen where it is cooked and served there. Only we had to state the menu for dinner that night, breakfast and lunch on the following day.
We checked in the bungalow and found it spacious and comfortable. As soon as we had a wash and settled in the bungalow we were informed that the tea is ready and tea was served. At about 8.00 in the evening we went to the dinner hall which was near the kitchen and the dormitory and had dinner prepared and served by the cook appointed there.
On the next day we took an early breakfast with tea and began to hike towards Lankagama, which is located in the middle of Sinharaja, and see some waterfalls which is scattered in an area of around 600 – 700 meters in diameter. We planned to see them all. We had to cross “Gin Ganga” again and we had to hike through Lankagama about 5 kilometers to the access road of the waterfalls. It was a village full of bio diversity too.
About an hour and half we came across a board with names of the waterfalls and distance from it. We first went to see “Brahmana Ella” which was the closest, 100 meters from there. The we hiked towards “Thattu Ella” which was about 350 meters from the board. Then we went to “Doowili Ella” from there which was about 525 meters from the borad and the access path was very difficult. But the waterfall itself was a beauty. Though it was around 600 – 700 meters to hike, it was very difficult due to the wet condition of the road. Sometimes the road was descending and sometimes it was ascending at impossible angles. As we moved into the forest the access roads were becoming more difficult to walk through. Footpaths were becoming so narrow and we had to climb down grabbing tree trunks and bushes on the way down or up sometimes.
Though we planned to access the whole five waterfalls in the area as we consumed more time than expected and we had to return to Colombo on the day itself, we couldn’t see the rest of the two falls, “Gal Oruwa Ella” which was about 550 meters away and “Uran Wetuna Ella” which was around 440 meters away from the board but in a different direction. We were disappointed to turn around as the sites were amazing and picturesque. The atmosphere was cool and refreshing.
For the past day we did not have mobile phone signals in the reserve and on our way to the bungalow we found signals only at Lankagama School. Our guys were so busy there, for a change. It’s around 2.00 in the afternoon we returned to the dormitory and we had lunch there and began the long walk back to Pitadeniya entrance and to Mederapitya as we had to take the last bus back to Deniyaya.
It was a hiking experience completely away from the outside world, but with natural beauty and it’s offerings. We didn’t have any mobile signals or a connection outside of it. The most important thing is no one complained about it. We missed to see two waterfalls this time around and surely we will come back and have another day along the shady trails of the Sinharaja.
Photo credits to Nadeera Dhanushka Senevirathne, Akila Rathnayake and Anas Fahumy