Sri Lanka is one of the 25 Biodiversity hot spots of the world. The country has the highest Biodiversity per 10,000 square km in Asia. Fifteen (15) distinct bio regions in an area of 62,500 square km each offering different landscapes and wildlife opportunities – with an ancient civilization contemporary to that of the Greeks and Romans and numerous cultural sites of antiquity, including six world heritage sites – Sri Lanka has an exotic and vibrant resource base of Ecotourism.
Sinharaja world heritage forest
Sinharaja world heritage Forest is a unique rain forest on the island which apart from very limited use by local people has been left largely undisturbed.
Biodiversity of the forest is very high, a staggering 830 of Sri Lanka’s endemic species of flora and fauna are found here, including myriad birds, reptiles and insects, while no less than sixty percent of the reserve’s trees are also endemic to the country and some endemic to the Sinharaja Forest itself.
There are two entrances to the forest. Most popular one is on the north side of the forest at Kudawa (see Sinharaja trail map), and the other one is at Mederipitiya about 11km east of Deniyaya.
Wild Life Sanctuaries and National Parks
Sri Lanka’s contains about 24 wildlife reserves, these are home to a wide range of native species such as elephants, leopard, sloth bear, the unique small loris, a verity of deer, the purple faced leaf monkey, the endangered wild boar, porcupines and ant-eaters. Reptiles include vipers and marsh and estuarine crocodiles. Among many amphibians endemic to the country are the Nanophyrys frogs in the hills. Most of the fish are river or marsh dwelling- the trout, introduced by the British are found in the cool streams of the Horton plains.
All wildlife reserves are for the protection of wildlife and plants though the categories differ. There are few “Strict Nature Reserves” (Ritigala, Hakgala), which are set aside for research work only. “National Parks” managed by Department of wildlife conservation are open to visitation. The largest National Parks are Ruhuna-Yala, Gal-oya, Uda Walawe, Wilpattu, Minneriya-Girithale, Horton Plains and Wasgomuwa. “Nature Reserves” provide suitable habitats for wildlife by allow limited human activity, while “Sanctuaries” allow human activities (eg. Khalle Pallekele Sanctuary).
Forests managed by Forest department also attract ecotourists. These forests include Sinharaja world heritage site (which is also man and biosphere site), Kithulgala Forest Reserve, Knuckles forest range and the highland peak wilderness and Adams Peak.
Sri Lanka also an ornithologist’s paradise with over 250 resident species, mostly found in the wet zone. The Kumana sanctuary in the southeast, and Bundala (famous for flamingoes), Kalametiya and Weerawila sanctuaries between Tissamaharama and Hambantota in the south, all with lagoons are the principal bird sanctuaries
Bellanwila-Attidiya sanctuary close to Colombo and Kurulu-kele Vegetation in Kegalle are also some other bird watching areas.
Other sites of interest
Wetlands – These are unique ecosystems with numerous bird life some with mangrove vegetation. eg. Muthurajawela mangroves, Negombo mangrove ecosystem, madu ganga and Bolgoda Lake.
Botanical Gardens – There are three botanical gardens in Sri Lanka: Peradeniya,
Hakgala and Gampaha- Henerathgoda.
Zoological Gardens – Dehiwala zoo is one of the most attractive in Asia. The 15 ha of undulating ground is beautifully laid out with shrubs, flowering trees and plants, orchids, lakes and fountains. There are over 2000 animals include large collection of birds, elephants, sloth bear, leopard, civets, and other small cats, many kinds of lizard, crocodiles and snakes. Lions, tigers, jaguars, black panthers, and many exotic species such as hippopotami, rhinos, giraffes and kangaroos. The aquarium has over 500 species of fish.
Museums – The National Museum in Colombo 7, set in an elegant white Neoclassical building and opened in 1877. It has a large collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, porcelain and Kandyan regalia.
The Natural History Museum is just behind the National Museum. Exhibits here include stuffed leopards, pickled snakes and presentations of the islands ecology and biodiversity.
The regular meetings of Young Biologists’ Association are held in the third floor of the Natural History Museum building.
Elephant orphanages – Pinnewala Elephant orphanage is one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions. Pinnewala is home to the world’s most largest troupe of captive elephants, from dignified elderly to the cutest of babies.