Learn much more about Udawalawe NP here...
Hundreds of wild elephants roam free in Udawalawe National park, tuskers, male loners, small groups of females with babies. There is no specific high season to spot wild elephants in Udawalawe, they can be seen in large numbers all year long. Actually, there is somewhat an elephant guarantee for Udawalawa safaris. Apart from its elephant population, Udawalawe is rich in wild buffalos and birdlife.
Learn much more about Udawalawe NP here...
Last October, the occurence of Black Panthers in Sri Lanka was for the first time caught on video footage. The Wildlife Department had installed motion sensor cameras in remote dense forests. Sri Lankan authorities did not inform the public instantly but confirmed the existence only after a thorough investigation and recording more videos. There is now evidence of an entire family of Black Panthers, a male and a female with two cubs. Some shots are published on youtube, for example at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aEyuQP9ew0 (with comments). The videos were shot in the montane forests of the sanctuary known as Peak Wilderness, which is the densely forested area around Adam's Peak.
However, some of the information given in Sri Lankan media is misleading. Black Panthers are neither a species nor a subspecies. They belong to the same subspecies as all other Sri Lankan leopards, namely Panthera pardus kotiya. The phenomenon of having a pure black sprite (instead of the more common dull yellow fur with black marks like other leopards) is known from many species, including many other species of cats, well-known in the case of pet cats: they can be black instead of striped. Similarly, Black Horses are not separate subspecies. (They only occur in some subspecies more frequently than in others.) This kind of mutation to a black fur is commonly called melanism. So be aware: The black colour is not a permanent characteristic of any specific bloodline. Rather, parents as well as cubs of Black Panthers can be yellow leopards. Even cubs of two black parents can be yellow. Furthermore, cubs of one and the same litter can be of different colours. To put it in other words: The next generation of leopards can change the colour, Black Panthers can be offspring of yellow leopards and the other way around.
Though Black Panthers seem to be purely black, they are in fact patterned. The darker marks of yellow leopards do not completely disappear in the case of Black Panthers. Rather, they can still be seen when very bright sunshine is illuminating the fur from the side. The reason is: The still existing rosettes and spots are only obscured by a much darker undercoat.
Already William Watt Addison Phillips in his "Manual of the Mammals of Ceylon" (Colombo 1935) reported that a Black Panther was shot by a hunter near Hambantota. Occasionally, Sri Lankan villagers reported to have spotted Black Panthers. However, the first photographic evidence is only from as late as 2009, when in Mawuldeniya (close to Deniyaya) in the southern foothills of the Sinharaha rain forest a female Black Panther was found dead in an illegal trap, afterwards taxidermied to be exhibited at the Giritale Wildlife Museum.
So, indeed, something's new and it's somewhat spectacular: It's for the first time now that living Black Panthers are scientifically recorded in Sri Lanka!
Black Panthers have been known from almost all other leopard subspecies occuring in Asia and Africa. They are most common on the Malay Peninsula, where Black Panthers form the bulk of the leopard population to the south of the Isthmus of Kra (maybe even the entire population), whereas spotted yellow leopards of the same subspecies (Panthera pardus delacouri) are common in other parts of mainland Southeast Asia and southern China. The percentage of Black Panthers is also comparatively high in forested montane regions of Africa. The general pattern of distribution is: Black Panthers occur more frequently in dense (and therefore dark!) tropical forests. Even yellow leopards in dense forests are usually more brownish than those in open grasslands, the latter "golden" ones in turn being slightly less pale than those in desert areas.
For most Sri Lanka travellers Tissamaharama is the perfect starting point for safaris in the surrounding national parks of Yala and Bundala and Lunugamvehera, some also enjoy birdwatching in the close-by Wirawila sanctionary. But Tissa - as its name is commonly shortened - is also an attraction in itself. Tissamaharama is the ancient Mahagama, which was the capital of the southern principality known as Rohana in the Pali chronicles. It was the hometown of the Sinhalese national hero Dutugemunu (Dutthagamani in Pali). Due to its historical significance, Tissamaharama alias Mahagama is sometimes called the "Anuradhapura of the south". Four major dagobas survive from the early centuries of Buddhism on the island. The best restored one - from a scientifical point of view - is called Sandagiri Dagoba. A small archaeological museum is attached to it. Two other dagobas are much larger, actually the largest of the entire Southern Province of Sri Lanka. However, the Tissa and Yattala stupas are restored as white domes in a more modern style.
The photos shown above are taken in the complex of the Sandagiri Dagoba (stupa) of the ancient city of Mahagama, now known as Tissamaharama alias Tissa. This is only one of 4 archaeological sites in Tissa. To learn more about the history of Tissa and its places of interest for heritage round tours, please click here...
The Meetiyagoda moonstone mine is situated in the hinterland of Sri Lanka's southwestern beach resorts Hikkaduwa and Ambalangoda. A visit is also easily managable as a half-day excursion from other coastal towns between Galle in the south and Bentota or Beruwela in the north. Actually, trips to Meetiyagoda, also combined with otherr nearby destinations such as Madhu Ganga wetlands are quite popular with holiday makers who spend some days or weeks in beach resorts of this region.
Guided tours in Meetiyagoda include a short walk to the shaft of the mine, where you can also study the filtering process, and then to the workshop and showrooms. You can study the filtering. The promotion slogan "the world's only moonstone mine" is a little bit misleading. Moonstones are found on all continents. The classic finding place in ancient Europe was the area of St. Gotthard in Switzerland. Today, Europe's richest moonstone mines are in Poland and Scandinavia. Most moonstones are from Mynamar and India. But Sri Lanka's moonstone - mostly from Meetiyagoda - have a reputation of being among the finest, although the quality of the finds has been decreasing for several years. Myanmar's and Sri Lanka's moonstones are those of the highest value due to their uniquely intense blue sheen. But the blue-shining moonstones have become even rarer in Myanmar than in Sri Lanka in recent decades. This is why claiming to be the world's only moonstone mine has some justification, as Meetiyagoda is the only remaining mine for moonstones with the highly attractive blue sheen.
a less-kown large excavation site in the Deep South of Sri Lanka - not far from Tangalle
Though it is situated at the A18 main road, which is connecting the southern beach resorts such as Tangalle and Kirinda with the "elephant national park" Udawalawe and the "gem city" Ratnapura, the Rambha Viharaya (also transcribed "Ramba Vihara") is rarely visited by foreign travellers. To be honest, this archaeological site is not as amazing as the nearby rock and cave temple of Mulgirigala. And Situlpawwa in the Yala area might earn the fame of being a more fascinating ancient site, just due to its environmental settings. However the Rambha Viharaya is one of the largest excavated temple complexes in the southern plains of Sri Lanka, although not many Sri Lankans and foreign guests seem to be aware of this fact. What is now called the Rambha Viharaya once served as the main monastery of an ancient city named Mahanagakula, which was an important trading center in antiquity and became the capital of Sri Lanka's Deep South during the Polonnaruwa period. Even the nation's famous Tooth Relic is said to have been kept here for a while during the period of Indian Chola hegemony over the northern half of the island. The reputation of the "banana monastery" - which actually the literal meaning of "Rambha Viharaya" - remained to be far-reaching after the Polonnaruwa period, when even monks from Myanmar's world-famous temple-town Bagan sought advice from the monks residing here in southern Sri Lanka.
The ruins of the Barandi Kovil in a suburb of Seethawaka (formerly known as Avissawella) are rarely visited by foreigners, though many travel along the close-by main road from Kitulgala to the coast. To be honest, what can be seen of the former state temple of the 16th century is not quite imposing. However, the Barandi Kovil archaeological site is worth a short break, as the location is quite charming and the temple is of some historical significance, as it was the main building of the former Seethawaka kingdom, which was the most important principality of the island in the second half of the 16th century. Furthermore, this is the only major state temple of a Sri Lankan monarchy that was dedicated to Shiva and thereby Hindu instead of Buddhist. Actually, Hinduism seems to have replaced Buddhism as the Sinhalese state religion in the Seethwaka period. This is the reason why the Seethawaka kingdom, though the major proponent of Sinhalese independence against Portuguese overlordship, has not a good reputation in Buddhist historiography.
Learn more about the Barandi Kovil of Seethwaka here...
Visit "Little World's End" and "Big World's End" of Horton Plains...
...when you are on tour with me in Sri Lanka
and if you are fascinated by either biodiversity hotspots or large deer or scenic beauty
or waterfalls... or all of it, to be seen on a half-day hiking tour.
The original Sinhala name of Horton Plains is Maha Eliya, which translates to "Great Plains".
The name refers to the open grassland areas within the montane cloud forest
situated in an elevation of more than 2000 m above sea level.
Did you know that Horton Plains - the escarpments of which are called "World's End" -
is the only place on our tropical island that is both a National Park and a World Heritage Site?
You are looking for a major heritage sites in a scenic natural setting with plenty of diverse cultural attraction, undisturbed by crowds of tourists, in short: for a genuine Sri Lankan dream destination? Then Dimbulugala is the place to visit. Actually, Dimbulagala played an important role in the history of Theravada Buddhism, for Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia alike. Dimbulagala is the highest mountain in the plains of Anuradhapura, it can be seen from many places and is close to the main road (A11) from Polonnaruwa to the East Coast beach resort of Passikudah. Nonetheless, most tourists don’t known, that this mountain is crowded with interesting places and inviting with hiking trails to vantage points. Actually, there are at least four places of interest, not far from each other. Nalum Pokuna at the northern slope is an archaeological site with remnants a typical ancient monastery, a picturebook “ruins in the jungles”. A large monastery inhabited by monks is at the southwestern base of the mountain, including a small museum and footpath to a stupa with perfect panorama’s. Further east is a lonesome cave temple high above the plains and at the southern base of the mountains are remnants of ancient paintings. Actually, you can spend an entire day in Dimbulagala to explore all the places of interest. But a half-day detour from Polonnaruwa or Passikudah is rewarding, too.
Our website presents comprehensive information on Dimbulagala
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka,