Sinharaja is a a mountain range in the south-west of the island, halfway between coastline and Sri Lanka's central highlands, separated from the latter by the Sabaragamuwa lowland area of Ratnapura. Sinharaja's highest peak reaches 1171 m. Tea and pepper is grown at the eastern slopes of the chain of hills. The Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka's largest and best preserved tropical rain forest, covers the western half of the range. 21 km long and 7 km wide, the reserve cannot be called a deep or endless jungle, however, due to its biodiversity and the plentitude of endemic species, it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1988. Situated exactly downwind towards the monsoon, Sinharaja is Sri Lanka's area with the highest levels of rainfall. Annual precipitation is above 3000 mm and can even reach 6000 mm. Visiting Sinhara is not recommended during monsoon season between June and September, when weather is rainy, pathes are muddy, and anaimals are hiding.
Two thirds of the tree species in Sinharaja are endemic to Sri Lanka, many of them are rare. 211 woody tree and liana species are identified within the reserve, 139 of them are endemic. High levels of endemism are also probable for the lower plants like ferns and epiphytes.
Sinharaja harbours 20 of Sri Lanka’s endemic bird species. (The island’s other 6 endemic bird species occur only in the dryzone.) Sinharaja is also famous for its butterflies, 50 % of Sri Lanka’s endemic species occur in Sinharaja's virgin forest.
Sinharaja is a perfect trekking area, though only during the dry season, sea above. There are numerous hiking and trekking routes of various lengths. Actually, you can spend several days int the forest reserve. The trails lead to peaks, too, where you can enjoy nice vistas. The highest peak is Hinipitigala. Among hikers and local weekend-travellers the trail to Mulawella peak is quite popular, too. The forest at its lowest is 270 m above sea level at the southern boundary of the Forest Reserve, where about a dozen waterfalls are situated.
Among nature lovers the tropical wet evergreen forest of Sinharaja is one of Sri Lanka’s must-sees. And they have good luck in at least one respect: Because it is not run by the Wildlife Department but by the Forest department, a stay in the Sinharaja camp is comparatively cheap.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka