Sri Lanka is very fortunate to be gifted by nature of a wealth of animal life and luxuriant vegetation. Today in this small island of 65,610 sq km, approximately 14% is dedicated to sanctuaries and nature reserves.
Much of the fauna is of Indian origin, due to the fact that millions of years ago the 2 countries were bridged by a strip of land, remnants which are still visible. However, the period of separation has been sufficient for distinctive indigenous fauna to evolve and 19% are new species, totally endemic to Sri Lanka. You will come back to them, searching, again & again — and in time will grow within you an intimacy, a love for the jungle which offers sanctuary to fast dwindling and very precious wildlife.
Of the 86 species of mammals, pride of place goes to the majestic Elephant – the second largest terrestrial animal surviving today. While Sri Lanka does not have Lions & Tigers, 4 species of Cats including the Leopard are seen regularly in the wildlife parks. Other exotic species commonly seen are the Sloth Bear and many varieties of Deer, Monkeys including the endemic Macaque, Purple Faced Leaf Monkey and Shaggy Bear Monkey. More common species are Wild Boar, Jackals, Mongoose, Porcupines, Giant Squirrels, many species of Rats and Shrews and the aggressive and dangerous Wild Buffalo.
Most lakes and estuaries in the national parks attract many Crocodiles belonging to 2 species endemic to Sri Lanka. 5 species of turtles frequent the shores all over the island to lay eggs.
Legend has it that the world’s first wildlife sanctuary was created in Sri Lanka by a Sri Lankan King in the 3rd century BC. It is recorded in the ancient Buddhist scriptures – “The King decreed that all human beings should follow the hallowed Buddhist precept of not harming any form of life”.
Yala West is one of the few Sri Lankan national parks still open to travelers. It covers almost 1000 sq km of scrub, lagoons and rocky outcrops in the country’s south-east and is a particularly good place to see wild elephants. There are also leopards, bears, deer, crocodiles, wild boar, monkeys, buffalo and wild peacocks. It’s best to hire a jeep and driver in Tissamaharama and be in place near a waterhole at dawn or dusk.
Yala West is closed in September and usually part of August and October too. But when it’s open the best way to get there is to catch a bus to the coastal town of Tissamaharama, 241km (149mi) from Colombo, and then hire a jeep and a driver. If you have your own four wheel drive you can just drive up to the front gate and pay the entrance, insurance and tracker fees.
Whenever you find yourself succumbing to a sense of boredom; whenever you’re blue and things look glum- what do you do?
If your answer to that question was an unambiguous “Go trekking!” then this section’s for you. Dedicated to the inimitable task of hauling on heavy-duty shoes and heavier backpacks, of striking out into the great wild outdoors- of going trekking. Hiking, walking the wilds, call it what you will, trekking is the best way to see the world. If you really want to get a feel of the earth; if you really want to walk through the forests and feel the breeze on your face; trudge through unspoilt territory and explore for yourself- go trekking.
And if you’re a tourist or have come visiting- then three cheers for ou! Because this fabulous country offers some of the most awesome trekking opportunities anywhere. All across, from north to south and from east to west, are a series of breathtaking trekking trails, ranging from even-kiddies-can-manage to the hardcore professional. Head for the mountains – for arid but gorgeously beautiful scenery. If you’re looking for adventure; you could make tracks through the several valleys, discovering cascading waterfalls and the countryside for easier treks which take you through stunning landscapes and quaint villages where time stands still.
Go hiking through North western Province to the clearest of lakes and the holiest of Buddhist shrines; or trek further south, where lie rolling hills, craggy peaks and cool valleys, just waiting to be explored. Try your hand (and foot) in the tea estate countryside or go up country to Horton Plains where the dreamy blue-misted hills make for great treks through spice and tea plantations, dense forests and tribal villages. Strike base at Kataragama and you can plan some great treks in the area.
That isn’t all, of course: there are plenty of other treks to try and to enjoy, the hills around Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela; the Valley of the famous Ella gap, and so much more.
There’s actually no end to the paths you can find, the trails you can follow- or blaze.
For trekking, try walking across the strange silent plateau of Horton Plains near Nuwara Eliya to see the 700m (2296ft) drop at World’s End.
From December to April, pilgrims converge to climb the 2224m (7295ft) Adam’s Peak. At the top is a huge ‘footprint’, claimed by Muslims to belong to Adam, who stood there in expiation of his sin in the Garden of Eden. Never mind that, Buddhists believe it to be the mark of Buddha or that Hindus hold the print to have been made by Lord Shiva, the fact remains that it is has been a place of pilgrimage for over 1000 years. The view from the peak at dawn is enough to shock the most cynical agnostic into a state of reverie. It takes about four hours to climb to the top from the town of Dalhousie.
Reaching the base of Adam’s Peak is simple and if you’re making a night ascent, you’ve got all day to arrive. Buses run to Dalhousie from Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Colombo during the pilgrimage season. Otherwise you need to get first to Hatton or Maskeliya. If you’re really running late, taxis will take you to Hatton or Dalhousie. You’ll need to cover 220km (136mi) to get there from Colombo.
Once the favourite hill station of the British, Nuwara Eliya, still retains the vestiges of Empire: a blend of Tudor and Georgian architecture, gabled roofs, immaculate lawns with rose bushes and moss-covered gravestones. Soak up the quaint atmosphere by visiting the Hill Club – by jove, there’s a golf course, tennis courts, even copies of Country Life here – or visit the Botanical Gardens at Hakgala and tea plantations in the surrounding hills.
Buses going to Nuwara Eliya leave Colombo almost hourly, and from Kandy with regular frequency. You can catch a train, although you’ll need to get off at Nanu Oya and catch a connecting bus, or taxi, to Nuwara Eliya itself as it does not have a train station of its own.
The beach resorts of Sri Lanka offer a variety of water sports ranging as follows:
Deep Sea Diving
Jet scooter Racing
So pack your swimwear, your snorkel and your suntan lotion- and head for the beach, for a watery adventure which will leave you thirsting for more.
When to go
All of Sri Lanka’s coastal areas lie in the tropical zone. Summers are hot and humid, and monsoons can be depressingly grey; the best time to visit, therefore, is in the winter. November to April is when the weather’s at its best. It’s warm enough to swim without having to invest in a wet suit, yet cool enough for comfort.
What to bring
Swimwear, suntan lotion, towels- obviously. Equipment such as scuba diving gear, snorkels, surfboards and other such stuff can be hired at major resorts and at Water Sports Complexes , and at a number of beaches in the island and elsewhere. Smaller and less touristy places will invariably not offer equipment for hire, so you’d be well advised to bring your own.
Many of Sri Lanka ‘s beaches, though with great potential for water sports, haven’t been developed. They’ll offer basic tourist infrastructure, but little else. These are the places you’ll have to make sure- perhaps by asking local fishermen- that the seas are safe, and there aren’t any sharp rocks, below the surface.
Even if the infrastructure is satisfactory, with life guards at hand, medical facilities and all the other essentials, it’s wise to take some precautions. Although swimming by itself doesn’t require too much skill, other sports will need specific training and a certain degree of physical fitness. Scuba diving, for instance, needs certified training, with rescue training and emergency care being essential.
Sri Lanka is one of the main surfing spots within the Indian ocean. High quality waves, peaceful surroundings and un-crowded beaches
are some of the assets of the Sri Lankan coast. Surf in the country is mainly localized between the Southwest and Southeast of the Island. The
south west and east coast of Sri Lanka have some excellent reef which are well worth investigating Sri Lanka offers palm fringed beaches, which adorn over a 1000 miles of coastline, often twisting and curving into little nooks, bays and coves. It is ideal for a paradise holiday of unlimited sun, sea, sand and surf all year round, excellent for swimming and surfing. Diving in these waters takes you into an
entirely different and equally delightful world, scattered with fantastic coral formations, colorful, tropical fish as well as interesting sunken wrecks. Towards the south of the island are the highly popular beach resorts of Negombo, Kalutara, Beruwala, and Ahungalla, where fresh seafood is the forte.
The most popular beaches for surfing are Hikkaduwa, Midigama, and Arugam Bay.
The beach of Hikkaduwa is situated 98 km from Colombo towards the south of Sri Lanka. This fun coastal town 14 kms from Galle was the first of the Sri Lanka’s beautiful beaches to be discovered by tourists in the 1960s.. Snorkeling and diving in the clear waters are the major pastime along this stretch and is the most environmentally friendly way to see the colorful fish that dart around. The coral sanctuary found on the coast of Hikkaduwa is a large shallow body of water enclosed by a reef, decorated with layers of multi colored corals, which is home to countless number of colorful fish. Off the beach there is a collection of tiny islets surrounded by beautiful coral formations. Many species of fish and large turtles are found here.
There are more than four different shipwrecks for diving enthusiasts to explore along with dive shops offering PADI courses and equipment. Plenty of beachfront accommodation and a reputation as the second best surf spot in Sri Lanka by the international board-riding set, and the reason so many visit Hikkaduwa is manifestly clear.
The resort area has now engulfed two or three villages south of it, and is now a 4km strip of hotels, shops, bars, restaurants and guesthouses. The beaches are nice and wide and swimming is safe here, though the currents are stronger south of Hikkaduwa proper. The impressive coral reef runs just offshore and is still populated by exotic fish and sea turtles. Glass bottomed boats are available for visitors wanting to admire the wonders of the deep while keeping their feet dry!
After a shot distance southwards from the center of the reef, it diminishes given rise to a wider sandy bottomed beach with good waves ideal for board surfing and body surfing. You can always rent the necessary equipment needed for snorkeling and surfing. Hikkaduwa is an established tourist destination and the surfing there is quite well known. You won’t see the Indonesian style overcrowding here though. The reef is coral so a first aid kit and booties are handy. Localism is usually not a problem though we have seen some tourists get some hassle. Respect them and they leave you alone pretty much.
There are many shops selling Masks, Gems, Jewelry, Batik, Antiques and etc. along with several Buddhist temples, all which add spice to life at Hikkaduwa.
Useful facts to know:
The surfing season in Hikkaduwa starts in November and ends in April.
Average water temperature: 28 degrees
Average air temperature: 30 degrees
About Midigama area
The area around Midigama is most popular amongst tourists for the stilt fishing men who can be seen early morning and afternoon. Boat trips can be made on Koggala lake which is home to more than 1000 small islands. Many birds can be seen here. There is a nice museum in Koggala, the Martin Wickremasinghe Museum of Folk, Art & Culture.
Ahangama and Midigama are laid back Sri Lankan villages, mostly visited by surfers. Good places to relax away from the crowds.
Mirissa has a very attractive beach and many guest houses and hotels to stay in. It is a popular place amongst tourists.
Useful facts to know:
The surfing season in Midigama starts in November and ends in April.
Average water temperature: 28 degrees
Average air temperature: 30 degrees
Surf spots in the area:
The best surf is found between Ahangama and Midigama. When you go south from Galle, the first surf spot is called the Rock as the peak is in front of a big rock sticking out of the sea. The break is in front of Kabalana hotel, easy to find. It has a good long left and normally a steep, short right. Breaks up to 7ft. The Incoming tide provides the best surf.
Midigama is more famous amongst surfers as the accommodation is cheap and there are various good breaks. The main break is in front of Hiltens Beach Resort. Basically a lazy left, up to 6 ft, deep water, good for beginners and long boarding as well. Early morning the offshore wind might welcome you with some barrels. The next break is in front of Ram’s guesthouse. Breaks over a shallow reef. Mainly a right that is short but hollow and fast. Closes out on medium-big swells. Finally approx. 400 meters down the road is another right-hander, more suitable for beginners. Breaks best on a low, incoming tide.
Further south from Midigama you can find surf in Weligama, Mirissa and Dickwella. Weligama has a reef break on the far right of the beach and some beach breaks further south. Mirissa has a well protected right hand reef break.
There are several surf spots between Galle and Ahangama as well. Unawatuna has a right hand reef break, which is better for long boarding. It has waves up to 4ft, sometimes good in the afternoon on a high tide. Many other breaks (mostly uncrowded) can be found on the way to Ahangama, Check it out yourself.
About Arugam Bay
314 km. from Colombo, a most beautiful bay with good surfing possibilities. The East coast offers infinite possibilities for all kinds of water sports and underwater photography. The many ship-wrecks of the coast are a tempting challenge to the diver.
Arugam Bay is a fishing village 2 1/2 km south of the small town of Pottuvil at the remote south end of the east coast. It has probably the best surf in Sri Lanka off a low promontory a little further south, and had developed into a low-budget travelers center. There’s a wide, sweeping beach in front of the village itself, good for swimming, and south of the surf promontory a long, deserted beach leading down to ‘Crocodile Rock’, from where wild elephants can quite often be seen.
Useful facts to know:
The surfing season in Arugam Bay starts in April and ends in October.
Average water temperature: 28 degrees
Average air temperature: 32 degrees
It is useful to refer to the Indian Ocean Swell forecast before beginning to surf:
For an island of its size, Sri Lanka has a history that is among the best documented in the world. The written record speaks of a rich history that extends beyond two and a half millennia. The monuments found in the country’s ancient and medieval cities give ample evidence of a civilization that flourished through in those days. This civilization grew due to Sri Lanka’s strategic location on the "Silk Route" of the sea at a strategic point on the Indian Ocean. It shows contacts with and the influences of Phoenicians and Greeks, Romans and Chinese, Saracens and Arabs, Indians and Indonesians.
If the ancient and medieval history of the country saw all these influences, from the 16th Century it also saw the influence of Western traders, proselytizers and colonizers in the form of the Portuguese, Dutch and British. While the Portuguese and Dutch ruled the Maritime Provinces for 150 years, the British had domain over the entire country for roughly the same period, until independence was obtained in 1948.
The official record begins more than 2,500 years ago with the arrival of migrants believed to be from the Northern parts of India, who were Aryans and brought with them many of the technological skills of that day as it had spread from Persia and Babylonia. The island also had its own inhabitants who were aborigines as well as others with a fairly well developed social structure. There cannot be the least doubt that before the arrival of immigrants from North India, who became known as the Sinhalese and fanned out throughout the country as the major community, there must have been immigrants who came in from the South of India that is closer. These are the Tamils, whose numbers were added to by subsequent frequent invasions and incursions by South India rulers, adventurers and plunderers particularly from the Chola, Kalinga and Maghada kingdoms.
If the Sinhalese came under the influence of the teachings of the Buddha, reportedly brought here by Mahinda, the missionary son of the Emperor Asoka, the Tamils largely remained under the influence of Hinduism. Nearly 1500 years ago there was also the influence of Islam, due to the arrival of Arab traders. All this was later followed by the influence of various branches of Christianity, brought by Western colonizers.
The Sinhalese rulers of the country for most of its 2,500 plus years of history were mainly influenced by Buddhism, brought here in the 3rd Century BC. The Buddhist kings of the past paid great heed to fostering Buddhism and the development of irrigation, and had massive inland reservoirs and channels built, that serve cultivators of rice even to this day. These and the "dagabas" or relics chambers of Buddhist temples in the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa showed remarkable engineering and architectural development. Some of these "dagabas", especially the Ruvanveliseya at Anuradhapura (3rd Century BC) compares well in size and construction with the Pyramids of Egypt.
While Buddhism remained the dominant religion, there was also a considerable influence of Hinduism, particularly due to the Sinhalese kings bringing down princesses from India as their queens. The city of Polonnaruwa (10th to 12th Centuries AD) shows the influence that Hinduism had, with Hindu shrines having their own traditional architecture standing in very close proximity to the Buddhist temples. There is plenty of evidence to show that the Sinhalese Buddhists and the Tamil Hindus co-existed throughout the highly developed areas of the land, especially in the North Central and North Western regions and also in parts of the North. However, successive invasions by the adventurers from South India kept driving a large number of the Sinhalese towards the South, and to the central highlands.
By the time the Portuguese arrived in 1505, the Sinhalese in the Maritime regions had established themselves in the Kingdom of Kotte in the South West, while there was also the Kingdom of Kandy in the hills. Internecine fighting among the Sinhalese rulers led to three kingdoms and principalities in the Maritime region alone, no doubt encouraged by the Portuguese. The Portuguese were here for trade on their own terms. Sri Lanka was then, as it is today, a storehouse of rare spices of the Orient such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, pepper, and nutmeg. They soon controlled the entire spice trade on the Maritime regions, laid much effort on spreading Roman Catholic Christianity.
The Dutch who followed the Portuguese, capturing the Maritime regions by force, were also interested in the spice trade and carried out a more systematic exploitation of these resources of the country, as well as its elephants and peacocks. They parleyed and won limited concessions from the King of Kandy especially for the spice trade. They introduced the Reformist Christianity of the Calvinist School. The Dutch, apart from their exploitation of the island’s resources, also made some effort to restore the ancient tanks of the Sinhalese and revive irrigation for a better rice harvest. They also introduced formal education to some degree, through the Church, and introduced the Roman-Dutch legal system, which is very much part of the system of justice to this day.
The last of the Western colonizers were the British. They also came for trade in 1796 and unlike the Portuguese and Dutch, were able to subjugate the entire country by 1815. It was part of the vast British Empire and was administered as such. While exploiting the natural resources of the land, the British also introduced coffee growing to the country, and when that crop was destroyed by blight, introduced tea. It opened up the vast virgin forests of the highland and took over the paddy lands of the peasants to plant tea, which remains a major export from Sri Lanka today. The British also built a good road network and railway to help in its trade and administration. They encouraged education, improved medical services and did many progressive changes including the introduction of Parliamentary Democracy that left Sri Lanka with a strong and efficient administration and a large number of professionals of its own, by the time the British left in 1948.
Since then Sri Lanka was first a Dominion within the British Empire till 1972, when it declared itself a Republic within the British Commonwealth, which is what it remains today as an elective democracy.
Golf is played on all courses throughout the year. Sri Lanka is relatively unknown in the field of Golf, but surprisingly the country has three of the finest 18 hole courses in Asia. In fact the association with golf is more than a century and the Sri Lanka Amateur Golf Championship, which was instituted in the year 1891 follows the British Amateur Golf Championship, as the oldest national championship in the world.
The three courses are situated in Colombo, Digana and Nuwara Eliya, Colombo at sea level, Digana at an elevation of 600 m and Nuwara Eliya at 2’070 m have distinctly different terrain and climate conditions. This contributes to the enjoyment and challenge, as you feel you are playing golf in three different countries.
Golf Courses in Sri Lanka
The Royal Colombo Golf Club
This course is 5’770 m long (par 71). A flat course with broad fairways, which looks simple to beginners but there are many water hazards
and well guarded bunkers which quickly change the opinion. The Royal Colombo Golf Club is easily accessible, being 20 minutes drive from all first-class hotels in the city.
The Royal Golf Club in Colombo established in 1879 is one of the oldest in the world. The 18 hole course is 5700 yards in length with broad tree lined fairways. It is not as easy to play as it may seem from first impressions – it is possible to go into the water at every hole
Address: Model Farm Road, Colombo 8, Sri Lanka
About the CouresHoles: 18
Telephone: 94-1 691 401
This club’s history goes back to 1879. It features many water hazards starting with the first hole. At the 6th hole, golfers meet the Kelani Valley train which passes across the fairway.
The Nuwara Eliya Golf Club
This course which is reputed to be one of Asia’s finest is 5’520 m (par 71). The fairways are long and narrow and bordered by fir trees and
thick bushes. It demands skilful "position play" and the hilly terrain makes it essential that players can cope with up-hill and down-hill lies. The Golf Club is 10 minutes walk from the Grand Hotel and 190 km from Colombo.
The setting: a shady golf course surrounded by swaying trees, a period clubhouse complete with restaurant, bar and well-stocked pro shop in the distance and sloping green lawns stretching out endlessly in front of you. Not exactly the type of atmosphere you would normally associate with Sri Lanka, tropical isle of wild, untamed beauty? Well, think again.
The 18 hole Nuwara Eliya course is 6250 yards long and situated at an elevation of over 2000m. In the cool climate and scenic surroundings the course was laid out by the Gordon Highlanders stationed in Nuwara Eliya in the late 1880s. The course is acknowledged as one of Asia’s best. Narrow fairways make it a highly challenging course with the hilly 12th, 13th and 14th holes amongst the most daunting.
A legacy from the British colonial period, golfing in Sri Lanka has many nostalgic links to this era. In the old days, wealthy English planters and governors spent their evenings at clubhouses, in an effort to recreate the lifestyle they left behind them. Today, these period relics are put to good use by hordes of tourists and traveling executives enticed by the calm and soothing atmosphere of the golfing terrain, as well as by locals taking a break from the absorbing national pastime of cricket.
Although the Royal Colombo Golf Club is one of the island’s oldest, measuring 5770 yards in length, and has hosted a number of local and regional championship events in the past, however for sheer scenic beauty, visitors journey to the hills where the 18-hole Nuwara Eliya Golf Course lies at a chilling elevation of over 2000m. Laid out by the Gordon Highlanders stationed in Nuwara Eliya in 1889, the course is acknowledged to be one of Asia’s best, irresistibly fringed by forest cover and gifted with a stunning view.
Address: Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Telephone: 522 835
At the base of Mount Pidurutalagala in the heart of tea country. At 1890′ above sea level, it features fir lined fairways, bunkers and scenic surroundings. The 9th is an island green surrounded by bunkers. Water (rivers) come into play on 6 holes.
Victoria Golf Club Sri Lanka
The newest addition to the island’s golf courses is the Victoria Golf Course. Located on a 207 hectare site with a 8 km waterfront it overlooks the panoramic Victoria Reservoir.
Victoria Golf Club, Digana: This course is 6’190 m long (par 73) a championship golf course designed by Donald Steel and inaugurated early in 1999. The fairways are rather narrow in a hilly country side. Stately trees and avenues of coconuts lend the course an immediate air maturity. Impressive natural outcrops of rocks are a distinctive feature and indeed a hazard of the course. The Victoria Golf Club is situated 25 km east of Kandy and 150 km from Colombo.
The newest addition to Sri Lanka’s golfing assets is the Victoria Golf Course, overlooking the sweeping panorama of the Victoria Reservoir, with only the heavy sounds of rushing water intruding on the silence of a golfing paradise.
Describing the Victoria Golf Course Golf Architect, Donald Steel
says "Some golf courses have a splendid undulating terrain over which the holes are routed. Some golf courses have a scenic back drop of hills and lakes which excite the senses. However the Victoria Golf Course near Kandy is blessed with both attributes."
One of the most exhilarating and difficult holes at Victoria is the 473 yds. Par 4, Seventh. The drive from an elevated tee call for distance, accuracy and nerves of steel, if the player is to have a chance of reaching the green in two.
Stately trees and avenues of coconuts lend the course an immediate air of maturity. Impressive natural outcrops of rock are a distinctive feature and indeed a hazard if the course.
Measuring 6879 yds at its full Championship length, Victoria’s Par 73 layout has four Par 5 holes of which three are over 500 yds long. There are four excellent Par 3 holes ranging from the very short, but tricky 5th of 124 yds to the testing 210 yds 13th hole, a great Par 3 by any standard.
Victoria International Golf and Country Resort in Kandy
E Mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web Site: www.victoriagolfclub.com
Opened in January 1999. Designed by Donald Steel & Company. Set in Sri Lanka’s central mountains right on the shores of the Victoria Reservoir.
Sri Lanka’s Amateur Feast
The fifth annual Sri Lankan Golf Classic takes place from October 28-29, 2003 with organisers hoping the event will attract its traditional array of amateur competitors from Asia, Europe, America and beyond.
For the first time, the event will be staged at the stunning Victoria Golf Club in Rajawella (as featured in ‘Sri Lanka’s New Beginning’, May issue). When it opened recently, Victoria was the first new course in Sri Lanka for more than 100 years and is one of only three courses in the country.
As well as the main two-day tournament, there is also a mini-tournament on October 26, 2003 at the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club.
Competitors in the Sri Lankan Golf Classic can win prizes including business class return tickets, trophies and holiday packages in Sri Lanka. The event rounds off with an awards ceremony at Earl’s Regency, complete with gala dinner dance. Sri Lankan Airlines are offering attractively priced Golf Classic holiday packages, which include return flights and four nights’ hotel accommodation.
For further information or entry forms, contact your local Sri Lankan Airlines office. For Singapore, contact tel: (65) 223-6026, fax: (65) 221-9425, or e-mail: email@example.com. For Hong Kong, contact tel: (852) 2521-0812, fax: (852) 2801-5600, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Golf Sri Lanka Related Resources
Gems in Sri Lanka(also known as Ceylon, Serendib, etc..) been found 2500 years ago. Some of the rarest of gem stones of exquisite beauty have taken pride of place, in the Crown jewels of Kings and Queens from time of Great Roman Emperors.
A gemstone is the naturally occurring crystalline form of a mineral which is desirable for its beauty, valuable in its rarity, and durable enough to be enjoyed for generations. There are more than 30 popular gem varieties and many more rare collector gemstones. Some varieties also come in a range of colors.
The Sri Lankan gem industry has come of age and produces gems cut to international standards. From exquisite one-of-a-kind Blue Sapphires, Star Sapphires, Rubies, Pinks, Yellows, Orange Sapphires, Padparadschas, CatsEyes, Alexandrites and Chrysoberyls to Garnets, Spinets, Moonstones, Aquamarines, Topazes specially cut or calibrated all to standards superior to other Asian centres.
Gems in Sri Lanka – Gem Stones of Sri Lanka
Source: Gem Corporation, Sri Lanka
1. BLUE SAPPHIRE: Sri lanka’s Gem supreme, of corn flower blue, is the favorite of fashionable women the world over.
2. CAT’S EYE: The honey yellow and apple green Cat’s Eye of lustrous smoothness is extolled for the protection she yields to the wearer.
3. ALEXANDRITE: If you are a connoisseur of the rarest yields from the mysterious depths of earth you will need to possess an Alexandrite.
4. STAR RUBY: The scarlet perfection and it’s scintillating beauty adopt to the dream come true in gems.
5. YELLOW SAPPHIRE: Pollen of flowers is her lyrical name is Sinhala. Her delicate yellow makes this description apt.
6. STAR SAPPHIRE: With her azure heart a-gleam with radiant snowy streaks, the star sapphires sparkle brings her owner good luck.
7. AMETHYST: Burnished by nature into a high purplish polish, the Amethyst is a beauty among gems.
8. GARNET: All the world’s Garnet’s(pyrope) are ordinary after Sri Lanka’s Elahera Garnet made it’s radiant bow.
From time immemorial Sri Lanka has had a sparkling reputation for highly treasured gems. Nature in her bounty has chosen the bosom of Sri Lanka to enshrine some of her rarest treasures. Blue Sapphires, Cat’s Eyes, Alexandrites, Rubies, Star stones found embedded in layers of gravel and sand, in river beds, marshes, fields or accumulated at the foot of hills have made Sri Lanka the renowned island for gems. These precious stones perfected in the laboratory of nature lay hidden of countless ages, their lustre undimmed, their value unrecognized. And led by Dame Fortune, the rare gem emerges genuine and unequaled by any artifice of man. Perhaps nowhere in the world are so many minerals of the gem variety concentrated in so compact an area in such abundance as in Sri Lanka.
Though Sri Lanka’s gem trade dates back in to hoary historical times our gem supplies are almost inexhaustible for the gem bearing pre-Cambrian Stratum forms 9/10ths of Sri Lanka’s earth Geologists over.
The Blue Sapphire is Sri Lanka’s Gem Supreme. And Sri Lanka’s Blue Sapphires are the finest in the world. Sapphires of the finest quality have what is called the experts ‘a corn flower blue’ or a royal blue tint. The highly priced of all gems, the Blue Sapphire is second only to the diamond in hardness.
The largest known Sapphires in the world weighing 42 pounds was found in the gem gravels of Sri Lanka. The Blue Giant of the Orient weighing nearly 500 carats and the 400 carat Blue Belle of Asia was purchased by a British multi-millionaire was also from Sri Lanka. A perfect corn flower blue 92 carat specimen is now on display at the State Gem Corporation. The world jewelry market demands Blue Sapphires of 5-15 carats.
Sri Lanka can supply these in very large quantities.
Sri Lanka’s Star Sapphires is the star beauty among Earth’s precious stones. The radiant snowy streaks that gleam in her azure heart are perhaps the solidified version of a colourful dream the world has had long ago of the glory of the universe. The 362 carat Star now with the State Gem Corporation is considered the third largest stone of comparable quality and colour in the world. But the most celebrated Sri Lanka’s star Sapphire is on permanent display at the Smithsonian museum of Natural History in New York. However, Sri Lanka has not gotten the recognition it deserves as the stone is named (Probably through an oversight) the Star of Bombay.
Moonstone the only gem that is found in situ in Sri Lanka displays a milky bluish sheen similar to that of the moon beams, and hence the name moonstone. Through some quirk of nature, moonstones are found only in a solitary quarter acre block of land in the village of Meetiyagoda to the South of Sri Lanka. The world’s moonstone market is dominated by Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, the island known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean lives up to its nickname as a hotbed for a variety of gems. Sri Lanka is home to 40 varieties of Gems out of 85 varieties available in the whole world. Gems of Sri Lanka have found there way to many a court all over the world since time immemorial.
Solomon, the Biblical king, epitome of human wisdom had gems brought from Sri Lanka to woo the heart and win the hand of queen Sheba. There exists many a story of jewels from serandib (as Sri Lanka was known in the past) traveling into kingdoms of Cathay and Arabian Gulf. Various types of exquisite gems are found on this paradise isle. Precious stones from Sri Lanka are of high class; in them we find the maximum refraction and dispersion of light. Some of the gems found there have become famous under special names like ‘Sinhalite’, ‘Ceylonite” etc.
Gems are most commonly found in the following areas of Sri Lanka such as Rathnapura (this town is about 100 km from Colombo), Ehaliyagoda, Balangoda, Kahawatte and etc.
Gems are cut and polished to improve luster, which is an industry highly localized in above areas. Many a gem is exported to meet the demand for precious stones, and the rest are supplied to institutions that deal in making jewelry. Many a Gem of Ceylon is blessed with far superior attributes
than other gems found elsewhere, throughout the world. The radiance, luminosity and other qualities that define the price of a precious stone, are found to be of the highest order. “Variety of gem material” that one can find in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) are listed below.
List of Best Gems in Sri Lanka
Corundum – Blue Sapphires, Star Sapphires, Rubies, Star Rubies, Yellow Sapphires, Pink Sapphires, Padmadradcha, Orange Sapphires, White sapphires.
Chrysoberyl – Cat’s Eye, Alexandrite, Alexandrite Cat’s Eye, Chrysoberyl.
Spinel Blue Spinel, Red Spinel, Purple Spinel.
Topaz White Topaz (When Treated Makes London Blue)
Zircon Green Zircon, Yellow Zircon, Brown Zircon, Colourless Zircon.
Garnet Rhodolite Garnet, Hessonite Garnet, Pyrope Garnet, Almandine Garnet.
Beryl Aquamarine, Heliodor.
Quartz Smoky Quartz, White Quartz, Amethyst Quartz Cat’s Eye
Tourmaline Brown Tourmaline, Yellow Tourmaline (Green & Blue Rare)
Feldspar Moonstones Also Andalusite, Kornerupine And A Variety Of Agates.
Rare Gemstones Sinhalite, Lolite, Indicolite, Fibrolite, Taaffeite, Ekanite and Star Spinel.
A warm welcome awaits you at ‘Facets 2003′, the annual gem and jewellery show organized by the Sri Lanka Gem Traders Association. Sri Lanka’s 13th international exhibition will display an imposing array of precious gemstones and exquisitely crafted gold and silver jewellery for the discerning buyer. This exhibition will be held on September 8,9, and 10 at the Colombo Hilton.
Buyers from all over the world repeatedly attend this annual exhibition to select their requirements. ‘Facets 2003′ provides the visitor an opportunity to select from the source a fascinating display of Sri Lanka’s best colours of Sapphires from calibrated to fine single stones.
Your entire needs of high quality, precision cut gems is available at “Facets 2003″. If you like them expertly mounted high quality manufacturing facilities will be easy to find.
At “Facets 2003″ a display of the finest array of precious Gems in qualities that only Sri Lanka can produce awaits you. Select from a vast range of the finest that makes Sri Lanka still the best source when one looks for the EXCEPTIONAL gem. After a successful buying tour enjoy the other first-class tourist attractions that only this Paradise isle can offer. Sunny beaches, ancient breathtaking culture and the hospitality of a genuinely friendly people.
Gems in Sri Lanka Related Resources
Fishing in Sri Lanka is an unlimited potential hardly exploited
Fishing for indigenous sporting fish in Sri Lanka is free. With a shoreline of 1,140 miles and a continental shelf of 10,000 square miles, the seas around Ceylon have an unlimited fishing potential hardly exploited.
Trolling over the continental shelf yields catches of tuna ranging from the 2-3ft skipjack to the 6ft yellowfin and bluefin, the acrobatic dolphin, swordfish and marlin which attain a size to provide a challenge to the best big game fishermen of any country. The broadbill swordfish found in deeper waters reach a length of 15ft and a weight of well over 1,000lb. Though reaching only 10ft and 250lb, the sailfish compensate for their smaller size by their remarkable agility.
The monsoons regulate the fishing in Sri Lanka Seas. The western and southern coasts are favoured during the North-East monsoon (from October to April) and the east coast during the South-West monsoon (from May to September). The best season for sport fishing in Sri Lanka in Western and South Eastern Coast is from August to May when the seas are calm. The popular bait are artificial lures but live bait is also used frequently. The bottom water bait such as Ropala, Big Mack, Sisco Kid are popular and many other deep runners can be used successfully, with the Sail Fish and Grouper. The other top water bait are Squid Skirts.
The outfalls of 103 major river basins and hundreds of other estuaries, lagoons and coastal lakes all round the island are the most popular spots frequented by local surf casters as well as bait fishermen. Many varieties of game fish of the Carangid family, locally called paraw and know elsewhere as trevally, horse mackerel, etc, are taken. These swift and powerful carnivorous fish attain a length of 5ft and a weight of 150lb. The schooling habits of the caranx, their keen eyesight and some built-in sensory mechanism make them congregate in estuaries immediately after monsoons and rains.
Next in popularity among surf-casters come the barracuda and Spanish mackerel. Both these species of voracious predatory fish attain lengths of 6ft as do other species known locally as `giant perch’, `threadfins’ and `tassel fish’ which frequent the estuaries.
Sri Lanka is much admired for its abundance of sub-aquatic life. Its unspoiled seas and fishing zones hold an abundance of game fish for the keen angler. Species of Marlin, Sail Fish, Wahoo, Spanish Mackerel, Giant Trevallie, Benito, Queen Fish (the world record is held in Sri Lanka. Barracuda, Grouper, Cobia and Tuna make this beautiful island second to none when it comes to sea angling
The South west Breakwater of the Colombo Harbour is another popular venue for fishing. A licence has to be obtained from the Colombo Port Authorities on a monthly basis for fishing at the breakwater. Anglers have very big catches at this fishing site.
Inland trout fish
Nuwara Eliya is the best centre for trout fishing. As it is above the 6,000ft level, the climate is temperate. There is good hotel accommodation. The fishing is, with few exceptions, restricted to fly only and most common patterns of wet fly are successful. Dry fly is rarely used, there being little natural fly. There is no statutory close season. Size limits vary from 8in to 15in.
The main waters are: Nuwara Eliya stream (flows through the golf course and park); Ambawela stream (8m from Nuwara Eliya; jungle and grassland); Bulu Ella stream (21/2m jungle); Portswood Dam (4m; tea estate); Agra Oya and Gorge Valley rivers (10-15m; tea estates), and the magnificently spectacular Horton Plains stream (30m; jungle and grassland, Nature reserve). Motor transport can be hired. On any of these waters it is possible to maintain an average of 1lb and several fish over 3lb are caught.
Trout fishing is now controlled by the Nuwara Eliya District Fishing Club. Stocking has so far been carried out in Portswood Dam, the Horton Plains, Agra Oya and Gorge Valley. For licences application should be made to the Honorary Secretary, Nuwara Eliya District Fishing Club, Court Lodge Estate, Kandapola. Visitors are advised to bring their tackle as fly tackle is scarce in Sri Lanka.
The two main species of indigenous sporting fish in Sri Lanka are the mahseer and the walaya (freshwater shark), found in the jungle rivers of the Low Country, particularly the Mahaweli river, the upper reaches of the Kelani river and the Amban Ganga (river). Ceylon mahseer, though small compared with those in some Indian rivers, provide good sport, but fishing for them can be somewhat difficult.
Things to bring for Fishing in Sri Lanka
Patience- and lots of it. Angling requires oodles of patience, and the ability to keep still and quiet for hours on end- and then the skill to battle it out with a heavyweight fish of up to 200 kg for the next hour or more.
And now to the more mundane. The basic fishing equipment required includes rods, lines, hooks, reel, flies, spinners, spoons and bait- in the form of worms, paste or other lure. Light, waterproof clothing- brown or green in colour- is essential, as are waterproof shoes or light sandals which can easily be slipped off to drain out sand or water. Sunscreen, a light hat and dark glasses are necessary, and if in cooler climes make sure you’re well clad with sufficient woollens and a macintosh.
High quality angling equipment for angling is not widely available for hire in Sri Lanka, although some outfits are available in Colombo and in popular areas
Fishing in Sri Lanka:Accommodation and other facilities
In most cases, finding suitable accommodation shouldn’t be too much bother, as many of Sri Lanka’s biggest cities and towns lie along rivers. Even if there’s not much fishing within an urban area, fishing beats will usually be close enough for you to stay in a town and drive out in the morning to the beat you’ve chosen. In cases where beats lie far from urban areas, there are generally hotels and guest houses in close proximity. These won’t be the height of luxury, but you can depend upon them for basic necessities. In rare cases you might need to take along a tent and pitch camp.
In an attempt to encourage game fishing in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board have started providing leaflets and brochures on areas where fishing is possible. These leaflets usually contain fairly accurate and detailed information on where to go, what are the facilities available in the area, where angling equipment can be hired.. Some travel agencies and tour operators in Sri Lanka cater to anglers and will provide everything from equipment and experienced guides to boarding, lodging and transportation. Major cities and those close to angling and sport-fishing grounds often have such travel agents; further information and assistance can always be obtained from the local wildlife, forests or fisheries department.
Fishing in Sri Lanka Related Resources
Sri Lankan Culture – A Rich Tapestry of Diversity
Sri Lankan culture is a rich blend of the interaction of diverse cultural patterns both indigenous and derived from, trade, religions, as well as, western colonization. The cultural patterns of Sri Lanka today show the lasting impact of a diverse range of cultures.
The overall culture is largely the result of the impact of the introduction of Buddhism, more than 2,300 years ago. This does not erase the heavy influence of Hinduism, together with the lesser impact of Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity, in addition to the pre-Buddhist worship of deities and animism, some of which still remain in the traditions and rituals of the country.
At a time when other societies in the world were boasting of their martial prowess, Sri Lankan society had embraced a religious philosophy based on the rational, where tolerance played a most significant part. Buddhism as it developed in Sri Lanka was not an exclusive state religion, but was rich in its philosophical content to let other breezes too flow into the country. The close proximity to South India saw the impact of Hinduism in the country grows, but not diminishing the overall acceptance of Buddhism.
Infulence on Sri Lankan Culture
Traders from the Arab world, from pre-Mohammedan times, saw the influence of Persians, with their own Zoroastrianism and even Nestorian Christianity in the very early centuries of the Christian era. Later trade with the countries of the Arab world and South India, after the rise of Islam, saw the weaving of Islam too into the cultural fabric of the country. It was very much later, from the early 16th century, that Sri Lanka came under the strong influence of the Christians, who came in search of its much valued spices, peacocks, gems and elephants and stayed over to rule over a part of and finally the entire country.
The advent of Buddhism saw the emergence of an entire civilization that reached a very high degree of development, especially in construction and architecture and the science of hydraulics. The rulers gave their patronage to the construction of great Buddhist “dagabas” or relic chambers for the spiritual upliftment of the people and gave considerable importance to the Buddhist clergy. They also gave similar importance to the temporal needs of the people, and commissioned the construction of great irrigation works that survive to this day.
The ancient and medieval periods of the country, under the influence of Buddhism and Hinduism also saw a great flowering of the arts, especially architecture, sculpture and painting. The temples, palaces and pleasure gardens of the ancient Anuradhapura period (3 BC – 9 AC) and the later Polonnaruwa period (10 – 13 AC) have some of the finest temple and decorative architecture and sculpture in the South Asian region. Polonnaruwa also has some excellent Hindu sculpture showing the co-existence of the Buddhist and Hindu traditions in the country.
Painting was an embellishment of the Buddhist temples, and had its non-religious functions too. The most famous examples of the finest Sri Lankan art are the frescoes seen at the rock fortress at Sigiriya, (6th Century AC). What is left of a whole gallery of the most exquisite frescoes painted on the face of a rock, the heavenly maidens of Sigiriya, is now a UNESCO recognized site of the artistic heritage of man.
Being a largely agrarian society, the cultural development of Sri Lanka was closely associated with the links that the people had with the temple, or place of worship. The essential feature of Sri Lankan society, for many centuries, had been the simple livelihood of the people. The seasons of
festivity largely coincided with the gathering of the harvest, and the important events in the Buddhist calendar.
Sri Lanka lays claim today to being the repository of Buddhism in its most pristine form – the Hinayana (or lesser vehicle) Theravada tradition, which is recognized as the tradition coming down from the earliest followers of Buddhism, including the Buddha’s own disciples
The branch of the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya in India, was planted at Anuradhapura over 2000 years ago, and is today the world’s oldest historically documented tree. Similarly, Kandy, the last capital of the Sri Lankans has the Temple of the Tooth, which houses a tooth relic of the Buddha, and is today one of the most revered shrines of Buddhists the world over.
The cultural traditions of Sri Lanka are rich in pageantry. The best known internationally is the "Kandy Perehera", the religious-festive procession held in Kandy in July/August each year, in honour of the Tooth Relic of the Buddha. It has been aptly described an a unique festival of sight and sound. Another festival of significance is that dedicated to the Hindu deity Skanda, held at Kataragama, in the deep south of the island.
The dances of Sri Lanka comprise those that have come down from the very ancient days, to those with the distinct influences of both South and North India. Modern dancing seeks to combine western trends with the traditional forms, often with very considerable aesthetic charm.
There is a wide range of musical tradition in Sri Lanka ranging from folk music to religious chants. The Christian influence in Sri Lankan music is easily noticeable, but of much greater impact has been the North Indian musical tradition, that prevails in most of the country, with the Karnataka music of South India being more appreciated in the North of the country.
In all, Sri Lankan culture today is a pleasant kaleidoscope that combines the influences of the many cultures and peoples that have left their indelible impression on the cultural patterns of the country. It is a culture that in its diversity is a rich tapestry combining the many influences of East and West. As the single country in South Asia that was most exposed to western colonial rule, it has surprisingly retained a great deal of its indigenous traditions, while at the same time absorbing the considerable impact of the West. It this sense the Sri Lankan cultural experience can be described as truly unique among the cultural traditions of South Asia.
Sri Lankan Culture Related Resources
Sri Lanka is a great country for bird watching which has birds everywhere, in woods, hills and along the seashore. But there are special places which harbor a wealth of bird life – the national parks, the bird sanctuaries, the precincts of man-made reservoirs and tanks, river banks, the lagoons, the slatterns and the rain forests. Forest birds and Wetland birds are found throughout the dry and wet zone.
For sheer concentration of bird life in proportion to land area Sri Lanka has no rival. There are 426 species on the island’s avifaunal list, 227 are residents of which 26 are endemic species.
Additionally, between August and April there is a regular influx of about 100 migrants who seek sanctuary in Sri Lanka from the harsh northern winter.
The wide variations in elevation from sea level to 2,530 meters and rainfall from 100 cm in the arid zones of north & south to 500 cm in the central mountains create a variety of climatic conditions within short distances rarely found in other countries
Bird life can be seen throughout the year with the added bonus of migrants during the period August – April. Sri Lanka is the southern most point of a vast migration of bird life from the colder northern areas of Siberia, Scandinavia & Western Europe. A limited number of Binoculars are available for hire on a first
Bird Watching Tours
Sri Lanka is an island on the tip of the Indian Ocean with a land area of 56,000 sq.km. Due to the location and the island being small in size the country has recorded more than 468 species of birds. There are a total of 339 varieties of birds found in Sri Lanka and a further 129 species of migrant birds. A total of 26 species of the birds found are Endemic Birds. The seasonal migrant birds those shuttle between the North and South Pole often use the island as the point of relaxation due to its strategic location. A bird watcher could expect to observe much as 230 species at any given time.
Bird Watching in Bellanwila-Attidiya Bird Sanctuary
Bellanwila-Attidiya marsh is a precious residual fragment of the once extensive marshlands around Colombo. It is of major importance as a wildlife refuge as well as a flood retention area for Colombo. Although its surroundings are far from salubrious, it is rich in species and well worth a visit.
Kandalama sanctuar is a 55 acre forest around the Kandalama tank which contains the Kandalama hotel, has a variety of trees, some 100 years or more in age, plus medicinal plants and a rich and varied bird life. Kandalama offers one of the best bird watching opportunities in the North Central Province.The diversity in habitat and the tank provides the visitors the opportunity to observe around the hotel more that 145 species, which is almost on third of the observed total number of bird life in Sri Lanka. This population consists of the arboreal, terrestrial and aquatic birds. One can also observe many waders and raptors too.
Udawattekale Sanctuary in Kandy, which is a tract of rainforest rich in species that has enjoyed protection from historical times.
Victoria Park in Nuwara Eliya – this is an ornamental park in the heart of town that has gained a reputation for birds.
Horton Plains in Nuwara Eliya – a highland plateau at an elevation 2134 meters comprising montane grassland and elfin forest. It is contiguous with the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. The second and third highest peaks in Sri Lanka are found here.
Hakgala Botanical gardens for bird watching – this is an important fragment of elfin forest situated above the Hakgala Botanical Gardens.
Kelani Valley Forest Reserve – This was established as a forest reserve to protect the watershed of the Kelani River it is home to many of Sri Lanka’s endemic fauna and flora.
Sinharaja man and biosphere reserve – a world heritage site since 1988 this is arguably the most important site in Sri Lanka and is internationally important for its biodiversity. The reserve encompasses some of the few remaining sizeable tracts of undisturbed primary lowland rainforest. Much of the birding, however, is done in areas that were once subject to selective logging.
Udawalawe national park – this is A mixture of abandoned teak plantation, grassland and scrub jungle.
Kalametiya – Kalametiya is a wetland with two brackish lagoons, mongrove swamps and open areas with pockets of scrub jungle. A very important site for migrant shorebirds.
Bundala national park – Bundala national park is similar to yala national park comprising scrub jungle bordering the sea together with large shallow pools. The beaches are an important nesting site for turtles.
Ruhunu (Yala) National Park
Ruhunu national park (yala west) is the most visited national park comprising a diversity of habitats including scrub jungle, tanks, brackish lagoons and riverine habitat. The best park in the country for viewing mammals.
Kumana Bird Sanctuary
Kumana to the North east of the larger Yala national park, is visited for it’s resident and migratory aquatic birds including flamingoes, ibis, herons, pheasants particularly impressive in the man grove swamps. Herds of elephants too could be spotted although leopards and bears are more elusive.
Bird Watching Related Resources
Sri Lanka has many varied sites of historical and cultural importance. While the ruins of the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa have a grandeur that is hard to surpass, there are lesser known sights with an ambience all of their own. Here one finds the remains of a flourishing ancient civilisation. This great past is reflected in the huge Dagobas, palaces and monuments. Its impressive remains were discovered in the early 19th century and have been in the process of restoration ever since. They lie to the west and north of the modern town of Anuradhapura.
The Buddhist culture of Sri Lanka is over 2500 years old – the difference is that this is a living culture. The thousands of years old ancient cities and shrines are living places of religious worship. Visit the ancient cities of Sri Lanka with a customized Ancient Cities tour Anuradhapura is Sri Lanka’s first capital, founded in the 5th century B.C, it was a potent symbol of Sinhalese power, and the most extensive and important of Sri Lanka’s ancient cities. It became a capital of the country in 380 BC and for over 1000 years Sinhalese kings ruled from this great city. Its impressive remains were ‘discovered’ in the early 19th century and have been in the process of restoration ever since. They lie to the west and north of the modern town of Anuradhapura.
Documented history of Sri Lanka begins with the arrival of the Aryans from India who introduced the use of iron and advanced agricultural methods and irrigation. They also introduced the art of government and a number of Sinhalese kingdoms took root across the island during the 4th century BC with Anuradhapura, in the northern plains, the strongest kingdom.
206 km (155 miles) north of Colombo is Anuradhapura; This ancient capital of Sri Lanka is a Sacred City today; a potent symbol of Sinhalese power, and the most extensive and important of Sri Lanka’s ancient cities.
Here you will find the Sacred Bo-Tree – over 2,000 years old. The Sacred Bo-Tree is the city’s holiest site, and was grown from the tree under which Buddha achieved enlightenment – originally a sapling from the tree in North India. The Isurumuniya Temple (3rd century B.C.) with its unique sculptures stands beside the breezy bund of the Tissawewa – a huge fresh water tank; while in the heart of the city stands the white-stone Ruwanveliseya Dagoba surrounded by a wall of carved elephant heads. The Thuparama Dagoba, the oldest of many temples in Anuradhapura, is believed to contain the right collar-bone of Buddha. The Jetavanarama Dagoba is the largest remaining structure and may once have been over 100m (328ft) in height and housed an estimated 3000 Buddhist monks. There are also museums that invite exploration, marvelously restored twin ponds called Kuttam Pokuna which were used by monks as ritual baths, and immense tanks built to provide irrigation water for the growing of rice. Other Attractions worth seeing are:- The Brazen Palace, Mirisavati Dagaba, Abhayagiri Dagaba, and the Samadhi Buddha.
Weather :Warm & Sunny
There are plenty of Colombo-Anuradhapura buses each day; you can either catch an older style bus for around US$0.60 or lash out and spend an extra US$0.70 for a ride in an inter-city air-conditioned bus. Trains also go to Anuradhapura. The best way to explore the area is by bicycle.
148 km from Colombo and South of Sigiriya is another vast isolated mass of rock called Dambulla, built in 1301. On the summit of Dambulla is a cluster of five temples, which from ancient times have been the abode of monks. It was here that King Valagam Bahu took refuge in the 1st century B.C. He later turned the caves into a rock temple. Hewn out of this rock is a gigantic recumbent image of the Buddha 14 meters long. These temples are painted throughout with most exquisite murals depicting the life and teachings of the Buddha. Some of the frescoes are over 2,000 years old. It is situated in the Matale District.
Weather: Warm and Sunny
This is a mountain situated in the Anuradhapura District, 217 km from Colombo, the weather quite warm and sunny. Population:22,000 . It is situated 11 km. east of Anuradhapura and regarded as the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, since it was here that Arhat Mahinda met King Devanampiyatissa, and preached the doctrine of Buddhism to him. Arhat Mahinda had arrived with a retinue of monks from India to preach Budhism in Sri Lanka. Arhat Mahinda was the son of Emperor Asoka of India. The rock is dotted with shrines and rock dwellings. A grand stairway of 1840 steps made of granite slabs, 5 metres wide, leads to the summit with its splendid view of the surrounding countryside.
The island’s medieval capital (11th to 13th century A.D.) is situated 216 km. from Colombo and rose to fame after the decline of Anuradhapura. The largest of the man made reservoirs, the huge Parakrama Samudra, is larger in size than the Colombo harbour. See also the ruins of the King’s Council Chamber, the Royal Citadel, the Kumara Pokuna, Royal Pavilion, the Vatadage Relic House lavished with moonstones, guard stones and sculptured railing, Kiri Vehera – the best preserved of all Sri Lanka’s un-restored dagabas; Gal Vihare – the most impressive sculptures are the colossal Buddha images carved on the face of a granite boulder. The recumbent Buddha measures 14 metres and the standing figure is 7 metres in height.
The remains of the ancient lakeside city of Polonnaruwa, 75km (46mi) south-east of Anuradhapura, date mostly from the reign of the Indian Chola dynasty in the 11th and 12th century, but they cover a more compact site and are in an excellent state of repair.
Weather: Warm and Sunny
This rock fortress is today designated the eighth wonder of the world . Situated in the Matale District, 169 km from Colombo. This rock fortress was built by king Kasyapa in the 5th century A.D. and was a royal citadel for more than 18 years. In a sheltered pocket, approached by a spiral stairway, are the famous frescoes. The summit of the rock, with an area of nearly one hectare was the site of the palace, the outer wall of which was built on the very brink of the precipice. The UNESCO – sponsored Central Cultural Fund has restored Sigiriya’s 5th century Water Gardens to their former glory.
The spectacular rock fortress of Sigiriya is an impregnable fortress, a monastic retreat, and a rock art gallery. Built in the 5th century AD to fend off a feared invasion, it is situated atop a 200m (656ft) high rock, and at the height of its glory must have been akin to a European chateau. There are water gardens, 5th century rock paintings of well endowed topless damsels, a 1000-year-old graffiti wall recording visitors impressions of the pin-ups, a couple of enormous stone lion paws and panoramic views.
Weather: Warm & Sunny. To get to Sigiriya from Colombo, hop on a bus that stops at Dambulla, and from there catch any of the hourly buses going to the rock fortress, a total of 191km (118mi) away.
Situated in the Matale District, 142 km from Colombo. The weather is quite cool. It is 26 km. from Kandy. An ancient rock temple of great significance in the history of Buddhism. The Buddhist canon and its commentaries, which were till then handed down orally, were written for the first time at the Aluvihara Temple.
An ancient fortress and capital built in the year 1301, approximately 145 km. from Colombo, Yapahuwa is a rock rising to a height of 90 metres. Many traces of the ancient battle defences can still be seen, while an ornamental stairway remains its biggest showpiece.
Sri Lanka is an island that is captivating both by its name – that means Land of Splendour – and by what it actually offers to the visitor. The attractions of Sri Lanka – known to the world by several names from ancient days – have been known through the centuries. While legend has it that this is the Lanka of the Ramayana, it is the name by which it has always been known to its own people.
Sri Lanka – Paradise Island in South Asia
Sri Lanka is an island that is captivating both by its name – that means Land of Splendour – and by what it actually offers to the visitor. The attractions of Sri Lanka – known to the world by several names from ancient days – have been known through the centuries. While legend has it that this is the Lanka of the Ramayana, it is the name by which it has always been known to its own people.The Romans called it Taprobane, marked on Ptolemy’s map of the world, derived from “Tambapanni” – land of copper coloured earth and lotuses given by the first known migrants from North India. The Arab traders of the past called in Serentivu and Serendib – island of delight, which gave birth to the English word Serendipity – the prospect of discovering pleasant surprises. The Portuguese corrupted this to Ceilao; the Dutch to Ceilan and the British called it Ceylon. But the people of the East, as distant as Indonesia, always knew the island by the name given by its own people – Sri Lanka.
Almost dangling like a pendant from the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka has been known as the Peal of the Orient for its variety of attractions. It is not a mere tropical isle known for sun, sea and sands, although it has all this in plenty. In fact the island has over 1400 km of sun-kissed beach. The warm waters of the Indian ocean that offers attractions for surfing, undersea diving, the fascination of coral reefs, and also for the more adventurous, the chance of exploring the wrecks from Portuguese galleons to British warships of World War 2. But its attractions are not limited to those of the sea and sunny beaches fringed by coconut palms.
Sri Lanka has much more to offer, and in a compact package too. Within four hours one could drive from the sunny coast to cool, cloud-kissed mountains, where the best tea in the world grows. For miles around one could see hills and valleys covered by an unending carpet of tea, and enjoy the aroma of the fresh tea leaves.
Sri Lanka Adam’s Peak
In this enchanting hill country of Sri Lanka is located Adam’s Peak, the only mountain in the world hallowed by the believers of the four major faiths – Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. Buddhists believe that a depression on the summit of the peak is a footprint of the Buddha himself, placed there on one of his visits to the island.
Those of the Islamic faith believe it to be the footprint of Adam, the first man, who stood there on one leg for a year, in repentance after being banished from the Garden of Eden. To Hindus it is the footprint of the Lord Shiva, and they call it “Sivanadi Paadam”. Eastern Christians believe the depression to have been caused by the knee of St. Thomas, the Apostle of Christ who came to preach in India and the East, as he knelt down in repentance for his doubting the divinity of Christ. Nowhere in the world do the four major faiths mingle in this manner, and it is from the springs at Adam’s Peak or “Sri Paada” (the sacred footprint) as referred to by Buddhists, that the four main rivers of the country begin their flow to the sea, meandering through mountain and valley. Not without reason has Sri Lanka also been referred to by travel writers of the past as this other Eden.
Traveling down the mountain slopes one comes to Ratnapura – the City of Gems – known from ancient times and mentioned in the tales of the Sheherazade or Arabian Nights. It was to Ratnapura in Sri Lanka that Sinbad came to obtain sapphires, rubies, cat’s eyes and other gems of priceless value. It was from Sri Lanka and Ratnapura that King Solomon obtained the gems and other gifts such as peacocks and elephants to woo the Queen of Sheba. Ratnapura and its surrounds still abound in gems, much sought after by the world. Tradition has it, that the gems that are found in the riverbeds around Ratnapura, are in fact the crystallized tears of Adam & Eve as they wept after being banished from the real Eden to this other Eden.
Always a few hours driving distance away is the wildlife of Sri Lanka, given sanctuary in many national parks, and strict nature reserves. Here one can see the elephant and leopard roam in freedom, as do the sloth bear, the spotted deer and Sambhur. There are peacocks aplenty displaying the vibrant colours of their tails to attract mates, as well as many species of parrot, stork, swift, the Brahiminy Kite, the Fishing Eagle, the colourful Kingfishers and Woodpeckers, and the unique tailor birds and weavers to name only a few. The inviting warm tropical climate of Sri Lanka also brings in a large number of winged visitors from as far away as Siberia to escape the cold of the winter, the most colourful of these being the Siberian Flamingo. There are also plenty of tern and wild duck that come here during the winter adding to the island’s own 150 plus species of indigenous birds.
By far the biggest attraction of Sri Lanka is its people. The Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims are all friendly by nature and the country has an unsullied record of hospitality over the centuries. It is a land of smiles and a warm welcome, observed by Anton Chekov, Bernard Shaw and Sir Arthur C. Clarke who has made Sri Lanka his home, and the inspiration for at least two of his books. It is known as a land of tolerance that has been tempered over the years by the teachings of the Buddha. Its overall Buddhist culture, with a lasting blend of Hindu influence has been the source of an ancient civilization, with masterpieces of sculpture, construction, and irrigation that have lasted to this day in the several ancient and medieval cities that bear testimony to Sri Lanka’s historic splendour. The huge irrigation tanks that dammed rivers and also harnessed the rain from the 1st Century BC are known as marvels of a unique hydraulic civilization and still provide the water for the rice field of today. At the beginning of a new millennium, Sri Lanka that has known much of history, still beckons as a land of splendour far beyond the limits of a tropical isle.