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Updated by Paul Wagnor on Jun 23, 2016
Headline for 05 popular nature explorations in Sri Lanka -A guide to five contrasting nature destinations
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Paul Wagnor Paul Wagnor
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05 popular nature explorations in Sri Lanka -A guide to five contrasting nature destinations

Sri Lanka is not just palm trees and beaches. For the seeker of nature, there is plenty to explore on the tiny island that boasts of various ecosystems in limited space.

1

Horton Plains National Park

Horton Plains National Park

Situated in the central hill country of the island, Horton Plains is a destination that is favoured by locals and foreigners alike. The key attractions include the tundra plains itself, the amazing wildlife, a gushing waterfall and a glimpse of the "world's end".
Horton plains can be reached by bus, private vehicle or the more scenic train. Travelling along the British-built railway system, you would be entranced by the postcard views from the train window. Once Horton plains are reached, a ticket needs to be purchased to enter the premises. Once you enter the park, you will be greeted by a pond of chill water – this will feel heaven-sent when you are making the return journey and is in dire need of freshening up. The trail is easy to follow, although a little long and difficult at times, as it is clearly demarcated by a path. In addition to many indigenous plants and flowers, you might also be able to see elk, deer, giant squirrel, wild boar and wild hare. It is said that once upon a time in history, elephants roamed the plains, but were hunted to extinction from the area by colonial invaders.
If you wish to visit the gushing waterfall, Baker's fall, you will have to leave the clearly marked path and venture down along a sloped slippery path. There is a viewing deck built in front of the waterfall for the convenience of visitors. However, if you wish to dip your toes in the water – it is not advised to bathe in it, as the ferocity of water is unpredictable – you will have to walk further down through a more strenuous path.
Patience is key to enjoying this dewy, chilly trek. On a clear day in February, you may be able to see the world's end, a sheer precipice that makes you feel as if you will topple right off the earth. Unfortunately, both world's end and mini world's end are often covered in mist and clouds, so fortune has to favour you if you are to obtain the full experience.

2

Knuckles Mountain Range

Knuckles Mountain Range

Knuckles, as the name suggests, is a mountain range in the central part of Sri Lanka that is a bio-diversity hotspot, water catchment, and a wildlife reserve. There are many mountains to climb; there are many treks to walk through; there are many spots for glorious photographs; there are hidden valleys and villages where telecommunication signals are unheard of. All this and more is offered by the Knuckles range.
Due to its sheer size and capacity, it is recommended that you arrange your journey to Knuckles with one of the Tour Operators in Sri Lanka. Many offer excursions, designed to cater to the novice to amateur to professional. You can camp on top of a mountain and be amazed by the glorious sun rises; you can light a fire a to keep the wildlife away as you prepare to tuck in, a throw-back to an era where urbanization was not found in the dictionary; you can stroll through canopies, crawl on all fours on rock faces and brave the largest mountain range in the country.

3

Sinharaja Rain Forest

Sinharaja Rain Forest

A UNESCO World Heritage site and a World Biosphere Reserve, Sinharaja Forest is an important biodiversity hot spots in Sri Lanka. Although the reserve is relatively small, 21km from east to west and 7km from north to south, there is an abundance of plant and animal life to keep even the most experienced trekker intrigued for days.
The name, "Sinharaja" translates to mean "Kingdom of the Lion". There are many legends surrounding the low country wet forest, making it an interesting destination in a historical aspect too. Walking beneath the lush canopies, stratified greens with a thick undergrowth is an experience unto its own. The forest is quite known for leeches – blood sucking parasites – so remedies are advised to be carried along. You can tent or camp inside the reserve if you so desire, or stay in the government approved lodge inside the forest. Many tour companies such as Aitken Spence Travels offer trekking in Sinharaja, so it is best to talk through your needs with a company before going in blind.

4

Riverston

Riverston

If you are ready to brave gushing winds that can transform you to a human kite, Riverston is the place to go. Located in the central region of the country, there are quite a few hairpin turns on the way to the destination that will pump your adrenaline. The area is amazingly beautiful with climatic conditions being chilly but sunny. However, the time of visit must be predetermined as the area gets closed to public during certain times of the year due to high wind.
On your journey to Riverston peak, you would pass several waterfalls, cascading in their pride, inviting you to pause and admire their graceful rhythm. You can enjoy a chilly dip in the waters of ThelamuOya, which is along the way, as well. Riverston offers one of the greatest views in Sri Lanka, painting a picture that portrays Knuckles range, Thelgamu valley, and helmalu paddy fields.

5

Ella Rock

Ella Rock

Ella, a tiny city towards the Eastern part of Sri Lanka, is barely more than a railway station and a few streets with shops and restaurants. Yet, the picturesqueness of the area is breath-taking. The little town is flanked by mountains on either side, which makes it an intimate location. Ella Rock, a stunning cliff face that looms above the town is one rock that begs to be explored. The rock gives way to form the Ella gap, which gives the brave trekker a mesmerizing view of the plains below. The blue skies, mild climate and a sunny disposition of the people make Ella Rock a must-climb – for the views that await you at the top are incomparable.