Captivating Sinharaja is Sri Lanka’s most distinguished and viable tropical rainforest. Due to its international significance and impressive biodiversity it has been designated a Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sinharaja is believed to be a relic of Gondwanaland, contributing immensely to the scientific study and understanding of continental drift and biological evolution.
More than 800 species, constituting almost 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic trees, mammals, birds, insects, amphibians and reptiles call Sinharaja their home. Its pristine landscape encompassing a number of ridges and valleys is hydrated by an intricate maze of meandering crystalline streams. The lush emerald vegetation consisting of ferns, lianas and towering tropical hardwood, is interlocked in an almost impenetrable mesh. The thick canopy of trees blocks out sunlight; yet, locks in humidity.
This dimly lit ecological powerhouse provides many undergrowth and canopy hideouts, and camouflage options to its elusive fauna; hence the only proof of life within the intertwined vegetation is often the incessant buzz of cicadas, resonating croak of frogs and the alluring call of tropical birds.
Sinharaja is home to many mammals such as purple-faced langur monkeys, squirrels, barking deer, sambar, wild boar and some leopards and elephants. Around 45 species of reptiles, including vipers and krait live on the forest floor. Sinharaja is home to an impressive 160 species of birds. This colourful myriad of birdlife includes some rare and endemic varieties such as the Sri Lanka wood pigeon, red-faced malkoha, green-billed coucal, Sri Lanka white-headed starling, Sri Lanka blue magpie, ashy-headed laughingthrush and orange-billed babbler.
Close to twenty villages lie along the borders of the reserve and many locals often wander into the dense forest to gather palm sap, medicinal plants and herbs for consumption, as well as dead wood and leaves for fuel, which is permissible. Access to the forest is only on foot; and the expert knowledge and interpretations of a guide is most useful, if visiting nature enthusiasts unfamiliar with the reserve are to make the most of their Sinharaja expedition.