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|Year and Month||25-27 Mar, 2016|
|Number of Days||3|
|Crew||Hasi, His Wife, Gayan, His Wife and Me|
|Transport||By Car & Safari Jeep.|
|Activities||Safari, Archaeology, Photography, Sightseeing etc…|
|Route||Colombo->Potuvil via Ratnapura->Pelmadulla->Udawalawa->Thanamalwila->Wellawaya->Monaragala->Siyambalanduwa and return on the same route.
Potuvil->Panama->Kumana and back to Potuvil by the Safari Jeep.
|Tips, Notes and Special remark||
|Related Resources||Check the Pictorial Journey 1 – Wilpattu here.|
|Comments||Discuss this trip report, provide feedback or make suggestions at Lakdasun Forum on the thread|
Hello my friends hope you’re doing well and not being roasted alive on a stick. The sun had got very ferocious showing no mercy whatsoever. I hope you enjoyed my Pictorial Story 1 from Wilpattu where we spent two full days roaming along the muddy and flooded tracks looking for the Holy Grail with no luck. However as we were down and out, a Sloth Bear took pity on us and paid a quick visit about a few kms from the entrance thus making our efforts somewhat fruitful.
I hope you liked the new version of report which I’ve introduced which sort of told you the story of our wildlife, especially the plight of them in Wilpattu thanks to a Government Minister who’d taken the law into his hands destroying many acres of precious lands belonging to the buffer zone of Wilpattu by giving it to his supporters. It’s just pathetic the way things happen even though the Ministry of Environment is under the President himself. We also saw how they started building Mini Hydro Power Plants at Handagiriya destroying many more cascades very recently. It’s just so saddening to see the people who’ve been elected to safeguard these things help destroy them for monetary benefits. I hope they will soon see the erroneous ways they’ve been handling our natural resources and get back on track to protect them. However the million dollar question is, “Will it be too late?”.
So, just like that journey, I’m going to plunge straight into business and leave the fairy tale stuff aside. I’m sure the story of the wildlife in Kumana, the farthest away from Colombo, is much more interesting than my vivid imagination. However, just a bit of foreplay wouldn’t be too much to bear I suppose. Well, the newest of our crazes has become the wildlife, probably due to the less appealing states of my beloved waterfalls. Thankfully Hasi too shares the same taste and ever since Wilpattu, we’ve started to manic chase of our wildlife.
So during the Wilpattu journey and amid chit chats, we decided to do Kumana as soon as the time permitted coz it’s probably the farthest located Wildlife Park in Sri Lanka. If you’re not from Colombo or surrounding areas, I’m sure you’d agree. Well, here’s a list of National Parks in Sri Lanka administered by the Department of Wildlife if you’re not familiar with them.
- Yala National Park
- Wilpattu National Park
- Gal Oya National Park
- Kumana National Park
- Udawalawe National Park
- Lahugala Kitulana National Park
- Maduru Oya National Park
- Wasgamuwa National Park
- Flood Plains National Park
- Somawathiya National Park
- Horton Plains National Park
- Bundala National Park
- Lunugamvehera National Park
- Minneriya National Park
- Kaudulla National Park
- Hikkaduwa National Park
- Pigeon Island National Park
- Horagolla National Park
- Galway’s Land National Park
- Angammedilla National Park
- Ussangoda National Park
Ok, guess it’s time we got on with the journey. We left Colombo around 2am even though we were planning on leaving at 12 midnight. Hasi had taken care of the pre-journey tasks such as booking the Thunmulla Bungalow which is extremely difficult as it is the only one in Kumana. He’d also paid an advance to Sena, our Jeep Driver, and fixed some water bottles (5-litre) and all the other little things. We reached Potuvil and met Sena and he helped us leave our car in one of his friend’s house in the town. Please be warned that there are many jeep drivers in Potuvil who are trying to just rob you in broad daylight as Anton had very truly mentioned in his report. So try and get Sena to accompany you by all means. He’s also taking parties to Kebaliththa so if you’re doing Kebaliththa, you can still contact him unless you’ve found some reliable contacts from elsewhere.
If you want to buy any stuff, you can do so at Potuvil (there are two well-known supermarkets). Also, Panama (now don’t get too confused with Panama files) too has some groceries where you can get essential stuff. There are some archaeological sites both inside and outside Kumana. You’ll find many typical black archaeological signs on the way after Monaragala and Lahugala. Kudumbigala is at the border of the Kumana NP and before Panama town, you can see Sashthrawela and many others.
Inside the park there are a few more archaeological sites such as Nelumpath Pokuna, Bowaththa Cave Complex, Bambaragasthalawa, Okanda Devalaya, Kuda Kebaliththa, Kebaliththa etc. You’re not allowed to go to the Nelumpath Pokuna Archaeological Site but there’s a pond some distance before the site you can get see. Bowaththa Cave Complex and Bambaragasthalawa can be visited with the help of the tracker. Unlike Bowaththa Cave Complex, it’d take almost a day to visit the Bambaragasthalawa due to the distance and the difficulty of the track. I’ve noted down some historical information on Nelumpath Pokuna and Bowaththa Cave Complex below.
—This is a rocky mountain of around 286ft in height. There are two huge rocky fountains situated on one such mountain which are not affected even during dry season. It’s true to admit that these two rocky fountains are unparalleled creations of nature serving wild beasts to quench their thirst. There are few pagodas on top of the mountain which have been devastated by treasure hunters. A stone script on one of these rocks dates back to King Kanishtatissa Era (167-186). According to that, in the past this place had been called as “Gosagalamahavihara”.—
Bowaththa Rock Cave Temple
—It’s very difficult to trace the real historical facts of this place as no historical study or survey had been conducted. Even such, it is possible to unearth a few historical facts related to this place by studying the book written by Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thero having studied the stone scripts found in the premises, “Eastern Province & the Sinhala Buddhist Heritage in Northern Province”.
According to the book, there are four prominent stone scripts found in the place. Two of which are referring to a King named “Jettatissa” who was the son of the “Great King Mahasena”. This book further sheds light on evidence from stone scripts to effect that the Great King Jettatissa had contributed to various religious activities in Ruhuna as mentioned in the “Mahavamsaya”. It further reveals that one such script reveals about conducting a Pooja by King Jettatissa in 8 A.D. for making way to “Ariyawansa Pirith” Sermon. According to the views of Medhananda Thero, Boawaththagala Cave Temple has been named as a place where the very famous Ariyawansa Sermon had been conducted.—
Ok, brace tight folks and here we go.
Some of the Tour Highlights:
- Bowaththa Rock Cave Temple.
- Gal Amuna Camp Site.
- Kuda Kebaliththa Devalaya.
- Plenty of Birds & Wildlife
We came to the park entrance around 11am and went in. There’s a museum at the ticketing office with plenty of skeletons and other form filled creatures. We were planning to go straight to the bungalow after an hour or so coz the check-in time is 12 noon. Here’s the story of them until we go settle down at the bungalow.
Well, now you’ve seen that Kumana was also named as a Ramsar Wetland and if you wonder what Ramsar Wetlands are, just click on the link and it’ll be directed to the information on that. For your benefit, I’ve just put the list of Ramsar Wetlands in Sri Lanka below with the size of them in hectares. According to that, Kumana is the second largest after Wilpattu.
List of Ramsar Wetlands in Sri Lanka
|Annaiwilundawa Tanks Sanctuary||1397|
|Kumana Wetland Cluster||19011|
|Wilpattu Ramsar Wetland Cluster||165800|
Ok, shall we go on the journey then?
If you’re willing to see pictures of the Thunmulla Bungalow, please click on the link so that it’d direct you to the post I’ve published. I purposely left of them from the report as I wanted to put more pictures of the wildlife. Now that we’ve arrived at the bungalow, it’s time to take stock of the situation and get our cooks to make some lunch for us while we unpack our baggage and take a break coz we’ve been on the go for the past 10+ hours.
Our two young chefs were very efficient and the smell wafting from the kitchen was churning the worms in my tummy. We waited with the greatest difficulty and the moment it was served to the table, we swarmed over it like a pack of wolves. After lunch, we were restless coz we wanted to get out and explore but the sheer hot conditions prevented us getting out and the animals would be in the shades too. So around 2.30pm, we embarked on our evening voyage, a voyage which is to be treasured for the rest of my life.
Bowaththa Rock Cave Complex
Our next stop was to visit the Bowaththa Rock Cave Complex which is located about 50m off the main jeep track. This is one of the few places you’re allowed to get down but always adhere to the advice of the tracker as you’re entering into the dangerous territory. The bears tend to roam these caves and you need to be extra vigilant when you’re going around. Always stick together as a group and don’t get separated whatever happens.
Back to Wildlife Exploration.
The time was flying and sun was dipping fast. We decided to turn around can go back to base. However little did any of us know that we were about to make first-ever contact of the most sought-after animal in Sri Lanka, the Leopard. It was so sudden and none of us was expecting it when that happened. It took Gayan by so surprise he’d found it unable to utter a word and point him to us. Thankfully our guide was so sharp and he pointed us in the direction.
I just couldn’t believe my eyes. There was this beautiful animal about 100m away standing on his hind legs and scratching at a tiny wood apple plant. He stopped doing that and looked at us coz of the noise of the Jeep. Then started slowly walking away into the jungle. The light was so dim and the foreground grass made it too much of work for our point-n-shoot cameras. I was trying to get the camera to focus properly but managed only couple of pictures with average quality. Well, this was anyway a great sighting and hopefully there’d be many more in the future coz we’d keep coming. Here are the rest of the pictures for the day.
We finished a hearty dinner held a cabinet meeting as to what to do on the following day. Our initial plan was to go to Bambaragasthalawa on the second day but when we put our idea to Sena and our tracker, they said it’d take a whole day to go cover it. We actually didn’t wanna spend a whole day on archaeology having come so far. So after a lot of arguing and counter arguing, we all agreed that Bambaragasthalawa would have to wait even though it was very important and beautiful as we had to give priority to the wildlife. Our sighting of the leopard this evening sort of made a strong point in this regard.
Oh, it wasn’t the only thing we argued about. Most of the time we couldn’t figure out whether it was a male or a female when it came to birds and animals and my theory was hotly contested by Hasi and Gayan whereas their wives were all in favor. I told them that if it was a very beautiful one, it was the male and not so beautiful fella was the female. It’s only among the Humans and Horses we’d see the females more beautiful than the males. However, Hasi and Gayan were not in agreement so we went to bed with that though in mind in the upper dormitory where there are 8 beds with mosquito nets. Well, you’re welcome to share your ideas on this hot topic.
The night was calm and relatively cooler. There was the noise of the wind and the tree branches fluttering in the winds. Then there were noises of buffaloes crossing the tank in front of the bungalow in large numbers. A few other animals too made some unintelligible sounds and it sort of put us into sleep. Tomorrow we’d be packing our breakfast and leaving early in order to save time and increase sightings.
Hello folks, here I’m with the second day of our marathon run at Kumana NP. Hope you guys enjoyed the journey on day 01 and ready for another day of wildlife. Let’s get going then folks.
We got up and took a few pictures of the moon and the tank in front while the breakfast was being prepared. Here are a few.
We went to the tower which has been built for bird watching. However there were not very good sightings so we went on our early morning safari and there were a couple of other jeeps too but it was not a mad rush like in Yala or at Wilpattu. That’s one advantage of Kumana coz of its location, only a few groups go there and hardly ever you’ll get half-day tours. I hope it’ll stay like that forever. If only they can limit the number of jeeps entering to Yala (I heard that there are 400+ jeeps operating there) in order to make it more pleasant to the visitors and bearable to the wildlife as well.
Oh, we got very lucky coz we managed to photograph a pair of Black-Necked Storks aks Ali Manawa that are very rare to find. They’re apparently the tallest birds found in Sri Lanka (I’m sure our bird experts like Dhana can provide us with the exact details) with a height of around 129-150cm (51-60inches). We only managed a couple of long range shots but come tomorrow rather in the next report coz we’ll have some stunning images of them for you. Here we go:
As you might have noticed there were only a few birds we could see from the tower despite our early arrival at the point. Ok, let’s go and see if we can get lucky with some more sightings before I wrap it up for this report and meet you again with the next episode. Oh by the way, we were also able to go see a rocky cave used by an ex LTTE Terrorist Leader. He’d tried to build a fully pledged bungalow by laying a foundation stone as well but thankfully our heroic soldiers managed to end the brutal control of those barbaric killers just in time. Our tracker said in the past when the East was more or less controlled by those LTTE killers, they’d killed so many animals, especially the leopards for their skin and others such as deer, wild boar, buffaloes, etc. for meat. That damage was irreparable and it’d take so long for it to get back to normal if it ever does. However the poachers and henchmen of the powers that be might continue this from where the LTTE left. Keeping our fingers crossed, let’s hope for the best.
Gal Amuna Camp Site
This is probably one of the best camp sites in the whole country. We actually wanted to go and see the famous Gal Amuna which had apparently been built so long ago across Kumbukkan Oya in order to stop sea water flowing inland making the water in the river not usable. It’s about 1.5-2km from the river mouth and located with plenty of shade from mammoth Kumbuk Trees. Usually you’re not allowed to go into the camp site when it’s been booked by another party as it’d be an intrusion into their privacy. However we were wanting so badly to see the Gal Amuna so our tracker offered to go and check with the residing party if we could go take a few pictures and return.
Thankfully they welcomed us and allowed us to go and see the place to our sheer joy. So you too are lucky to see it the way we did and here are the pictures. Oh guess what, according to our tracker there are plenty of sea fish that come upstream during the low tide and get trapped in the tiny ponds along the river bank. We also wanted to go to the river mouth but as Sena didn’t have the wrench in his jeep we decided not to attempt it coz the path was so muddy and would have made it so difficult. So we played it safe and didn’t go up to the river mouth.
Back on the Safari
I hope you liked what you saw but it was nothing compared to what you’d see with your own eyes. Let’s go on the last bit of Safari where we’d take you to another significantly important religious location inside Kumana, Kuda Kebaliththa. The road to Maha Siyambala Devalaya aka Kebaliththa goes near this which is located off Kumbukkan Oya. Most of the Jeep drivers would not dare do it in one jeep instead they’d insist on two jeeps just in case if one broke down which is quite common on that road due to the extremely bad conditions.
I’ll take you up to Kuda Kebaliththa and end it there coz it’ll have to be a better planned journey to go beyond that to Kebaliththa. We’re going back to the bungalow for lunch and a break after this and will come back in the afternoon for the rest of the day.
We turned around after seeing a couple of jeeps coming from Kebaliththa. They looked as if they’d all been through a hurricane and the people inside looked haggard and were coated half an inch thick with dust. The drivers were the worst affected and their faces were white and visibly exhausted. It told us how difficult the journey to Kebaliththa actually is and how much planning and time needed to do it the proper manner. Still you’re bound to get knocked about in that difficult terrain.
We turned around and came to the bungalow for lunch as the time was getting closer to mid-day. On our way we met a few other friends who came forward to tell their story but some of them were still vary of our presence so stayed well away from us. Here we go:
We came in time for a still warm lunch. It was midday and the heat was unbearable but the breeze coming from the tank was a blessing. We all stretched our legs and took showers while waiting for the lunch to be served. Despite the heat and exhaustion, we felt elated at some good sightings in the morning. So we decided to take a short break, about one and half hours before venturing onto the wild once again. The water in the bungalow was brackish with a touch of mud in it. So you should not expect a similar bath you’re having in Colombo or elsewhere. However, it’s nothing alarming but if you’re frantic about water and its condition, just watch out so that you won’t get disappointed. Also, remember not to expect so much as the main purpose of those bungalows is for the facilitation of wildlife sightings, not deluxe accommodation.
After a break (we were too excited to take a nap), it was time to get on the track again. We got Sena and our tracker Nalinda out of their resting points and got back on the jeep around 3pm. The heat was somewhat bearable so we made it slowly towards deep into the jungle. Let’s see what we’d find now before I wrap this up for today.
So what you think about them? It was great especially the Spoon Bills and that huge Croc. Of course the credit of spotting the Spoon Bills should go to Gayani (Gayan’s wife and now don’t ask about the coincidence in them having similar names) coz we probably had missed good many of them as they were very much like those Egrets you find almost everywhere. And they keep their beaks either buried in the water looking for food or at odd angles making it difficult to spot. However, thanks to her we managed to see a good number of them as we were looking for them since the first sighting.
All in all, it was a majestic day and we witnessed another glorious sunset over the trees. By the time we arrived at the bungalow, the sun had all but dipped below the horizon leaving this orange and crimson mixture on the sky. We’re ready for some noodles and hit the sack. Come back in the morning as we would be spending the last day at Kumana and will be leaving after lunch. So we’d be doing a morning session and come back for brunch and check out of the bungalow and do a small safari again before saying good-bye.
Good morning and hope you’re all set for a morning session with these beautiful creatures. Well, let’s not waste any more time and get cracking. We witnessed this glorious sunrise on our way over the lagoon and treetops. Here are some pics of that.
That was a great show, wasn’t it? Who would’ve thought we’d be treated to such glory inside a National Park? That was a really good stroke of luck. Ok, now let’s go to the nearby lagoon coz we saw a couple of Ali Manawa (Black-Necked Stork) yesterday and see if they are there. It’s such a rare sighting of them as much as Pelicans and Spoon Bills. Hopefully we’ll get lucky and they’d have a word with us.
So guys, how did you enjoy the mesmerizing display of the Ali Manawa? They were simply amazing and the morning rays lit up the whole lagoon bringing their colors beautifully. Well, we couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off our day and let’s go and see what else lies ahead for us.
We arrived at the bungalow around 11am and had rice and curry so that we could hold until we were well away from Potuvil before we had to stop for meals. However, we got some Roti made and packed to have on the way. It was very saddening to bid farewell to this wonderful location and I wish we had more time. We said good-bye to our cooks and left for the entrance. This was one helluva journey and I’d treasure it to the rest of my life. However, we managed to do a little more safari before winding up our tour and here are those pictures.
Well, that was our journey inside the Kumana National Park, one of the very best in SL. If you’ve not been there yet, please go by all means and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Please take care of the nature and bring back all the garbage with you. Treat the nature with the due respect and do everything possible to protect it for the future as well. We left the park having thanked our tracker Nalinda who was a very good person. There was so much we couldn’t see yet, namely the Bambaragasthalawa and Kudumbigala. It means we’d definitely have to come back once again to this breath-taking place.
On our way, we came across somebody who was very muscular and handsome. You’d wonder if it was a Bollywood or Hollywood Star. Well, lemme show you what he looks like.
Well, how was the star player? He was really muscular and reminded me of Sylvester Stallone in Rambo. I think it’s time to end this report and hope you all enjoyed these beautiful encounters as much as we did. There was so much we missed capturing on our lenses so it’s really important for you to be there in order to get a better understanding of these beautiful and wonderful creatures of the Mother Nature.
Well, that’s it from Sri and I’ll see you once again with another Pictorial Story from another National Park. Until then, take care and keep travelling.