Udawalawe's wildlife wonders
by P. D. A. S. Gunasekera
CDN / Wednesday, 03 November 2004
Among the many attractions and the pleasing prospects of the island the National Park Udawalawa in Sabaragamuwa has in store many memorable scenery of the wilderness with the animals of every type, indigenous to the country.
Entrance to the park
The 'baby elephant care' centre at the entrance to the park is interesting and surprisingly amusing to any, especially to the tourists, most of whom, perhaps have not seen such an array of baby elephants lining up in single file, patiently awaiting their turn at the feeding point at the sound of whistle, with an admirable discipline.
The baby elephants grazing in the park, under surveillance, making a bee-line to the feeding centre, sharp in time for the milk feed, thrice a day (9 a.m., noon, 5 p.m.) unassisted is an unforgettable experience to any child or adult.
Besides, Udawalawa Park has the largest herd of elephants around 250 strong, with an equally imposing herd of baby elephants nearing 24 for any park in the island, on record, awaiting tourists.
The park also caters to the lovers of rare species of animal life in no small measure. Uncommon type of small rats (Mus-ferhandoni) locally known as 'kos-eta meeya' discovered in the Yala National Park in 1936 and reappearing in the Uda-walawe Park in 1999 and after, might be of interest to the students of biology as well.
The park is also a haven for milk-feeding animals such as 'Goona' (Servus unicolor), 'Kulu-Haraka' (Babulas babalis) and bears (Melurus ursinus), 'Handun Diviya' (Panthera pardus), 'Thith Muwa (Axis axis) and a wide variety of uncommon animals, indigenous to the country. Tourists could capture beautiful frames of these rare species, victims of the hunter, outside, but still preserved in the park, in diminishing numbers, moving freely on the open grasslands, any day in the week.
The lovers of physical beauty, 'in the lie of the land' could find the 'Aras', five in number, small and varied streams, with clear, clean and cool water, meeting the Walawe river at a single point called 'Pas-Ara' meaning five streams, a bathing spot, refreshing to the travel-stained tourists, adding to their bodily comfort, in their sojourn in the Park.
The open green pasture lands here and there where the animals wallowed freely enabled the visitors in a hurry, to enjoy the sights straight from the vehicle in the morning and emplane back home by the evening (flight) as scheduled.
Thus for those interested in a quick 'touring-package' to fill the idle hours of stay in the island, in-between official commitments, Udawalawa National Park is the ideal spot, with only a few hours drive from Colombo, on the streamlined highway.
The parkland itself covered 30821 hectares of land originally intended as protection for the 3400 sq. hectares of the reservoir which later under the declaration of 1972 became the Uda Walawe National Park, with added sights of magnificent 'hill tops' with rocky summits here and there and the water-fall Diyavinna and numerous small ancient 'wewas' which looked like silvery ponds seen from the air or the highlands, all increasing the pleasing prospects of the environment to the tourists.
The alluring sights of Ulgala-kanda including Bambaragala, Reminiya Kotha, rocky grounds rising above the flat land could be viewed in a single trip to the Park within a few hours, any time.
There are roadways developed inside the park for the visitors and touring parties to view the desired fauna and flora, freely within the length and breadth of the park in the deep jungle land.
There are also 'night rests', 'Sinukgala', 'Veheragala' and 'Thimbiriyamankade', especially developed for the convenience of the tourists in pleasant surroundings. In addition there are two camping grounds on the Walawe river bank for parties, with special camping facilities.
The archaeological excavations in the area at Veheramankada and Veheragolla reveal to the visitors the rare ancient history of the area as an early settlement of the indigenous people of Sabaragamuwa.
The village Muwanpelessa featuring in the popular drama which ran for years over the SLBC in Sri Lanka, in which 'Kadira' and 'Aratchi' two notable characters figured is still to be seen in deep jungle, for those interested.
The Udawalawa Park, now developed into the best National Park in the island with the special attention of the SPC and the Ministry of Forest Conservation is the closest to the Colombo.
The entrance to the Park is at the 7th mile-post on the Udawalawe-Thanamalwila Road. The distance is 110 miles or 165 kms on the old road via Kaduwela, Ratnapura, Kahawatte, Godakawela, Udawalawa Park from Colombo.
© David Behrens