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Udawattakele Sanctuary

Udawattakele Sanctuary is a forest reserve located in the heart of Kandy, Sri Lanka. This reserve serves as an urban forest park, offering tranquility away from the urban environment. Covering approximately 103 hectares, the sanctuary is a significant asset to both the local environment and tourism. This travel guide aims to provide all the necessary information you need for visiting this wonderful sanctuary.

History of Udawattakele Sanctuary

The historical roots of Udawattakele Sanctuary are deeply connected with the royal and cultural history of Kandy, one of Sri Lanka's ancient capitals. The forest was originally designated as a royal forest reserve by the Kandyan Kings. It served as a pleasure garden for the royals and was closely associated with the Royal Palace of Kandy, which itself dates back to the 14th century.

During the Kandyan Kingdom era, the forest was off-limits to the general public. It was said that the area was patrolled by royal guards to ensure that no one entered the forest without permission. The sanctuary also holds religious significance; it was home to hermit monks who lived in seclusion, practicing meditation. Several ancient temples and hermitages, some of which still exist today, were built within the sanctuary.

Udawattakele was declared a forest reserve in 1856. It was one of the first forests in Sri Lanka to receive formal protection, highlighting its ecological and social importance. Since then, it has been a protected site and transitioned into a sanctuary open for public visits in 1938.

The sanctuary has undergone some changes over the years, but it remains an ecological treasure. Today, it not only serves as a natural habitat for various species but also as an educational site, showcasing the rich historical tapestry that has been woven over hundreds of years.

Significance of the Sanctuary

Udawattakele Sanctuary serves multiple functions that make it a place of high significance, not just as a tourist attraction but also as a unique ecological, cultural, and religious site.

The sanctuary serves as a crucial green lung in the heart of Kandy. In a rapidly urbanizing world, such green spaces act as vital buffers that contribute to air purification, climate regulation, and biodiversity conservation. It is an essential habitat for various species of flora and fauna, some of which are endemic to Sri Lanka. The sanctuary is considered a bio-reserve, and its conservation plays a critical role in sustaining the broader ecosystem of the region.

The sanctuary is closely connected with the cultural history of Kandy. Once a royal forest reserve, it has witnessed significant historical events and developments. The sanctuary itself is a living museum that tells the story of Kandy's past, offering visitors an opportunity to step back in time.

Udawattakele Sanctuary is also an important place for religious practices and beliefs. Within its boundaries, several Buddhist monasteries and meditation hermitages exist, some of which are centuries old. These places are still active and contribute to the sanctuary's importance in the religious landscape of Sri Lanka. 

Flora and Fauna

Udawattakele Sanctuary features a rich and diverse range of flora that includes tropical evergreen trees like jak, satinwood, and ebony. Jak trees are noteworthy for their large, edible fruits, while satinwood and ebony are valued for their use in carpentry due to their hard, high-quality wood. The sanctuary also hosts various medicinal plants, including Weniwel and Aththana, known for their therapeutic properties and traditional uses in Sri Lankan Ayurvedic medicine. Ornamental plants like orchids are also commonly found in the forest.

On the fauna side, the sanctuary is a paradise for birdwatchers, hosting over 80 different species of birds. Commonly seen birds include the Layard's parakeet, the Sri Lanka hanging parrot, and the brown-capped babbler. These birds not only add to the sanctuary's ecological diversity but also offer excellent opportunities for photography and birdwatching.

Mammals are another significant aspect of the sanctuary's wildlife. Toque macaques and purple-faced leaf monkeys are the more commonly seen primates. Smaller mammals like squirrels are also frequently spotted darting between the trees. While less common, one might also encounter mouse deer or porcupines on quieter trails.

Reptiles like monitor lizards are also found in Udawattakele. These reptiles play an essential role in the ecosystem by controlling insect and rodent populations.

The sanctuary's insect life is equally vibrant, featuring various species of butterflies that add color and life to the surroundings. Dragonflies, moths, and beetles are also abundant, each serving an important role in the sanctuary's complex food web.

The richness of the sanctuary's flora and fauna adds layers of depth to any visit, making it a focal point for naturalists, researchers, photographers, and those simply interested in enjoying the beauty of nature.

Observation Points

Udawattakele Sanctuary is rich in observation points that afford stunning views of the natural landscape. These points are often the rewarding end to various hiking routes within the sanctuary. Locations like Elephant Rock and Kodimale Summit are particularly popular for their vistas. From these elevated spots, visitors can appreciate sweeping views of Kandy and the surrounding hills. You can also observe a variety of wildlife, including birds and monkeys, in their natural setting. Many of these observation points come with benches, allowing you to sit and soak in the scenery. These vantage points serve as excellent opportunities for photography, birdwatching, or simply appreciating the sanctuary's ecological richness.

Visitor Amenities

Udawattakele Sanctuary is designed to accommodate a range of visitors, from casual nature lovers to more serious hikers and researchers. The sanctuary's entrance is well-marked, and the ticket counter provides general information to guide your visit.

Accessibility

The sanctuary is generally accessible by foot, and the paths are mostly well-maintained to cater to various fitness levels. However, it's worth noting that some trails may be challenging for seniors. 

Amenities

Within the sanctuary, you'll find basic amenities to make your visit more comfortable. Restrooms are located near the entrance. 

Some trails have informative signboards that provide details about the flora and fauna, enriching your educational experience. While there are no food or drink stalls within the sanctuary, water refill stations are available along some trails.

If you're interested in a more in-depth exploration, local guides can be hired at the entrance. They offer a wealth of knowledge on the sanctuary’s history, flora, and fauna.

Location and How to Get There

Udawattakele Sanctuary is located in Kandy, Sri Lanka. The main entrance is near the Royal Palace Park. Public transport options are available, including buses and tuk-tuks.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit is during the dry seasons. This is from December to April. The weather is more favorable for hiking and bird watching.

Tips and Advice

  • Wear Comfortable Clothing: Opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics and sturdy footwear suitable for hiking. 
  • Stay Hydrated: Carry enough water to last your hike, especially on longer trails where there are no refill points.
  • Pack Snacks: Bring along some energy-boosting snacks like granola bars or fruits. However, remember to pack out any trash.
  • Follow Trail Markers: Always stick to the designated trails and follow the markers to stay on the correct path.
  • Insect Repellent: A good insect repellent can be helpful, especially during the wetter months when mosquitoes are more prevalent.
  • Capture Responsibly: Photography is allowed, but avoid using flash when photographing wildlife. This is to minimize stress on the animals.
  • Quiet Observations: Keep noise to a minimum to increase your chances of seeing wildlife and to not disturb the animals or other visitors.
  • Respect Cultural Sites: The sanctuary houses various religious and historical sites. Always show respect and adhere to any specific guidelines or rules.
  • Local Guides: If you are new to hiking or would like an educational tour, consider hiring a local guide to enrich your experience.

Nearby Attractions

  1. Temple of the Tooth: This is one of the most sacred temples in Sri Lanka and houses a relic of Buddha's tooth. A significant pilgrimage site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it offers deep insights into Sri Lankan spirituality and history.
  2. Kandy Lake: Located adjacent to Udawattakele Sanctuary, this man-made reservoir adds a serene backdrop to Kandy. Ideal for a peaceful walk, the lake area also provides opportunities for birdwatching.
  3. Peradeniya Botanical Gardens: About 6 km from Udawattakele, these gardens offer a wide range of flora, including a renowned orchid house. Spread over 147 acres, the gardens offer a tranquil escape from urban life.
  4. Kandy National Museum: Situated near the Temple of the Tooth, this museum offers valuable insights into Sri Lankan culture and history. The museum houses artifacts that reflect Kandy's historical and royal past.
  5. Bahirawakanda Temple: This temple is known for its large statue of Buddha visible from various parts of Kandy. A visit here offers not just spiritual insights but also good views of the city below.

Udawattakele Sanctuary serves as an urban oasis and is a must-visit for anyone touring Sri Lanka, especially the city of Kandy. Whether you're an avid birdwatcher, a history enthusiast, or someone looking to escape the urban environment, Udawattakele Sanctuary is sure to leave a lasting impression.



This post first appeared on Wonders Of Ceylon, please read the originial post: here

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