Jetwing Eco Holidays

Jetwing House
46/26 Navam Mawatha
Colombo 2
Sri Lanka.

Phone :
94 11 238 1201 or 94-11-234 5700 (Ext) 559, 561 or 593
Fax :
94 11 462 7743

Our usual office hours are from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5 pm. We do access emails intermittently outside these hours. We are at GMT plus 5 hrs 30 mins.


April & May


- a compilation by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne (15/June/2004)


[*] TOP STORY Top birders Deepal Warakagoda, Uditha Hettige, Lester Perera & Chinthaka de Silva, fly to Jetwing. See Press Releases

[*] Uditha Wijesena proposes the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey as the national mammal of Sri Lanka (see Articles)

[*] Dragonfly Watching in Yala & Tissa with Karen Coniff and Yala Natural History Report (See Articles)

[*] Nature Photographer 2004 with first prize of Rs 100,000 (approx. USD 1,000) closes on 15 July. Applications from FujiFilm outlets, HSBC branches and Jetwing Hotels. See Press Releases.

[*] Info-Travel Sri Lanka is a new reference guide with eighteen new style road maps. See Book Review.  


Saturday 26 June, Lecture series on birds for beginners. 9.30 am - 12.00. NBLT, University of Colombo, Colombo 3. Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) Lecture Series. Topic and speaker to be finalised.  

25 - 29 June P.B. Karunaratne Memorial Exhibition & Annual Photographic Competition at University of Colombo. Applications from the FOGSL office or send a stamped envelope to FOGSL, University of Colombo, Colombo 3.  

31 July 2004 Closing date of Nature Photographer 2004 Competition. Overall first prize Rs 100,000. Application forms from FujiFilm outlets, HSBC branches and Jetwing Hotels.  


TOP STORY: Sri Lanka's leading Natural History Tour leaders have decided to work on an exclusive basis with Jetwing Eco Holidays joining the team of Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne. They include Deepal Warakagoda who discovered the Serendib Scops Owl, the first new species of bird to be described from Sri Lanka after a lapse of 132 years. All round naturalists and top birders Uditha Hettige, Lester Perera, and Chinthaka de Silva are also in the team which have joined Jetwing Eco Holidays. See Press Releases below for more details.  

Uditha Hettige on tour with Australian journalist Veronica Matheson (9-12 June) in Yala observed two tuskers. They also had a female leopard on Talgasmankada road. They visited Sinharaja on 12 June and found it very windy. Several trees had fallen down because of the strong monsoonal winds. They had two good feeding flocks with Red-faced Malkoha, Malabar Trogons, White-faced Starlings etc. The flocks were seen during pauses in the rain.  

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne reports from a visit to Yala 0n 27 - 29 May with Sanath Weerasuriya (Sunday Times), Uditha Jayasinghe (Daily Mirror), Ifham Nizam (Island). He reports "We observed 7-8 Brown-throated Spinetails hawking for insects over Kota Bendi Wewa. Very close views were had of the birds which were watched for around fifteen minutes. This species has been reported before from Yala, to which it seems to be an occasional visitor from areas in which it is resident. Two sightings of Sirkeer Malkoha on the main road as well as on Talgasmankada Road. No passerine migrants were recorded on this visit. 

On Sunday 30 May, a dead, male leopard was collected for veterinary examination by Warden Tissera. It is believed to have died in an encounter with another Leopard".  

On 22 May, Sunela Jayawardene observed a raptor the size of a Changeable Hawk Eagle in Buller's Road in Colombo 7. There were near cyclonic winds a few days ago, which may resulted in this unidentified large raptor being blown in. 

Nimal Rambukwelle says "On a visit to Wilpattu National Park on the 18th of May, during the late morning we saw many Jungle Fowl, a pair of Jackals, a Barking Deer, a Mouse Deer, a pair of crocodiles close to the Villu's and many Serpent Eagles perched at eye level. We also we saw a pair of Adjutants and Wild Pig at Aram Villu. Although we did not see any Leopards or Elephants we did see their track marks and Elephant dung in the open plains.  

Lankika de Livera sends these sightings between the 10 & 12th April. "Orange-breasted Green Pigeon (Male and Female), Malabar Pied Hornbills and Grey Hornbills - while trekking through the Giritale jungle and village area. A herd of about 90 Elephants with about 20 babies at the Kaudulla National Park near the environs of the Kaudulla tank at dusk. Also Grey-headed Fish Eagles and Crested Serpent Eagles in Polonnaruwa".  

Nadeera Jayasinghe was in Kumana Yala East) on 4 May 2004 and reports several sightings of the Brown Fish Owl. Romesh Meegama who was with the group had found the angling prospects good. He had caught 65 baby Paraw at Komari. All this by standing on the beach and casting. They were everywhere, but he had stopped at 65 because the nearby villagers were anxious to catch the fish as well.  

Rev. Fr. Vimal Tirimanna on a short visit to Kala Oya reports "On a visit to the Kala Oya Church, Kala Oya during Easter (8-11April 2004), I was able to see many commmonly found dry-zone birds in the vicinity of the Church. However what fascinated me the most were the following two species. Firstly, a female Orange-headed Ground Thrush. I was taking a walk along the Kala-Oya bank, just next to the Church, around 4 pm. Suddenly, I was attracted by the alarm call of a bird: "Kreeee"; when I turned to my left, I saw on the ground a babbler-like bird with an upright stance, staying motionless, but every now and then, giving out the alarm call: "kreeee". It was overall cinnamon-brownish, with a clear orange head. The wings were olive-brown. A couple of minutes later, it flew over my head to the other side to hide inside the scrub jungle. I had no difficulty in identifying it as a female Orange-headed Ground Thrush. Secondly, an Indian Cuckoo kept moving about in the Church vicinity giving out its most melodious call. On almost all of the three days, it was seen and heard only in the morning.  

Alan Wood who travelled in February 2004 sends in the following comments on Wasgamuwa. "One way to help Wasgamuwa, Wilpattu and the other 'hidden treasures' of Sri Lanka is to encourage visitors to go there. Wasgomuwa naturally combines with a visit to Polonnaruwa as Wilpattu combines with Anuradhapura.  

There is a 20% year on year increase in wildlife tourism from UK, and Sri Lanka is becoming one of the main destinations. Yet no UK company offers Wilpattu, let alone Wasgomuwa. We went to Wilpattu with Jetwing Eco Holidays and found it to be a delightful reserve in the early stages of restoration after the ravages of war and poachers Experienced wildlife travellers prefer to explore new and less popular places so they can get the best experience possible. However, these places need to be promoted by those with local knowledge".  


Top Birders fly to Jetwing Eco Holidays

Sri Lanka's leading Natural History Tour leaders have decided to work on an exclusive basis with Jetwing Eco Holidays joining the team of Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne. They include Deepal Warakagoda who discovered the Serendib Scops Owl, the first new species of bird to be described from Sri Lanka after a lapse of 132 years. All round naturalists and top birders Uditha Hettige, Lester Perera, and Chinthaka de Silva are also in the team which have joined Jetwing Eco Holidays. Lester Perera is also one of the country's best known wildlife artists.  

Meanwhile, Jetwing Hotels have stopped up their campaign to recruit Naturalists for their hotels. They now have 12 full time naturalists with a target of 15 by the year end. The Jetwing family of companies now have a depth of skills and a number of naturalists, naturalist tour leaders and naturalist chauffeur guides which has no rival in Sri Lanka. Jetwing spend a significant amount of time and money promoting research, conservation and education in Sri Lanka. Its high profile matches that of some conservation NGOs. Chandrika Maelge (Team Leader, Jetwing Eco Holidays) believes that other tour leaders who wish to make a name in wildlife tourism, will also cross over to Jetwing, within the next year.  

Nature Photographers chase Rs 100,000 first prize

Time is running out for photographers chasing the coveted Nature Photographer 2004 award, which carries a first prize of Rs 100,000. Entries should be received by 15 July 2004 at Fuji Film Image Service, 501 Union Place, Colombo 10. Entry is by the submission of prints in each of five categories for Mammals, Birds, Other Animals, Plant Life and Landscapes. The winning entries will be exhibited in December, at a venue in Colombo.

The panel of judges includes Lal Anthonis, Sarath Perera, Rukshan Jayawardene, Panduka de Silva, Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Dominic Sansoni, Cecilia McGuire and Dr. Sriyanie Miththapala. The breadth of the panel of judges, reflect the ambitions of the lead sponsors Fuji Film, HSBC and Jetwing to develop the reputation of the competition as an art event, albeit in wildlife photography. According to Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Chairperson of the competition, the judges will be looking for images with visual impact or images that tell a story.

Media coverage this year has been bolstered by participation from ETV, YATV, Yes FM, Classic FM Lankadeepa, Serendipity and Explore Sri Lanka.  


Dragonflies of Yala and Tissamaharama

- Karen Conniff

  The rain brings out the best in Yala. On a recent visit in May, and after a few rain showers, I discovered that the rain kept the dust down, leaves were a brighter green and overnight it seemed that blossoms appeared on the branches of trees and shrubs. The fruits that had formed from a previous rain had brought in a multitude of birds and butterflies. Not quite as obvious as the numbers of birds and butterflies were the appearance of many dragonflies that moved from one rain recharged pond to the next.  

I was on a tour of Yala with Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and several journalists. We all hoped to see a leopard, but while searching for leopards our binoculars were also turned toward other mammals, birds, and crocodiles. I also used mine to discover the variety of dragonflies that were dipping and darting over the surface of the ponds in Yala. Branches and sticks that poke up from the surface of the water are ideal perches for dragonflies. When we stopped by a pond to look at birds or crocodiles I quickly scanned the pond for stumps and broken sticks hoping to see dragonflies. The challenge of spotting and identifying dragonflies is as satisfying as adding to my list of birds.  

What types of dragonflies can you see at Yala? The dragonfly that was easiest to find was a noticeable yellow and brown one that kept zooming across the front window screen of the vehicle. This was the Globe Skimmer ( Pantala falavescens ). On those sticks in the ponds I was able to see Orange-winged Groundlings ( Brachythemis contaminata ); they were immediately obvious because of their bright orange wings. A quick list of the sightings I made include Little Blue Darters ( Diplacodes trivialis ), Sombre Skimmers ( Orthetrum sabina ), the bright red Eastern Scarlet Darters (Crocothemis servilia), and faded blue Brown-banded Skimmers ( Orthetrum glaucum ). I saw more but there was not enough time to stop and determine each type.  

It was difficult to view dragonflies from the vehicle. Luckily we stopped briefly for a quick bite to eat in the park near a river and a small pond. I took a stroll along the edge of the pond and found a few of the smaller more delicate damselflies (Zygopterans), moving almost imperceptibly amongst the grass. Along the edge of the pond were Ubiquitous Bluetails ( Ischnura sengalensis ) and Orange-headed Sprites ( Pseudagrion rubiceps ceylonicum). On the river in partial shade along the banks we saw the beautiful purplish pink Dawn Dropwing (Trithemis aurora) and a close relative the Indigo Dropwing ( Trithemis festiva ). There are more to discover but it takes more time than just a quick stop. Once the snack was finished our group was ready to continue our drive because everyone was still hoping to spot a leopard.  

The guides at Yala Safari Game Lodge were eager to learn more about dragonflies so I was happy to go with them on a special dragonfly mission. We were limited for time, so early one morning we made a quick trip to Tissamaharama just outside Yala where there is a lovely tank called Devera Wewa. Here the birds were as fascinating as the dragonflies and damselflies. Since we purposely went to spot dragonflies we had to ignore the birds and were able to see a dozen species of dragonflies and damselflies in less than an hour. That morning the weather was not ideal for dragonfly watching; cloudy and with a light drizzle, but still there were many to see. The first to be spotted were the bright yellow slow moving Yellow Damselflies ( Ceriagrion coromandelianum ) both males and females were present and many were seen in tandem and copulating. Since the females have a slightly different coloration finding them in tandem is the best way to identify both males and females of the species. Ubiquitous Bluetails ( Ischnura senegalensis ) were present on the lotus stems in sticking up in the tank.  

There were many cut lotus stems on the tank; ideal perches and best for spotting dragonflies. A short distance from the edge of the tank a Dancing Dropwing ( Trithemis pallidinervis ) was perched on a lotus stem beside it on another stem was a bright red Eastern Scarlet Darter ( Crocothemis servilia ); both male and female Eastern Scarlet Darters were present in large numbers. Another numerous species was the Asian Pintail ( Acisoma panorpoides ) both the blue males and yellow females were spotted along the edge of the tank. As we quickly walked the tank edge we saw a Sombre Skimmer ( Orthetrum sabina ), Brown-banded Skimmer ( Orthetrum glaucum ), Black Velvet-wings (Neurothemis tulia) males, a juvenile male and females, Variable Gliders ( Rhyothemis variegata ) males and females, Spine-legged Reedling ( Rhodothemis rufa ), Orange-winged Groundling (Brachythemis contaminata), and Little Blue Darters ( Diplacodes trivialis ) males and females. That is quite a list for just one hour of observation and it is definitely not complete since the weather was overcast there are surely many more that can be identified on a sunny morning. The advantages of the tank over the park are that we could get close to the edges to spot damselflies, walk at leisure and take time to identify both dragonflies and damselflies. I recommend taking a day off from the game drives and visiting Debera Wewa – it is definitely worthwhile and a good way to begin to learn about dragonflies.  

How do you identify all these dragonflies and damselflies? The best is a pictorial guide called Dragonflies of Sri Lanka published by Jetwing. It is not a complete pictorial guide of all that you might see in Sri Lanka but for places like the tank at Tissmaharama and Yala National Park it is the best you can have for a quick reference. It is easy to carry and the photographs give enough details to identify the dragonflies and damselflies, especially if you are careful to consider every detail from the eyes to the tip of the abdomen. There is another book, for the avid odonotologist (dragonfly specialist), The Dragonflies of Sri Lanka by Terrence de Fonseka available at many bookstores. The pictorial guide is found at Jetwing Hotels and in several bookstores in Colombo. Take the time to zoom in on dragonflies; and discover a new world.  

Visit to Sinharaja (17th –18th April)

- Ayanthi Samarajewa.  

On the 17th of April, Rohantha Samarajewa, Madhubashini Jayawardena, Yuraji Karunarathne and myself visited Sinharaja. We reached Sinharaja at about 11.00am. It was so nice to be here again. The walk up to Martin's is always so nice, one never feels the climb. We saw a Brown Shrike on the way up and a group of Yellow-browed Bulbuls. The areas where landslides had occurred, have now been taken over by the jungle, and therefore it does not look as bad as it did last August when I went there with FOGSL.  

It had been a busy week for the forest with many visitors during the Sinhala New Year period. We had some difficulty in finding accommodation, as Martin's was full. However we managed to park ourselves in a villager's house. It was a very bright and sunny day but we did not see any large flocks. Nevertheless, we had the opportunity of observing Orange-billed Babblers, Crested Drongo, Black-capped Bulbuls, Green Imperial Pigeons, Emerald Dove, Dark-fronted Babblers, Sri Lanka Yellow fronted Barbet, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrots, Layard's Parakeets, Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl, Sri Lankan Myna and a single Sri Lanka Blue Magpie for a long time. The Blue Magpie was very close to us and when we tried to leave, it just kept coming closer to us. It seemed to be looking for food and was not bothered with our presence.  

There was rain throughout the first night and till about 10.30am the next day. Early morning we saw a Spot-winged Thrush. When we had almost given up hope of seeing a good flock and were on are way back from the research station to pack up and head back home, we came across a large feeding flock. We did not hear them till we came very close.  

It consisted of many Orange-billed Babblers, Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush, Crested Drongo, Scimitar Babbler, White-bellied Drongos, three Red faced Malkohas (one was seen sunbathing with all its wings and tail spread out on a branch and another came and rested on a creeper very close to us giving us a very good view. Even the guide got excited for that one!), Lesser Yellow-napes, Greater Flameback, Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, Legge's Flower peckers, Sri Lanka White-eyes and many Paradise Flycatchers. A raptor was circling above and last but not least, three White-faced starlings (first time for me) gave us a clear view of them as they went about feeding.  

It was so easy to see these birds so well because they were near a place where a landslide had occurred. These places give a good view as it exposes the inside of the forest. The flock was going to cross the road, but for our bad luck, a group of people came by talking very loudly, complaining about the leeches. We tried to tell them there was a flock of birds nearby therefore to stay quite, but it did not work, and the flock went back in to the forest We were so happy to have come across it. We even saw a very beautiful Green Pit Viper just by the side of the road. We also spotted a Brown Shrike. It had a very gray head and nape, therefore I am not sure if it was a Philippine Shrike. Even our guide Ranjith was not sure.  

When coming back to Kudawa, we took the long route (the one that vehicles take) and saw a raptor that we could not identify, a nesting pair of Black Bulbuls and a few Pompadour Green Pigeons. Just when we were near the bridge in Kudawa near a mountain on the right, we saw two Black Eagles flying above the trees. They were holding on to some kind of nesting material with their claws. That was the icing on the cake as far as our birding trip was concerned.  

It was sad to see so many people coming to the forest and not knowing what to look for. They were wondering aimlessly, constantly complaining that there was nothing to see and about the leeches. Some even told us that this is not a good place to see birds and that we should go somewhere else. How unfortunate for them!    

Natural History Report from Yala Safari Game Lodge for the Month of April 2004  

Naturalists of Yala Safari Game Lodge, Chandra Jayawardena and Nadeera Weerasinghe have made the following observations during the month of April 2004.  

Large mammals


19 encounters involving 20 leopards, on 13 days. These sightings were confined to the Southern and South-eastern sectors and along the main road of the park.  


8 encounters involving 11 bears in 6 days. These sightings were mainly distributed in the southern quarter of the park.  


13 encounters involving 13 tuskers in 11 days. These sightings were evenly distributed through out the park  

These sighting numbers, include multiple sightings of individual animals, as well.  


The diversity of migratory bird species recorded seemed to have decreased to 35 species, when compared with the 41 species recorded in March 2004. There was a marked reduction in numbers than that was observed in March.  


During the month of April, a total number of 59 plant species that were identified of which, 24 species were observed in flowering, 13 species in fruiting and 22 species in both flowering and fruiting were observed.  


Generally dry weather prevailed through out the month, but however the area experienced a few scattered showers.   

How many Primates are there in Sri Lanka?

- Uditha Wijesena  

Field guides written for birds outnumber those written for Mammals. Sri Lanka lacks a mammalian guide. The last complete work probably is W W A Phillips Manual of the Mammals of Sri Lanka in three volumes. But this is not a field guide as such.  

Vivek Menon has done a wonderful book A Field Guide to the Indian Mammals . The book is a bit expensive, but I felt compelled to buy it. Having purchased my copy, the next task was to mark out those that occur in Sri Lanka. This was no easy task without a biologist's assistance. India has fifteen (15) primates while Sri Lanka has only four (4). Of this four, only two occur in India. They are the Slender Loris ( Loris tardigradus ) and the Hanuman Langur or Grey Langur ( Semnopithecus entellus ). The other two are endemic to Sri Lanka, the Toque Monkey ( Macaca sinica ) the Rilawa and the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey ( Semnopithecus vetuls ) or Elli Wandura.  

I'm sure many would not have known that the ordinary Rilawa and the Elli wandura that exploits the mango and banana trees in their garden are found only in Sri Lanka. Let us see if we have done justice to them.  

The Slender Loris is nocturnal and we know very little about it. The Hanuman Langur is widely distributed in the dry zone and still could be found in fairly plentiful numbers. They occur in all dry zone districts where many of our National parks are located. Its food consists of fruits, flowers, leaves and grain. During the dry parched seasons, one could find them seated among the men and women in dried up tank beds eating lotus seeds while the latter digs for lotus roots and legumes. Men seem to co-exist with this species in the dry zone unlike its counter part the Toque Monkey.  

The Torque Monkey endemic to Sri Lanka and is widely distributed in the whole country and has a very unique ability to adapt to changing habitat conditions. Being omnivorous it is said that they predate even birds. Recently, they have turned out to be scavengers in most temple areas where people have got in the habit of feeding them. A prolific breeder the numbers have gone to intolerable levels and is now considered an agricultural pest, resulting it being poisoned by the dry zone peasant. However even with these grave conditions their numbers don t seem to ring alarm bells to the conservationists.  

The Purple faced Leaf Monkey endemic to Sri Lanka is confined to the wet zone with its sub species the Bear Monkey in the hill country. This is the troubled monkey which happens to be competing with man for its habitat. Thirty years ago it was a common occurrence in the sub urban Colombo and in the wet zone villages. It was very common then to find them raiding home gardens in the fruiting season. Unlike the other monkey species in Sri Lanka this species is very selective in it s diet. Thus the rapid urbanization has taken a toll on the numbers of these monkeys. The lower numbers in the troops has even resulted in the behaviour of the dominant male killing the young males to maintain harems. It's a pity that we in our social development seem to have pushed this species in to extinction. It is now found mainly in the remaining rainforests in the wet zone. So next time you visit Sinharaja, if you hear the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, look for it, for it may be the last time you might see it.  

That apparently is the number of primates in Sri Lanka. There happens to one more. The Homo sapiens . Primates are adept at building shelters for the sole purpose of rearing their young. Do we build them to bringing up the young, or as a status symbol? The result, the greatest conservation threat HABITAT LOSS. It is time that those who drive around in their limousines with an Elephant saying Extinct is Forever stick to the back of their windshield, that the Purple faced Leaf Monkey has been pushed to the brink of extinction in the name of development.


How strange Sri Lanka has a national flower Nil Manel ( Nymphaea stellata ) a national tree Na ( Messua ferrea ) and a national bird the Sri Lanka Jungle fowl ( Gallus lafayetii ). Why not a national mammal endemic to Sri Lanka ? Can I propose the Purple faced Leaf Monkey as the national mammal endemic to Sri Lanka?  


Some of the following details are from the publisher's press releases.  

Orchids of Sri Lanka A Conservationists Companion. A Simplified Guide to Identification. Volume 1. The protected orchids and selected similar species. Authored by Malik Fernando, Siril Wijesundera and Suranjan Fernando. Published by IUCN Sri Lanka. 147 pages with colour photographs and illustrations and line drawings. 50 Species are illustrated in and described in a field guide format. ISBN 955 - 8177-23-7 .

This is a wonderful book BUT copies are not presently available for sale as the Guide was published primarily to support law enforcement, and the copies have thus been distributed to the relevant agencies. However those with an interest in the conservation or the study of orchids may contact IUCN (Charmalie/Dihan on 94 11 + 2682418/2694094) or refer to a copy in the IUCN library (opening times: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday to Friday) at 53 Horton Place, Colombo 7. Based on the degree of public interest, there may then be a case for a reprint.

  Field Guide to the Birds of Northern India by Richard Grimmett, Tim Inskipp ISBN 0713651679. 304 pages. 216x135 mm. Illustrations 120 colour plates..

The successor to the much acclaimed Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by the same authors. Covering just northern India, the superb plates are accompanied by a succinct text highlighting identification, voice, habitat, altitudinal range, distribution and status. The text is on facing pages to the plates, for easy reference. As with previous titles covering Bhutan and Nepal, this guide is a perfect size for use in the field and will be an essential companion when visiting this region.

 Jetwing Photographic Guides for Dragonflies and Butterflies

These booklets precede work underway on a larger book which will combine birds, butterflies and dragonflies. The format of the booklets is to depict a selection of species to facilitate easy reference and identification in the field. The booklet on Dragonflies is an important publication as it represents the first step, to produce a guide for field work. It has 88 images representing 65 species. Dragonflies and Damselflies are not easy to identify in the field and a fuller book will be published in due course which has accompanying text. The butterfly booklet has 63 images depicting 62 species. They will be available at leading bookshops with an expected retail price of around Rs 100.


The two booklets are produced by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne who has drawn on the technical expertise of Michael and Nancy van der Poorten on the butterflies and Matjaz Bedjanic and Karen Coniff on the Dragonflies. The photography has been undertaken principally by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne for the butterflies and shared with Matjaz Bedjanic for the Dragonflies. Bedjanic is a researcher with the Slovenian Institute of Conservation and the van der Poorten's are resident in Canada.

  The Butterfly and the Dragonfly booklet were re-printed in February 2004.


Info-Travel Sri Lanka - compiled and written by Dinesh Kulatunga with special contributions from SU Lanka Prasada, Asif Hussein and Tyrone Graham. Published by Neptune Publications, Colombo. 2004. pages 208, plus maps.

Review by D C Ranatunga

Sri Lanka was the setting – Mihintale being the site – of the world's first recorded wildlife and nature preserve, established by King Devanampiyatissa, a convert to conservationism preceded only by Noah in the annals of mankind: deeply influenced as he was by the inspirational message of the Buddha imparted to him by Arahat Mahinda. Further evidence of this deep-rooted concern for wildlife and the commitment to conservation is found in an inscription engraved on a stone slab at Anuradhapura's majestic millennia-old Ruwanveli dagoba, attributed to the 12th Century king Kirthi Nissanka Malla of Polonnaruwa, forbidding the capture, killing or commercial trafficking of any animals, birds and fish within a radius of 7 gau from the city. References to royal protection and preservation of wildlife are extant throughout the Mahavamsa and this traditional care and concern for creatures of the wild continues to this day.

  This is the introductory paragraph on the National Parks in Sri Lanka in the newly published travel guide Info-Travel Sri Lanka – a Neptune Publication compiled and written by Dinesh Kulatunga, just released. Glancing through the 200 odd pages, I found the publication extremely interesting, educating and easy to follow.

 With travel becoming popular with every passing day - now that we have peace in the country, comfortable vehicle options and a better developed network of roads - Info-Travel Sri Lanka becomes a useful guide to carry since it provides a wealth of information which is of immense value to the traveller. The Publisher's Note mentions that Info-Travel was intended as a definitive guide, offering valuable and user-friendly information. It certainly does. The team which travelled the length and breadth of the country covering 18,000 km over a period of six months gathering information for the book, found that apart from a few stretches along Batticaloa-Arugam Bay, Potuvil-Monaragala and Anuradhapura-Trincomalee roads, the rest of the network of roads to be in "an acceptable condition." This is indeed heartening news since it was not so long ago that most of our roadways were a nightmare for motorists.

To give you a sample of what the reader would find in Info-Travel, I get back to the chapter on National Parks. It lists out 15 parks maintained by the Department of Wild Life Conservation in alphabetical order – from Bundala to Yala. Having spelt out the Park Ethics laid down by the Department, a description of each park is given with details of the location, access, climate, cultural heritage and visitor facilities. The information is thus quite exhaustive. The directions are easy to follow. For example – the directions to reach the relatively new Maduru Oya National Park is given thus: The easiest and most practical route from Colombo (165 miles/265 km) is via Kurunegala, Dambulla, Habarana, Polonnaruwa and Manampitiya. Main access from the north is from Manampitiya located on the Polonnaruwa-Batticaloa highway. The park is designed to protect the immediate catchments of five reservoirs developed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Programme. Their conservation is crucial to the success of the project. The park area provides refuge for many species of wildlife, particularly elephants. As to the cultural heritage, ruins at not so well known places like Henanigala, Kudawila, Gurukumbura, Uluketangoda, Weerapokuna and several others include ancient Buddhist shrines and hermitages.

  Eco Tourism is of recent origin in Sri Lanka. Info-Travel devotes a few pages to discuss adventure resorts and eco holidays with details of organizations involved in such activities.

 When we talk of botanical gardens, we naturally remember Peradeniya, Hakgala and Heneratgoda. Info-Travel take us to another - Jathika Namal Uyana at Ulpothgama, Madatugama of which many not be aware. Situated 159 km away from Colombo, archaeological ruins, massive pink quartz deposits and various animal and plant species are found here. It is described as a unique, extremely rare 238 acre forest planted with Ironwood trees in the 8th century A.D by King Dappula. It is considered the only dry zone forest with wet zone vegetation and the oldest man-made forest in Sri Lanka holding a rich variety of animal, bird and plant life; rare species of lizards and many kinds of medicinal herbs. (More -Page 44)

The section on Destinations give descriptive narratives and details of accommodation. In all details of 720 hotels, guest houses and restaurants are listed. These have been categorized under High range (Rs 4000 & above), Mid range (Rs 1000-3900) and Budget range (Ra 500-1700). Take your pick! 460 of these are outside Colombo. The team has visited each one of them and made sure that they are worthy of mention in a travel guide.

  Short descriptions of what can be seen in each location are included along with pictures in colour.

Eighteen road maps from A1 to A35 give every little bit of information that a motorist would want to know. Each map has a set of symbols for easy reference. These refer to filling stations, police stations, hotels and resthouses, tyre service & repair joints, garages, telephone booths, ATM centres, telecommunication points, wine stores, hospitals, post offices and of course, places to see. With business traveling increasing, this information is of much benefit to those who get about for business. The maps are designed to read from the bottom upward in order to meet uniformity, the publishers say. Distances are marked in kilometres.

I found the page titled 'On your way' quite interesting. It contains guidelines how one can be 'a pleasant and decent traveller' (Quote - Page 228)

 I have only given you a broad outline of what appeared in Info-Travel. There is much more – both routine information that a traveler should know as well as not so common topics.

Info-Travel has been done well. When they update the information, there may be the need to fill a few gaps. A little more historical information about certain places will be useful. Incidentally, regular updates will be available on the website

And of course, the publishers should think in terms of a Sinhala edition. Don't forget – the Sinhala speaking types form the bulk of the traveling public – families who want to see interesting places, parents and grand parents who want their children to appreciate the natural beauty and the rich heritage we possess. A travel guide book in Sinhala is something that we lack badly. Now that Neptune Publishers have all the necessary data, a Sinhala version can easily be done. Let's wait for it – sooner than later!


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