After a few long weekends that were past just by being home, the two of us decided to cross off a destination in our travel bucket list. That was, Sinharaja. Like Yala, I have already been to Sinharaja twice. But that was more than 12 years ago and obviously, a lot must be changed after that. As we planned, it looked like a perfect trip for just a normal weekend. The plan was to travel closer to Sinharaja on the first day, and do the jungle trail next day morning.
The motive of the trip was to experience Sinharaja. We sure well knew that our choice of accommodation wouldn’t get even 40% of our time during our visit so we wanted a budget place, passable as comfortable and safe. After searching on Booking.com, we found “Sinharaja Forest Edge“. Reasonable price and okayish stay by the look of it. The reservation was done. I have a habit of reading reviews on Trip Advisor before booking. In one of the reviews, it mentioned how they have to park the vehicle elsewhere and take a tuk ride to the location. We thought of calling ahead, just to know about the details of getting there. I suggest you call them if you plan to stay at the same place.
Sinharaja has 4 entry points to the Jungle. Both the visits that I have done earlier, was from the “Kalawana” entrance. This time, due to the choice of accommodation, we reached Sinharaja from Deniyaya. Unsure about how brilliant our choice was, we started the journey through the highway. We left Colombo around 9am and reached Deniyaya around 1.30pm. The squiggly roads made me nausea. The view on our way to Deniyaya was lovely, but my sick self enjoyed less.
We were advised by the Inn to call them as we reached Deniyaya. After a point, there won’t be mobile signal. The directions were clear enough, so we reached the bridge that was mentioned. There, we found the guy that we were instructed to meet. The vehicle was parked in a garden of a house, from there, it was ride that shake every organ in my body. The road was narrow, in a terrible state and it was a safari ride on its own. I’m sure the one who drove the vehicle (Happens to be the owner) was seasoned enough for the ride as he knew every inch of the road and how to make it through, with the width of his ride.
The place, was in middle of nowhere. A line of recently built rooms were visible and around it was the undisturbed jungle. As we entered the room, it was more than what we expected. The space was limited, but it was built well to serve a comfortable stay. We were the only locals there that night. There is a small restaurant, with a decent menu to make sure you get food in the jungle, where the only help is those people who own the Inn. We purchased dinner only, apart from the breakfast that was included to the room rate. Both breakfast and dinner was yum. Since the restaurant was full for dinner, we got an arrangement to have bonfire dinner. We happily agreed.
There was no internet, no wifi, no signal. Internet at the premises. Initially, we thought “What are we going to do without internet”. Surprisingly, we survived and enjoyed too. We spent a lot of time under the sky, after dinner, with the dying bonfire next to us. It was lovely! Made us think that we should have an unplugged night once in a while.
The Jungle Trail
We reached the place with no plans, so just like the foreigners, we asked the owner of the Inn about how to get a tracker, or a tour organized. He suggested us a package that he offered which included a half day tour, lunch, and a tracker. There was another full day tour, but for that, we should stay back at least two nights. The tour that we selected was of 14 km as I remember.
Right after breakfast, we started off the journey with a tracker. There were 3 other foreigners. The tracker was humble and knowledgeable . He struggled a bit with English, so he asked us if we can explain others if it needed. We happily agreed. The trail starts off right from the doorstep of the restaurant. According to the tracker, the entrance that we are taking allows the maximum number of sightings of waterfalls. It would take the full day tour to see more than one, as per what we heard.
The tracker took genuine interest to show us the native plants with invaluable medical benefits, native animals and the more popular ones to Sinharaja. We walked through narrow paths, running closer to the river. For first half of the tour, he has planned to take the path that was also used by motorcyclists from Lankagama. It was a bit weird to have motorcycles pass through while we were doing a “Jungle” trail. Interesting fact from the tracker, Lankagama, apparently was created by a group of people infected with leprosy. Earlier, there was a belief that such patients should be sent to the jungle to get cured. The magical powers of the medicinal plants of the jungle apparently cured them, and they formed a village in middle of Sinharaja.
We spotted a few spiders, snakes and lizards. They had their own unique names and characteristics, which were well explained by the tracker. Also, there were enough and more fancy mushrooms and fungi built up on the trees. You won’t get to see insects and animals at every step on the way, but I think we saw a decent number during our trail.
Sinharaja is also known to be the home for leopards. I would be very surprised if we saw one during the trail, given the luck that I have mentioned in the Yala Safari Post. Even the tracker has never spotted a leopard but has seen its pug marks. The leopards live in the middle of the jungle, where it is undisturbed by daily visitors and motorcyclists. So the most you would see is a pug mark near a puddle, or a killed animal for it’s supper.
The highlight of the trail was the beautiful waterfall! “Kakuna Ella” was just one of the beautiful waterfalls Sinharaja owns. Apparently, during the flood that happened in 2012 (correct me if I’m wrong), the formation of the rocks changed and the fall also has changed with cracked edges of the rock etc. We spent a lot of time there, admiring, having our packed lunch and dipping our legs. We weren’t prepared for a swim, but it’s a waste to just return without having a swim there.
On our way back, we took the more difficult path through the jungle. Hanging on to the trees, and bending through the bushes, we walked through the woods while searching for animals. As per the tracker, we saw less. But I didn’t have a lot of expectations on animals since I have been here before and I remember not seeing a lot of them like maybe in a safari.
It was a good weekend getaway. Most of the visitors from Colombo must be doing this as a one day trip. Of course you can leave Colombo really early, reach the entrance by 7.30am and do a half day tour. But our decision to stay back gave us more than just the trail. It was a good break away from the electronics and excessive concrete. Here is a round up of the important information
Sinharaja Entrance Time: 7.00am
Ticket price for Locals: Rs. 40/=
Total Expense for the Stay + Dinner + Tour: Approx: 12,000/= (Priced for the Locals)
Half a Day tour package Price: Rs. 1500/= (For two people? we think)
What to pack for the stay: A good book!
What to pack for the trail: Be ready to swim. A backpack with room, to stuff lunch and water.
Leeches?: The Inn gave us leech socks! Or else, carry siddhalepa to smother over your feet or take salt, to wet with water and put over the shoes.