Cloaked in mist and cloud (at least on the day we visited), Sinharaja is the island’s last remaining virgin tropical rainforest. A UNESCO World Heritage forest, it might be spread over a mere 88 square kilometres, but it is teeming with life of all sorts.
Sinharaja is heaven for birdwatchers as it is home to 95% of the endemic birds of Sri Lanka. It is also home to a number of rare (and some endangered) trees, and houses all manner of mammals and reptiles, little and not-so-little. There are, we were told, leopards and elephants, but spotting them is unusual. Instead we saw wild pineapples, hooting owls, all sorts of birds, monkeys, and a wild squirrel larger than some domestic dogs. There are geckos and chameleons and frogs, as well as mongoose, bats, and lots and lots of leeches. Wear thick socks and trekking shoes to help ward off these particular residents. We stopped at designated rest points to pick them off the canvas protective booties they had us put on under our shoes and can safely say that they are worth every penny of the LKR 350 you spend on them.
Spend the whole day in this lush, verdant paradise. Our guide, Sushantam Munasingha, was a fantastic chaperon, gentle and knowledgeable and tut-tutting as he picked out tiny pieces of plastic left behind by less-respectful tourists (guys, just… don’t.) all the while describing (and spotting) various bits of flora and fauna with a reverence that was inspiring to see, and worth emulating. “I like bird watching,” he volunteered at one point, as he stopped to take a contemplative breath, and then smiled and breathed just one word, “nature”, before then walking on. It’s all you need to say really, incredible, awe-inspiring, self-sustaining nature.
“We saw wild pineapples, hooting owls, all sorts of birds, monkeys, and a wild squirrel larger than some domestic dogs”.
The forest is super-peaceful, and well-loved by those who walk it every day. Watching the guides do a call-and-response with birds and monkeys is really something, and as we traipsed quietly through the jungle we felt layers of city soot and calcification slough off us. When we walked out from under the jungle canopy into the by-now searing hot sun we take the briefest pause and I’m saying just one thing in my head, with the same reverence that Sushantam said it, and it makes sense to me now. ‘Nature’. Incredible, wonderful, nature.