October 2017


The Glistening Waters of Senanayake Samudraya
October 2017




Senanayake Samudraya at dusk, beautifully pictured with hundreds of cormorants perched on trees

The gushing waters of the Gal Oya were diverted with a dam in Iginiyagala to create the largest inland reservoir in the recent history of Sri Lanka. The Senanayake Samudraya completed in 1953, is an important source of water for the Eastern and Uva Provinces of the country. Discover the beauty of this area either by road or by boat.


Words: Udeshi Amarasinghe
Photography: Menaka Aravinda and Anuradha Perera


By Road

The forested region in Gal Oya surrounding the reservoir was declared a protected area in 1954. Thus, the lush greenery provides the perfect habitat for wildlife to thrive. Driving through the park it is apparent that the rich soil and the water source have made this forested land a fertile one.


We journeyed on gravel roads shaded by large trees and emerged on to the banks of the reservoir. A herd of deer startled by the approaching vehicle ran into the thicket. As we drove further through the verdant landscape we soon realised that the grassland we occupied was a part of the Senanayake Samudraya. With the rains being late this year the water had receded to a great extent, yet the land will soon be filled with the gleaming waters of the reservoir. The panoramic view that entertained our eyes was picture perfect; one of mountains, grasslands and tranquil blue waters. Aquatic birds displayed their aerial prowess. This was indeed a beautiful sight.

Interesting facts

Senanayake Samudraya is also known as Gal Oya Reservoir and Inginiyagala Tank.

The Senanayake Samudraya was built as part of the Gal Oya Project. Construction work started in 1949 and was completed in 1953.

The Gal Oya Project was the brainchild of the first Prime Minister of Independent Sri Lanka, Hon D S Senanayake. Thus, the reservoir was named after him.


By Boat

The Senanayake Samudraya can be discovered by boat as well. The service is provided by the Wildlife Department and needs to be pre-booked. Having travelled along the bund of the reservoir we reached the landing where we were to take the boat. With a capacity of 7,680 hectares, though the water had reduced, it was apparent that the Senanayake Samudraya was massive.


In the evening light we glided across the waters enthralled by the beauty of the landscape. The spill gates of the dam loomed above us. The serene aquatic environment of the reservoir was breathtaking. Tree trunks rose from the pristine water like guarding sentinels. Hundreds of cormorants were perched on the leafless branches, resting at the end of the day.


Fishing boats made their evening rounds, adding a lively element to the picturesque scenes. An elephant gradually emerged from the jungle to relax near the waters of the tank and we watched it for a long time. In the distance another approached the edge, it was indeed a peaceful evening.


The sky transformed in a matter of minutes as the sun began its decent. Golden rays spread across the darkening blue and clouds moved almost to a rhythm. As night fell we returned mesmerised by the entire experience.

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    With the water receding part of the reservoir has become a grassland that vehicles journey on

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    A herd of deer on alert

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    Aquatic birds rest as evening approaches

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    A fisherman casts a net

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    An elephant emerges from the jungle and towards the tank

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    A mesmerising view of the reservoir

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