December 2017


Jungle Streams and Trails in Ingiriya
December 2017




Choose a path high above the river, or right alongside its meandering waters

The small town of Ingiriya isn't on many tourist itineraries, and is often overlooked even by travellers heading through the area. Its location, however, just 60km southeast of Colombo, makes its pleasant climate, picturesque river valley, and dense jungles, easily accessible on even a day trip.


Words and Photography
: David Blacker


Ingiriya sits across the Panadura- Nambapana-Ratnapura (PNR) A8 Highway, and is a routine waypoint on journeys to Ratnapura, Belihuloya, and the hill country attractions of Haputale and Ella. This highway is one of Sri Lanka's best driving roads, and for most travellers, this is Ingiriya's most remarkable feature. However, when one turns north, the picturesque countryside opens up, rising through gentle foothills to the Labugama Kalatuwawa Forest Reserve and the Seetawaka Wet Zone just south of Avissawella.


Ingiriya receives a high rainfall, and its lush green jungle and fertile fields and plantations are testament to that. Many have heard much about the tea carpeted hills of the upper Central Highlands but are surprised to find that in lowland Ingiriya tea is the second-largest industry. Rubber plantations cover over 5,000 acres in Ingiriya, and along with the tea plantations, provide interesting and gentle footpaths with which to explore the area.


A narrow tributary of the Kalu Ganga (Black River) flows south through Ingiriya, bisecting the PNR A8 Highway. This stream's meanderings create a shallow valley along which a few hours relaxed walking gives visitors a great chance to experience a variety of terrain, both natural and sculpted by human cultivation. The stream offers several good bathing spots with shallow water and moderate currents, but it is always a good idea to check with the locals for the best and safe locations.

Ingiriya tea is the second-largest industry. Rubber plantations cover over 5,000 acres in Ingiriya, and along with the tea plantations, provide interesting and gentle footpaths with which to explore the area.


The most easily accessed bathing spot is at Nachchimale. The stream passes close to the Madakada Aranya Senasanaya, a Buddhist monastery with tranquil meditation caves, and forms a series of curves, minor waterfalls, rapids and rock pools. Most of these can be reached by car, along the Ingiriya-Meepe B285 Road, which heads northeast from the town. Here on, a couple of gravel roads lead to the monastery.


The Hora Forest Reservation, skirts the Batugampola Road to the left. From this road, several jungle trails lead into the reserve, winding between the huge hora trees, which give this forest its name. The hora (Dipterocarpus zeylanicus) is a hardwood endemic to Sri Lanka, its dense timber traditionally used for railway sleepers and bridge pilings. The hora tree can grow as tall as 60m, and the paths through this reservation must be navigated in deep gloom from the thick layers of overhead foliage.


Another bathing spot is at Paravi Thota, further downstream from Nachchimale, and the road leading to it begins just to the east of Ingiriya town, where the A8 crosses a bridge. It is about a kilometre up a steep and narrow road to Paravi Thota, and taking it on foot is the best way. The road - often nothing more than a jeep track - runs through pretty tea plantations, interspersed with smaller cultivations of banana, areca nut, coconut and pepper.


The valley is much steeper, and one needs to descend a fair distance from the road to the stream by walking through the tea bushes. Other paths follow the stream closely and, if you choose to, will provide an alternate route back to the highway. The jungle around Paravi Thota shades the water in many places and if you pick one of these spots it will provide you with a nice refreshing dip after your hike.

Another bathing spot is at Paravi Thota, further downstream from Nachchimale, and the road leading to it begins just to the east of Ingiriya town, where the A8 crosses a bridge.


To the south of Ingiriya, the Bodhinagala Road leads down to the Kalu Ganga and the Bodhinagala Bird Sanctuary on its banks. The place is also a beautiful area for walking, and the paths that lead through the jungle are often used by the meditating Buddhist monks of the Bodhinagala Aranya Senasanaya lying deep inside the sanctuary. The monks of this monastery live in caves in the sides
of two hills, which they rarely leave.


If your travels in Sri Lanka take you along the A8 Highway, Ingiriya is certainly worth a longer stopover than a cup of tea or a breakfast of kiribath warrants. Consider leaving Colombo at first light, so you could reach Ingiriya before the sun is too high. Salubrious as the climate is, the morning hours are probably the ideal time to walk or cycle along the jungle trails of the area.


There is much more to discover for the intrepid traveller; from the local food, to various blends of tea, as well as birdlife. Ingiriya could be the perfect weekend getaway.

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    Many of the byroads in Ingiriya are rough and ready, and more fun on foot than by car

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    Early morning and late afternoon is a great time for a dip in the shaded waters

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    Tea bushes are a common sight north of Ingiriya

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    The trail through the Bodhinagala Forest Reserve and Bird Sanctuary

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    Aerial view of the Bodhinagala Aranya Senasanaya, deep inside the Bodhinagala Forest Reserve

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    Plantations of rubber and lowland tea host shaded trails through the foothills

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