January 2018


Sri Lanka’s Rooftop Park: Horton Plains
January 2018




Montane grasslands are interspersed with patches of thick cloud forest in Horton Plains

Experience the pristine wilderness of Horton Plains, just 32km from Nuwara Eliya on the Ambewela Pattipola road. Open to the public all year round, the best time to visit the Horton Plains National Park is in the dry season from January to March, especially during the early hours of morning.


Words and Photography
: Priyantha Talwatte


Importance

The Plains form an undulating plateau, over 2,000m high, and is the island's highest tableland. In 2010, the Plains together with Knuckles Range became a part of the Peak Wilderness protected area declared by UNESCO. Covered with montane grasslands and interspersed with patches of thick cloud forest, rocky outcrops, filigree waterfalls and misty lakes, this landscape is heavenly. To the west lies the mount Kirigalpotta (Sri Lanka's second highest peak), and to the north lies mount Totupolakanda (Sri Lanka's third highest peak).


Horton Plains is the headwaters of three major Sri Lankan rivers - Mahaweli, Kelani and Walawe. The rivers and tributaries provide life sustaining water for consumption and agriculture. It plays an important, invigorating role to the country's inhabitants.


Experience

Horton Plains is the only national park in Sri Lanka, where hikes can be undertaken through scenic and memorable trails with varying levels.


The park is home to a wide variety of flora (57 species) and 24 species of mammals. For the avid bird enthusiasts there are 87 species of birds including migratory birds. Herds of Sri Lankan Sambar deer (Rusa unicolor unicolor) amidst the stunning backdrop of dawn, creates picture-postcard worthy photographs. The Sri Lankan leopard (Pantera Pardus kotiya) is very elusive and rarely seen.


Visitors can follow a 10km trek to witness the spectacular features of Horton Plains including Baker's falls, Chimney Pool and World's End. The crystal clear pools are filled with trout and shallow streams run through pebbled beds, creating mesmeric impressions of the plain's mysterious and checkered past.

Horton Plains is the only national park in Sri Lanka, where hikes can be undertaken through scenic and memorable trails with varying levels.


Colonial age

The Plains was named after Sir Robert Wilmort Horton, Governor of Ceylon during the period - 1831 to 1837. When Sri Lanka was occupied by the British, it is recorded that English botanist and explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker advised the British Government to leave all montane forests over 5,000 feet above sea level undisturbed. Thus, after 1873 the administration prohibited the clearing and felling of forests throughout the island's central highlands, a remarkable feat for that time. Though protected for decades, Horton Plains is the only national park in Sri Lanka without wild elephants.


Serenity and calm coupled with breathtaking scenery and the perfect climate, Horton Plains makes for an unforgettable encounter with the wild. It is a treasure found only in the island of Sri Lanka.

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    Black Pool - a unique water body on the World's End trail

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    Mist on the pristine waters - the tributaries of Mahaweli, Kelani and Walawe begins from Horton Plains

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    As you hike along the zig-zag paths in the slopes of Horton Plains, enjoy panoramic views

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    An iconic male sambar upon the fresh green hills

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    A sambar crosses our path in a hurry

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    A rare sight of a female albino sambar found in the centre amidst the herd

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