THE VILLAGE OF ADVENTURE
Kitulgala, a small town in the west of Sri Lanka, is an ideal location for holidaymakers seeking a mixture of adrenaline rushes and relaxation. Famed mainly for its white water rafting, this town situated 95 kms from Colombo, halfway along the Avissawella-Hatton main road, is surrounded by wooded hills and lush vegetation, making it also the perfect location for jungle trekking, outdoor camping, mountain biking and bird watching.
‘Forward…! Relax…!’ ‘Forward…! Relax…!’ The order barked out by the white water rafting instructor is a rhythm still fresh in my mind. Paddling along the Kelani River in Kitulgala was an experience unlike any other. The gushing river, which grows unexpectedly calm sometimes, is both unnerving and exhilarating – a sensation most thrill seekers keep coming back for. Kitulgala is blessed with two monsoons a year and is one of the wettest places in the island. The period of January to March is its dry season that draws many visitors seeking the excitement of white water rafting in the town’s adjacent Kelani River. While in the town of Kitulgala, visit the locations where the Academy award winning film, ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ was filmed.
White water rafting
White water rafting, although a must try is not suited for all. You’ll have to be prepared to get wet and sometimes be even thrown over the raft (only to be promptly attended to by the able instructors of course!). Rafting along the Kelani River is divided to suit the comfort levels of beginners and experienced rafters. There are major rapids (situated in the upper section of the river), which might interest extreme thrill seekers, and minor rapids (in the lower section) suitable for almost all, provided you’re not overly fearful of gushing water!
Once you’ve conquered the rapids, you’ll be allowed to ‘body raft’ for a few meters before concluding your adventure. You can opt out of it if you like and stay in the raft, enjoying the peaceful scenery about you. You’ll be wearing life-jackets so anyone can body raft. It’s important to remain calm and not jostle fellow body-rafters by putting your weight on them. Each man for himself is the way to go here!
The activity is essentially suitable for anyone above the age of 10 and comes geared with safety essentials, modern rafts and a comprehensive safety briefing given by the relevant rafting instructors. You’ll find an assortment of places along the Kelani River that offer such rafting experiences. Be sure to ask around and pick the most reputed.
For nature lovers, Kitulgala can be a gold mine. Youwould be amazed to know that just across the Kelani River is a primeval forest, home to about 50 odd rare species of birds. Most of the rain forest bird species found at Sinharaja can be found here (although in lesser density), namely the Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Green-billed coucal and Spot-winged Thrush. The hills above the rubber plantations are populated with Mountain Hawk Eagle, Crested Treeswift and Layard’s Parakeet. Many of the island’s endemic bird species such as Sri Lanka Orangebilled babbler and chestnut-backed owlet, as well as reptiles such as green pit viper and earless lizard and a variety of butterflies can be sighted in Kitulgala.
Again, not a feat for the fainthearted, waterfall abseiling is another adventure this small town offers. For a surge of adrenaline, there’s nothing like the intense feeling of rushing water combined with the thrill of hanging on a rope! As with white water rafting, be sure to ask around before choosing your instructors!
Rain forest trekking – Across the Kelani River and on to the rain forest of Kitulgala Forest Reserve, you’ll find yourself in ideal trekking ground. Experience various fauna and flora through your trek and don’t miss the beautiful waterfalls and streams hidden inside the forest. Cool dips in the scenic water stream are a must on your trek.
For a close view of incredible waterfall scenery, waterfall trekking would be the way to go. You’ll marvel at the hidden beauty that’ll unravel through this experience.
Beli Lena Cave
Beli Lena Cave is a well-known large cave in Sri Lanka, located 8 km from the town of Kitulgala. Evidence of prehistoric human presence as early as 32,000 years ago was recorded at the site. The skeletal remains of ten individuals were discovered by Paul E. P. Deraniyagala, who attributed them to Balangoda Man (Homo sapiens balangodensis). Balangoda Man is assumed to have lived as early as 32,000 years ago and occupied high altitude territories of up to 2,000 ft above sea level.