Rain Forest Exploration in Sri Lanka

Uncover Sri Lanka

Lowland Rain Forests

The Sri Lanka lowland rain forests represents Sri Lanka’s Tropical rainforests below 1,000 m (3,281 ft) in elevation in the southwestern part of the island. The year-around warm, wet climate together with thousands years of isolation from mainland India have resulted in the evolution of numerous plants and animal species that can only be found in rain forests in Sri Lanka.The thick forest canopy is made up of over 150 species of trees, some of the emergent layer reaching as high as 45 m (148 ft). The lowland rain forests accounts for 2.14 percent of Sri Lanka’s land area. This ecoregion is the home of the jungle shrew, a small endemic mammal of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has the highest density of amphibian species worldwide. Many of these, including 250 species of tree frogs, live in these rain forests.


Montane Rain Forests

The Sri Lanka montane rain forests are an ecoregion found above 1000 m in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Owing to their rich biodiversity, this region considered a super-hotspot within the endemism hotspot of global importance.These forests are cooler than lowland forests and therefore they have ideal conditions for growth of cloud forests. Half of Sri Lanka’s endemic flowering plants and 51 percent of the endemic vertebrates are restricted to these forests. More than 34 percent of Sri Lanka’s endemic trees, shrubs, and herbs can only be found in this ecoregion. Twisted, stunted trees are a common sight in these forests, together with many varieties of orchids, mosses and ferns. The trees of montane rain forests grow to a height 10–15 meters, shorter than the lowland rain forest trees. These high altitude forests are the catchment area for most of Sri Lanka’s major rivers.


Biosphere Reserves and Conservation Forests

Most important forest areas in terms of biodiversity and hydrological values are declared as International Biosphere Reserves and Conservation Forests and set apart only for visitation and forestry research


Hurulu International Biosphere Reserve 

Hurulu forest which is named after the ancient Huruluwewa tank was declared as a forest reserve in 1942. The total area of the Hurulu Forest Reserve is around 25,000 ha. The forest is in the Dry zone of Sri Lanka and spans over the Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura Districts. Part of Hurulu Forest Reserve, an extent of 512 ha., was declared as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1977. A stretch of 1000 ha land in the reserve was declared opened as  an  eco park in 2007 by the Forest Department.

    • New resting place at “Dematawewa” and Bird watch hut.
    • Camping site with kitchen facilities
    • museum
    • Nature trail
    • Observation deck at ‘Balumgala’
    • Kanneliya-Dediyagala- Nakiyadeniya International Biosphere Reserve


Kanneliya-Dediyagala- Nakiyadeniya International Biosphere Reserve

Kanneliya forest which is a part of Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya (KDN) forest complex is located in the south-western part of Sri Lanka about 35km northeast of the city of Galle.  The total extent of the KDN is 10,867 hectares and the extent of Kanneliya forest is 6,100 hectares.The history of Kanneliya is a fascinating story of endurance of the nature. It is a forest which was able to resurrect as the most extensive surviving block of low land rainforest next to Snharaja, after heavy selective logging operations continued nearly for four decades.

The Forest department declared Kanneliya Forest as a Forest Reserve in 1934. Later in early 90’s it was designated as a conservation area. Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya forest complex was declared as an International Biosphere Reserve under the Man and Biosphere Program of UNESCO in the year 2004. Kanneliya Forest Reserve has been identified as a suitable area for in situ conservation of Crop Wild Relative species.


  • Trained guides.
  • Observation decks and rest areas at different locations in the forest
  • The Conservation Centre comprises an information center, a ticketing office, lecture hall, and outside seating area.
  • Informative materials are available for sale at Sales Centers.


Udawattakele Forest Reserve

In 1371 AD King Wickremabahu of Gampola, the founder of the city of Kandy, built his palace on a site in Udawattekele, then a thick wilderness . Till 1815, Udawattekele was exclusively reserved for royalty. It was a forbidden forest to commoners. At times of peace Udawattakele was a pleasure garden to Kandyan kings and at times of war, they sought refugee under the thick foliage of the forest.

Udawattakele royal forest park lies north of Kandy Lake, within a less than kilometer away from the city center of Kandy, the ancient hill capital of Sri Lanka later designated as a World Heritage Site. Udawattkelle which spreads over an area of 104 hectares today has become unique due to its location, a lush rain forest in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a highly populated town.

Soon after the British conquest of the Kandyan kingdom a large part of this forest was cleared to erect military barracks and for the fear of hidden attacks from Kandyans. With the development of coffee plantation industry and transport facilities to hill country more and more areas of virgin jungle was cleared.

The Forest Department has put in a lot of effort in reviving the past glory of Udawattakelle . As a result of a long line of reforestation programs, Udawattakele has been able to retain most of its old world charm. The primeval luxuriance can still be seen in several areas of the forest. Udawattakele is the first forest to be proclaimed as a forest reserve by the British. In 1897.  Udawattakele was declared as a Forest Reserve by the Government. It has been reported that this forest was made a reserve for its importance to the scenery of Kandy. In 1938 it was declared as a wildlife sanctuary. Today Udawattakle forest reserve and wildlife sanctuary welcomes all, irrespective of their stations in life, equally and impartially.


World Heritage sites

Sinharaja World Heritage Forest
There are two World Heritage Natural Properties in Sri Lanka managed by the Forest Department and used for research, education, and recreation

The word ‘Sinharaja’ means ‘Lion’ (Sinha) ‘King’ (raja). This area was declared as a forest reserve in 1875 and as an International Man and the Biosphere Reserve in 1978. Subsequently it was declared as a National Heritage Wilderness Area in 1988 and in the following year it was declared as  a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The extent of the Sinharaja is 11,185 hectares.


  • Trained guides operate around Kudawa and Pitadeniya .
  • There are 2 information centers. at Kudawa and Pitadeniya. They provide auditorium facilities with audio visual equipment.
  • Informative materials are available for sale at Sales Centers.
  • Forest Department maintains lodging facilities within the reaches of the forest while several privately – owned hotels and lodges situated within easy reach of the forest

Central Highlands of Sri Lanka – Knuckles Range of Forests
The Knuckles Forest Range is named after the five peaks; Kirigalpottha, Gombaniya, Knuckles, Koboneelagala, and Dotulugala, which look like the knuckles of a clenched fist, that could be seen from many viewpoints.

The Knuckles , locally called as ‘Dumbara hills’ meaning misty mountains,  spans the Kandy and Matale Districts  covering  an area of approximately 21000 ha. The Knuckles massif is separated from the Central Highlands by a deeply incised valley referred to as the Dumbara Valley. It bears the pride of 35 peaks above 1000 m above sea level, 20 over 1500 m, and 2 peaks over 2000 m.

The area above 1500 m in the Knuckles Range was declared as a climatic Reserve in 1873. The Knuckles  was declared as a conservation forest in April 2000 and subsequently, as a National Man and Biosphere Reserve. The Knuckles along with Peak Wilderness forest area and Horton Plains (collectively called ‘Central Highlands of Sri Lanka’)declared as a World Heritage Natural Site in 2009.


  • Information centers established at Pitawala Patana and Deanstone provide information materials and introductory programs to visitors.
  • Forest Department maintains lodging facilities within the reaches of the fores