Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 22 August 2010





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Kottowa forest

The Kottowa arboretum is only 30 minutes away from Galle. Having quite a few good trails, the greenery at the arboretum is a refreshing experience for the keen traveller who needs something more than just a beach.

A multitude of dazzling flora and fauna awaits the trekker at Kottowa and on any given day, one can witness birds, snakes, lizards, fish and some mammals appearing. Generally, a walk starts at around eight in the morning and one can wind up the trip by about 12pm. Itís a gentle path and is a good introduction to the forest if you havenít been to one before.

The Kottowa forest receives 2,160-3,500mm annual rainfall annually.This is the highest during the south western monsoon from May to August.

Relative humidity is about 70 percent and the mean temperature is around 28įC. In 1931, the newly formed Forest Department established a 38 acre arboretum of rainforest trees at Kottowa to provide a study area for Sri Lankaís rich forest biodiversity. In 1937, it was declared a forest park and the whole Kottowa-Kombala area was proposed as a 2,300ha reserve.

However, due to international events, this area was commandeered as a military command centre by the British, its dense vegetation and proximity to the Galle Port making it an ideal location. Now reduced to 1,060ha, it is managed by the Galle Regional Office Forest Department but needs more attention to ensure that endemic species thrive at their best even in this mini sanctuary.

Although technically classified as a secondary forest it has many attributes of a true rainforest and non-native species are being slowly removed. Covering gently undulating land and containing a few small streams, its location in an area of high rainfall and high humidity can provide much of the mist and mystery to be found in other rainforest areas.

The two main trails follow a small footpath through the forest and by the Gangawwa Ela.

Although we can never be sure what the forest will reveal on any particular day, many plants and animals can be found in the forests.

The Na tree (Mesua nagassarium) is the national tree of Sri Lanka as the whole plant is medicinal. The pollen and seeds are made into an ointment and put on the skin to help heal broken bones. Flowers are used in temple offerings.

The insectivorous pitcher plant (Nepenthes distillatoria) attracts small insects such as ants, traps and dissolves them in its pitcher to extract its nutrients - mainly nitrogen. It has three ways of attracting insects where the liquid in the pitcher releases an attractive scent, the plant colour attracts its victim and insects come to drink the liquid, mistaking it for plain water and get trapped. The plant also has medicinal properties for the liquid can be drunk and used as a remedy for coughs.

On the nature trail, you can see birds such as the endemic Sri Lanka Rufous Babbler and the White-headed Starling. See two endemic fish such as the Black Ruby Barb and the Cherry Barb. Visual sightings of mammals are difficult to spot so they are usually seen through droppings, tracks, calls and other signs.

They include the mongoose, the Golden Palm Cat, the Giant Squirrel, the Mouse Deer, Sambar Deer, the Purple-Faced Leaf Monkey, the Northern Toque Macaque, the Wild Boar, the Porcupine and even a Leopard! Watch out for snakes like the Barnes Cat Snake, the Green Pit Viper, the Hump Nosed Pit Viper. the Sri Lanka Wolf-snake and the Templetonís Kukri Snake.

Lizards, geckos and skinks like the Hump-nosed Lizard, the Sri Lanka Kangaroo Lizard, the Rough-Nosed Horned Lizard, the Great Forest Gecko and the Three-toed Skink make their home here. Discover amphibians such as the Corrugated Water Frog, the Sri Lanka Rock Frog and the Sri Lanka Reed Frog.

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