Sinharaja Rainforest, Sri Lanka

Sinharaja Rainforest: A Detailed Guide

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Little did I know that a trip to the Sinharaja Tropical Rainforest would be an experience I’ll remember forever. The untouched landscapes are a haven for explorers and wanderers who want to immerse themselves in nature. The forest soil teems with life, and rich biodiversity envelops the people who come seeking so many things. Whether you’re a birdwatcher, a wildlife photographer, or a hiker, Sinharaja Rainforest offers an unforgettable experience.

This comprehensive guide delves deep into the Sinharaja Rainforest, exploring its rich wildlife, fascinating trails, and more. We will provide all the information for you to make the most of your visit. So get ready to embark on an extraordinary adventure into the heart of nature.

Sinharaja Rainforest

Bridges in Sinharaja rainforest

Some Interesting Facts About The Sinharaja Rainforest

Sinharaja Rainforest hiking route
  • Sinharaja is the densest rainforest in Asia, with an estimated vegetation density of 240,000 plants per hectare.
  • The vast rainforest stretches an area of 8,864 hectares ranging from an altitude of 300 to 1,170 meters.
  • Sinharaja gets its name from popular folklore. People believe that a majestic lion used to live in this protected forest. Hence, Sinha means lion, and raja means king, i.e., Lion King or Sinharaja. 
  • The reserve comprises 189 sq. km of natural forest, measuring about 21 km (13 mi) from East to West and a maximum of 7 km (4.3 mi) from North to South.
  • It is a treasure trove of endemic species, including trees, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
  • In 1978 the forest was deemed a World Biosphere Reserve, and in 1988, it became a World Heritage Site.
  • Sinharaja Rainforest is bordered by two rivers –  the Koskulana Ganga in the North and Gin Ganga in the South. These rivers flow gloriously through the rainforest, forming natural and beautiful waterfalls and streams all along.
  • The highest peak in the forest is Hinipitigala (1171 m)
  • It rains every day throughout the year in different parts of the rainforest. The natural ecosystem receives between 3500 mm and 5000 mm of rain annually, with a minimum of 50 mm even in the driest months.
  • The ecosystem is so well-balanced that there are no mosquitoes.

The Five Entrances To Sinharaja Rainforest

Sinharaja Rainforest Pitadeniya entrance
Sinharaja Rainforest Pitadeniya entrance

You can enter the Sinhraja Rainforest from 5 entrances. These are:

  • Lankagama – Entry to 5 waterfalls, namely Brahmana Waterfall, Uran Watunu Waterfall, Gal Oruwa Waterfall, Thattu Waterfall, and Duuvili Waterfall. If you want to know more about the hike to these waterfalls, you can check the waterfall tour guide.
  • Petedenia entrance – The second most popular entrance after the Rathnapura Kudava entrance. Great for bird-watching tours.
  • Wathugala – Entry to 3 waterfalls Kekuna Ella Waterfall, Pathan Oya Waterfall, and Malmora Waterfall.
  • Rathnapura Kudawa entrance – The main and popular entrance to two hiking trails, the short Mulawella and the longer and epic Sinhala trail.
  • Morning side (Bungalow entrance) – We don’t have many details about this entrance.

The 3 entrances of Lankagama, Petedenia, and Wathugala are at a walkable distance from each other. I visited all the 3 entrances during the hike. However, I’m not familiar with the other two.

Related: Sinhraja Rainforest also offers a night hike or night tour. So we went for it, and it was perhaps one of the most thrilling and profound experiences we’ve ever had. Know more about what went down and how you can experience the same in this guide

Where To Eat?

Mederipitiya is a small village where there are not many dining options available. But some shops sell snacks, cool drinks, and other necessities. Dishes like Kothu, fried rice, rotis, rice, etc., are available in a nearby village called Pallegama. 

The best option for you is to get food from your place of stay. For example, if you’re in a homestay, you can get fresh food there. On the other hand, if you’ve put up in a resort, you can check out their menu and get what you want. However, the food served by your accommodation will be a bit expensive.

Where To Stay?

If you opt for the tour from Mederipitiya (Which includes Lankagama, Petedenia, and Wathugala entrances), there are many homestays and resorts in the region. I stayed at Hostel 114, a walkable distance from Mederipitiya. The hospitality was excellent, and we highly recommend you stay here. Another place you can stay is the Sinharaja Forest Gate Hotel.

Some things to check before booking accommodation in Sinharaja Rainforest.

  • Some budget stays don’t offer Wi-Fi. So be sure to check that.
  • Few of them provide FREE Breakfast. You get to taste the local homemade cuisine.
  • If your stay is in a remote location, ensure dining options are accessible to you. Otherwise, choose a stay near the bus stop where you can get some snacks and rotis, at the very least.
  • If you’re traveling with friends, kids, or family, ensure you can access the local tuk-tuk services.

Here are a few other recommendations.

 

Best Time To Visit

Fallen trees at Sinharaja Rainforest

Although you can visit the tropical rainforest throughout the year, the best time to visit Sinharaja is between December and March. The weather is perfect for going on hikes, watching birds, and visiting the waterfalls. However, between May and September, the forest sees heavy rainfall, which increases Gin Ganga’s water flow. Due to this, you can’t go near the waterfalls but only admire them.

Cost

The entry fee to the Sinharaja Rainforest for foreigners is LKR 1200 for adults and LKR 600 for children. No discounts for SAARC countries. For the Sri Lankan nationals, the entry fee is LKR 120 for adults and LKR 60 for children.

Timings

The Sinharaja Rainforest opens at 8 AM and closes at 6 PM. The tickets are strictly checked at all the entrances upon entry.

The Guide Charges

You cannot enter the Sinharaja Rainforest without a guide. Guides are mandatory. You can arrange for the guide by requesting the accommodation. They usually have contacts of the local guides or ask for one at the ticket counter.

My guide was Hemal. He has been serving as a guide for 13+ years now and has very good knowledge of the flora and fauna. He is sharp and points out wild animals from a great distance.

Contact Number: +94 705989717 (Hemal speaks Sinhala and English)

Below are the charges mentioned on a per-person basis. The fare includes the entry fee, guide charges, leech socks, snacks, and a rain jacket.

  • Short tour for 3-4 hours that covers 6 Km – LKR 6250
  • Medium tour for 5-6 hours that covers 10 Km – LKR 8250
  • 5 Waterfalls tour for a full day – LKR 9500
  • Long tour for 7-8 hours that covers 14 Km – LKR 11250
  • Lion’s Rock hike for 8-9 hours that covers 24 Km – LKR 15250
  • A birdwatching tour for half a day costs LKR 5000, and for a full day, it costs LKR 10000
  • Night tour for 3 hours – LKR 5000

I opted for the night tour and waterfall tour, the best choices ever.

Parking Facilities

There are no dedicated parking facilities available near the entrances. You’ll have to park by the side of the road, not hindering the other vehicles that pass by.

Restroom Facilities

There are restrooms available at all the entrances of the Sinharaja rainforest. They are clean and well-maintained.

Network Availability

Dialog and SLT Mobitel have very good internet connectivity inside the rainforest. Unfortunately, Airtel doesn’t work here.

ATM Availability

There are no ATMs available in the village of Mederipitiya. You have to go to Deniyaya, which is about 40 minutes away.

Important Things To Remember

Gin Ganga river
Gin Ganga River
  • It rains throughout the year, all 365 days, in different parts of the rainforest. So carry your raincoats with you while visiting.
  • There are freshwater streams to refill your water bottles. Carry at least a 1L reusable water bottle with you.
  • Do not litter. Bring back the waste with you and dispose of it properly.
  • Do not pluck the leaves or flowers or do any activity that might harm nature. Be responsible for conserving nature and wildlife.
  • The rainforest is full of leeches. Learn how to get rid of them the right way.
  • Bring your swimsuits as you might cross waterfalls during your journey where you can swim.
  • You are going to hike inside the dense rainforest. So, make sure to dress appropriately. It is recommended to wear full pants and T-shirts covering your shoulders.
  • The terrain is slippery, with wet leaves, tree branches, boulders, and water streams. Make sure to wear shoes with good traction and grip: no slippers or sandals.

Wildlife At Sinharaja Rainforest

Golden leather ferns (Acrostichum aureum)
Golden leather ferns (Acrostichum aureum)

We saw more creatures during the night tour. Read to know about the night experience in the dense rainforest.

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