Sri Lanka Nature: The Green Country
In a country with two monsoon seasons, it comes as no surprise that Sri Lanka’s vegetation is lush and beautiful. On an island two-thirds the size of Tasmania there is an enormous diversity of climates, topography, and plant and animal life. One happy result for visitors is a national cuisine that uses the huge diversity of fruits and vegetables to their best advantage; another is the delightful scenery that changes more with elevation than latitude. Sightings of wild animals such as elephant and leopard are the principal motivation for visitors to get out and see the land, but other animals, especially birds, contribute greatly to the colour seen in the forests and across the grasslands.
Displaying considerable foresight in valuing the importance of nature preservation for the nation’s wellbeing, the Sri Lankan government works hard to maintain an extensive national parks program to maintain the integrity of the land, the rivers that flow across it, and the animals that inhabit it. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Peradeniya, just a few kilometres outside the former royal capital of Kandy, was established almost 200 years ago in 1821. The British reverence for gardens and greenery matched with the luxuriance of Sri Lanka’s flora gave rise to many exquisite gardens across the island; Peradeniya is one of the largest, with extensive lawns and themed gardens showcasing exotic trees and plants from other areas of what was then the British Empire, including the very rare coco de mer palm rarely seen outside its native Seychelles.
The Sri Lanka highlands are notable for their cool climate and green landscapes reminiscent more of Great Britain than an Asian country; add in the touches of British architectural history and a lively holiday spirit and the result is Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka’s cool vacationland where locals accustomed to the wet zones and dry zones of lower elevations come up for a breath of fresh air, literally, amid the peaks and valleys of the country’s central region. Though Nuwara Eliya may not be the ‘Little England’ of fairytale imaginings, the local Golf Club certainly does recall an earlier era when this town founded by British residents of what was then known as Ceylon escaped the heat of the coast in favour of weekends dedicated to golf, croquet, cards, and whiskey. Near Nuwara Eliya is Ella, one of the many small villages dotting the peaks and ridges of Sri Lanka’s central highlands where superb views of the mountainscapes can be enjoyed.
Not all of Sri Lanka’s wildlife resides on land. Whales can be seen off the southern coast of Sri Lanka thanks to the unique combination of benign climate and abundant food supply. This is one of the few places in the world where whales are present throughout the year, making whalewatching excursions a popular activity for visitors coming to this part of the country.
All of Sri Lanka’s natural attractions are easily researched on the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau’s informative website.