We are delighted to welcome you to a Jetwing Hotel with a resident naturalist. We hope you will find something of interest in the enclosed program of excursions, ranging from cultural visits, to walking to natural history tours. Some of our excursions are designed to involve the local community as much as possible for two reasons. Firstly because we recognize them as an important stakeholder who should share in the financial benefits of tourism. Secondly, we believe it is important that the local community play a lead role in the conservation of our cultural and natural heritage.
Resident naturalists are employed at Jetwing Hotels with several objectives in mind. One objective is that they are available to entertain and educate guests to the hotel of the nature and culture, in and around the hotel. But more importantly they are a part of a wider strategy to demonstrate that the private sector, especially in tourism can play a significant role in creating environmental awareness and being a champion for research and conservation. Jetwing is committed to sustainable tourism and to minimize the impact of its activities on the environment. Each Jetwing Hotel has a ‘Green Directory’ listing the activities it is taking to be a responsible hotel. The naturalist or Manager can e-mail this to you, if you wish to receive a copy.
Sigiriya – the Lion rock:
Sigiriya is almost at the door step of the Vil Uyana and can be seen in an eastwardly direction. This enormous 600-foot high rock, today considered being the 8th wonder of the world, possibly received its name after it became the seat of an ancient Sinhalese King. The Sigiriya or the Lion Rock probably derived its name from the huge couchant lion through whose throat one entered upon the final ascent. The history testifies that Kasyapa 1, in the 7ear 477 AD, after slaying his father King Dhatusena ruled the country for 18 years making his fortress on this rock and finally committed suicide when his troops deserted him on the field of battle, when he encountered his half brother Moggallana. It is believed that Kasyapa built Sigiriya ‘like another Alakamanda’, the celestial abode of Kuvera, God of wealth, in accordance with the description of Alakamanda in classical literature. The rock of Sigiriya was inaccessible when Kasyapa started to build on it. A large labour force would have been used and also it taken 7 years to complete the work, before Kasyapa could occupy Sigiriya.
The long rising gallery led up to the rock face which was shaped in the form of a lion made of bricks is visible for miles. The rock is enclosed on three sides by a rampart with a protective moat. To the south-east is a tank.
Polonnaruwa – the second capital of medieval Sri Lanka:
Polonnaruwawas Sri Lanka’s medieval capital between the 11th and the 13th centuries is located ……… Km east of Vil Uyana. This ancient city was enclosed within 03 concentric walls to protect against the South Indian Chola invaders, after chasing them off by the Sihalese King Vijayabahu the 1st in the 10th century AD. This ancient city contained royal palaces, bathing ponds, monasteries and sacred architecture such as dagobas and image houses. Its grandeur was largely the creation of three Kings, the warrior King Vijayabahu the 1st, Parakramabahu a great tank builder and Nissanka Malla, although the last mentioned emptied the coffers in beautifying the city and to create a name that would remain in the History of Sri Lanka. Although some of these edifices are in ruins, they are fairly preserved to date.
The Parakkrama Samudra tank built by Parakramabahu with a 14 mile long bund is the major source of water for the present day irrigation purposes of the area. This tank is an ideal destination for birders with large flocks of Cormorants, Pelicans and raptors. Tank is also well stocked with fresh water fish, as well. This kingdom lasted for nearly 2 centuries before it fell again to the Chola invaders. Forcing the Sinhalese to shift the capital again to Kurunegala, a city located west of Polonnaruwa.
Of all the early cities and capitals that Lanka boasted, Anuradhapura was without doubt the finest and most renowned. At the time when many countries of the world, whose culture was at infancy, here was a classical city in which flourished the arts, the humanities, hydraulic technology and civilization and of course the Buddhism. This was no ephemeral civilization for it endured a glorious history, having served as the capital for 1,400 years before its fall due to South Indian invaders- the Chola.
The history of the area, which really changed the destination of the country, dates back to 400 BC with the advent of Prince Vijaya, the half-legendary founder of the Sinhalese race and his followers of 700 men from Eastern Indian city Kalinga, when he was banished. He landed in the North-western coast of Sri Lanka in the vicinity of Anuradhapura.
Bicycle trail: Inamaluwa Wewa – Etawara-hena Wewa – Randeniya Wewa – Enderagala wana-senasuna:
In the vicinity of the Vil Uyana, there are three ancient man made water bodies and a meditation centre. These interesting places are located along our designed bicycle trail. The trail runs through a series of diversified habitats. The tour will also give a person an insight to the rural life of Sri Lanka and a good opportunity to see the water and forest bird life of the area.
Inamaluwa tank can be reached cycling along the approach road from Vil Uyana to the Inamaluwa junction, about 5 km in distance. The major vegetation found in the Inamaluwa tank is the Sacred Lotus with large white flowers and broad round leaf blades offering an excellent habitat for the “Lilly Trotters” – the Jacanas, Coots and Water Hens. Among the other water birds, found here are the Herons, Egrets and Cormorants. It is also a good place to see the White-bellied and the Grey-headed Fish Eagles. Your observations could be made from the tank bund itself. A panoramic view of the Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve could be seen in the northern direction. From this tank it is a matter of short distance through a series of paddy fields sustained by the waters of Inamaluwa and Etawara-hena tanks.
Morning walks: Sigiriya bird trail:
We will be providing transport up to the place from where the trail commences. Sigiriys Rock fortress will be on to your left giving a magnificent view in the morning, as the walk has been scheduled for 7.00 am. Entering the jungle along a foot path will take you to the foothills of the Sigiriya rock, skirting the Sigiriya tank which will be visible through patches of the surrounding forest. This will give you an opportunity to see the forest and water birds alike. With some luck you may be able to spot the Shaheen Falcon soaring over the Sigiriya Rock. Look out for wild elephants in the area, in case if you encounter them. In the lake area you will see both the Fish Eagles, resting on trees or soaring in the sky. During the migratory season, in the forest patches of the area the Red- winged Crested Cuckoo and also the colorful Indian Pitta could be seen. Two of the several forest migrants that visit Sri Lanka.
The “Popham Arboretum” is located about 15 km from the Vil Uyana along the Kandalama road. This is one of the few arboretums we have in Sri Lanka. Here one can see more than 68 different species of dry zone trees in a 37 acre patch of forest. This was started by Sam Popham a British citizen who came to Sri Lanka to work as a volunteer of Sarovdaya and after his retirement he started conserving trees in a 5 acre land he purchased. Later on he added another 32 acres to this land and converted to a larger area. This arboretum is a flat land mass comprising a secondary patch of forest, as well. The arboretum is an ideal “field laboratory” for people who are interested in studying trees of the dry zone of the country. This area is also a good destination for bird watchers who are interested in the dry zone and intermediate forest birds.
Popham arboretum – Kaludiya pokuna:
Visiting the Kaludiya Pokuna, an archeological site after visiting the Popham arboretum. Is also included in the excursion. This was started by Sam Popham a British citizen who came to Sri Lanka to work as a volunteer of Sarovdaya and after his retirement he started conserving trees in a 5 acre land he purchased. Later on he added another 32 acres to this land and converted to a larger area. This arboretum is a flat land mass comprising a secondary patch of forest, as well. The arboretum is an ideal “field laboratory” for people who are interested in studying trees of the dry zone of the country. This area is also a good destination for bird watchers who are interested in the dry zone and intermediate forest birds. Bird watching could be done walking in the arboretum under the shades of the massive trees comfortably. From the top of the large rocky outcrop found here will provide a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
Popham arboretum – Dambulla temple:
Visiting the Dambulla Temple is coupled with the visit to the arboretum. Located north of Kandy and considered by most to be the center point of Sri Lanka, Dambulla is a town built around a vast isolated rock mass and a World Heritage City, declared by UNESCO. The name Dambulla derives from Damba – Rock and Ulla – fountain. One sees the incessant drip of water from the fountain within the main image house. The temple is composed of 5 caves, which have been converted into shrine rooms. The caves, at the base of a 150 meters high rock built by King Vattagamini Abhaya (Valagamba) took refuge in the 1st century BCE. He later turned the caves into a rock temple. Later kings made further improvements, including King Nissanka Malla who had the temple interior gilded, earning it the name of Ran Giri – Golden Rock.
Menikdena – Dambulla temple:
An arboretum cum an Archeological Reserve situated 12 miles towards Matale from the Dambulla town. The ruins of Buddha statues, Dagoba, Bo tree enclosure, Chapter House and many other ruins are scattered in the beautiful arboretum. Presently the Archeological department has undertaken the restoration of the ruins. It could be believed that these ruins very much older than the ruins found in Anuradhapura, for the finishing works of the stone masons are not as smooth as the ones you would see in Anuradhapura.
Nalanda Gedige – Aluviharaya – Kawatayamuna temple:
Twenty kilometers south of the Dambulla Temple, is the attractive Nalanda Gedige. The unusual image house was transferred to this spot near the town of Nalanda when the Bowatenne Tank, which is part of the Mahaweli Ganga Program, was initiated. The small building is designed like a Hindu temple with a mandapa, an entrance hall (originally roofed), a short passage to a bare cello, and an ambulatory round the holy center. There is no sign of Hindu gods, however, and the temple is said to have been used by Buddhists. This is one of the earliest buildings of stone constructed in Ceylon.
Pidurangala Temple located about 1 mile to the north of Sigiriya, came in to prominence in the 5th century A.D., with the development of the Sigiriya Fortress, which became the capital city of Sri Lanka for 18 years, under the Regime of King Kasyapa. During this period this temple became the Royal temple of the King. But, the history of Pidurangala area goes back to a much earlier period than the 5th century AD, where archeological excavations of the caves have proved the existence of the pre-historic in the area for some 6,000 to 8,000 years.
Ritigala – Minneriya National Park:
We will be leaving for Ritigala Strict Nature Reservae the “mountain of mystery and mist”and Minneriya National Park “the elephant city”. Ritigala is located about 30 km North of the Viluyana. Ritigala mountain range comprises of 6 peaks, rising to a height of about 2513 feet (765 meters) from the sea level is about 3 miles long and about 2miles wide at the widest point… Ritigala has an interesting history dating back to the 4th century B.C. as a hideaway and the battleground of King Pandukhabaya, the 3rd King of Sri Lanka, who fought against his 10 uncles and killed them all and became the king. Again in the 2nd century B.C. warrior King Dutugemunu had one of his camps located close to Ritigala, on his way to battle the Chola invaders and defeated them to relieve from the grip of invading Indian armies.
Reveres-turn – Pitawala patana – Wasgamuwa National Park:
This a combination of an excursion linking Dry Zone and Wet Zone (Montane) habitatas and coupled with a visit to an interesting National Park – Wasgomuwa. Leaving the Viluyana at 630 hrs reaching the Riversturn peak via Dambulla, Matale and Rattota. The journey will be through the Dry Zone Forest, Tea and Cardamom plantations before reaching the Montane forest patch around the Rivers-turn, which happens to be the Northern sector of the Knuckles Range of mountains. This area has been declared a World Heritage Reserve. This is an excellent birding area to see the Wet Zone birds, most of which are Endemic to Sri Lanka. The most notable Endemic Birds in the area are the Aranga, Whistling Thrush and the Blue Magpie among many other endemic birds. The Leaf _horned Lizard is only confined to this area. This area is most of the time shrouded with mist. When the mist clears off a commanding view of the area unfolds offering a breath taking view of the surrounding areas of Dambulla, Minneriya, Mahiyangana and the Pallegama areas. This being the highest point situated at an elevation of ‘…………………’ Ft from the Sea Level, a major tele-communication tower has been set up.
Kaudulla National Park:
Kaudulla National Park is the newest National Park declared in 2002 and is one of the 17 National Parks of the country. An area of about 6,656 ha consisting evergreen monsoonal forest, providing the catchments to an ancient tank, the Kaudulla built in 300 AD is one of the 16 tanks built by King Mahasen. The Park derives its name Kaudulla from this tank. Apart from its catchments protecting function it is located between the Somawathiya National Park to the North and Minneriya National Park to the South, hence, forming an important Jungle Corridor for the migrating elephants.
Kala wewa – Awukana Buddha statue:
Kalawewa (man made tank)and the Aukana free standing tallest granite Buddha statue of the country can not be taken as two separate entities. These two marvels of the ancient Sri lankan History, dating back to 5th century AD are located about 60 km north-west of the Viluyana. It would take about 2 hours to reach Kalawewa via towns of Dambulla and Kekirawa towns, when reaching the Kalawewa tank. This ancient tank is one of the magnificent reservoirs of the ancient world has a circumference of 40 miles and has a total area of seven square miles at full capacity was built by King Dhathasena. The King who built the tank has obtained water for the reservoir from 3 main rivers of the area and also capturing drainage coming from the surrounding hills. King also constructed a 54 mile long canal from the tank to the medieval capital of the ancient Sri Lanka – Anuradhapura.
Ibbankatuwa wewa – Satutu duwa – Ibbankatuwa pre-historic burial site:
Ibbankatuwa pre-historic cist burial site about 5 km from Dambulla town on the Kurunegala road. Here we have evidence of a large burial site more than 10 acres in extent, dating 4,000 to 6,000 years ago used by a large settlement of people living in the dambulla area. When they died they were cremated at a central place and the remains after the cremation were collected and kept in a cist with large single stone as a cover to the cist.
An evening visit to the Namal Uyana Forest Reserve via Dambulla and Madatugama, will be a rewarding one for a nature lover. The area had been an ancient monastery with ruins of a Dagoba, enclosure for a Bo tree and remnants of stone pillars of buildings could be still visible. The special feature of the Forest Reserve is the vast vegetation of Na trees (Meser nagasarium – Iron Wood) found in it and is considered to be the largest natural forest patch of this tree species, covering an area of ……… in the South Asian region.
This is the closest monastery located in the vicinity of the Viluyana. This monastery consists of several drip-ledge caves at the foot hills of a rock, for meditating monks in the ancient times. The rock is situated among a small patch of forest and could ascent to the top where an ancient Dagoba is found, which has now been restored by the Archeological Department. The summit of the rock will offer a panoramic view of the area with Sigiriya and Pidurangala rocks on to its east. The patch of forest that leads to the monastery is also a good birding area.
Medirigiriya watadage or the circular relic house could be reached via Minneriya and Higurakgoda. This is a pillared building around a small stupa provided with four entrances and four Buddha images placed in the cardinal points. This pre-Christian structure had been constructed by King Kanitha Tissa in the 1st century AD. The Watadage is located on a small rock and it could be reached by a flight of steps cut on the rock. Entrance is from the northern side of the Watadage. The Buddhs statue in the seating position in the centre of the main stupa is now in ruins.
Kandy is reached from Vil Uyana via Dambulla, Matale and Katigastota amidst beautiful sceneries of mountain ranges such as ‘Kunkles’, ascending and descending hilly area and bridges over picturesque water ways such as the Mahaveli river, the longest river of Sri Lanka at Katugastota, and the scenic beauty of the entire area. It is difficult to pinpoint Kandy’s beauty in the context of the overall loveliness that is Lanka but, Sir William Gregory, Governor of the Island from 1872 -1877, resolved the dilemma by neatly observing that ‘ Kandy is the loveliest town in the loveliest Island in the world’.