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Sri Lanka, the Land of Delights 

Sri Lanka Holidays

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Must Visit Locations


Kitulgala white water rafting in River Kelani Ganga, birding, butterflies, trekking, Kitulgala forest reserve, Kitul palm syrup, fossils Balangoda man Homo sapiens

Kitulagala, Sri Lankas most popular site of Whitewater rafting is located on the banks of River Kelani Ganga, at a distance of 80km from Colombo, lining the A7 main road that winds and ascends spectacularly to reach Sri Lanka Holidays Nuwara Eliya of Central Highlands via Ginigathehena and Hatton. While 62km northeast [on A5 main road via Gampola] of Kitulgala is Kandy, 44km south east, on B328 motor road is Nagadipa Vihara of Nalatanye, a gateway [distance of 6km; ascent is 1000 meters] to Adams Peak Sri Pada. Sri Lanka Holidays tourists [locals as well as foreigners] are attracted to a stretch of wild waters of River Kelani Ganga around the village of Kitulgala, well known also for its Kitul Palm also called fish-tail palm, toddy palm (Caryota urens) syrup production. For the birders and ornithologists, Kitulgala is irresistible too: 38 species of birds are found here. For the photographic enthusiasts, the ever green rainforest of every hue and tone of green, serves endless landscapes. The combination of fast paced rapids, tranquility of the Kitulgala forest reserve, the traditional lifestyle of the villagers, well organized on-site Whitewater rafting operators at Kitulgala and accommodation options in Kitulgala hotels, guest houses and rest house have tourists visiting this nature and soft adventure attraction of Sri Lanka all round the year.

The scenery

Kitulgala is a small peaceful village set about halfway of the scenic main road descending gently from the hill country (Central highlands) to wet lowlands. The village is well known for its Kitul Pani (Kitul palm honey) production too. It's a beautiful setting; the scenery is particularly dramatic hereabouts, with sheer-sided, thick rainforest-covered hills plunging down to the wild waters of River Kelani.

Kitulgala rapids

The stretch of the River Kelani around the village, the "Kitulgala rapids" range from Grade 2 to 4. The names of the rapids are no less seductive to that of the waters: Virgin's breast, Butter Crunch, Killer's Fall, White quarter, Head Chopper, Rafter's quarter. Waters having washed away your sins, you get cured of all your fears by the end of a 7 km stretch of the river wild, tumbling over 7 rapids within 90 minutes with the hands of yours, your buddies & the hand of god (with apologies to legendary Diego Maradaona) saving you from a couple of violent tosses. All is well since a pilot kayak is guiding you.

Season and time for Whitewater rafting at Kitulgala

The season for Whitewater rafting at Kitulgala is the period of April to November. During this period southwestern monsoon of Sri Lanka gently increase the water level of River Kelani Ganga. A single torrent of heavy tropical rain could make the stretch of River Kelaniya Ganga at Kitulgala swell terrifyingly and could look furious. Nevertheless the water level could drop and the river could calm down to its natural and regular state to make all the Whitewater rafters enthusiastic. The on-site Whitewater rafting operators would advise and guide you all on all occasions.

On-site Whitewater rafting providers at Kitulgala

Rafters Retreats, Adventure Base Camp, Action Lanka and Borderlands

Whitewater rafting in the night: Blackwater rafting at Kitulgala

Though Whitewater rafting at Kitulgala is done during the night, it is restricted to mere three nights on either side of the full moon days. The hard adventure enthusiasts who wouldnt take a step back from a challenge, Whitewater rafting would provide adrenalin pumping adventure with a heightened sense of drama under the moonlight in the rushing rapids that flows over and around the boulders and rocks strewn along the stretch of River Kelaniya at Kitulgala. All Whitewater rafting enthusiasts are equipped with headlights.

Kitulgala Forest Reserve at Kitulgala

Kitulgala Forest Reserve [area: 263ha; altitude: 100-820m; annual rainfall: 3500-5250mm; temperature: 27 degrees Celsius] is similar to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sinharaja Tropical Rain Forest (6648ha) of Sri Lanka, though it doesnt spread as extensively as the latter. The ornithologists and birders searching for lowland endemic species of birds would find Kitulgala Forest Reserve an ideal nature attraction for their purposes

Best time of the year to visit Kitulgala Forest Reserve

The best time is the period of February to April, being the driest months of wet zone of Sri Lanka, However, Kitulgala Forest Reserve is good to go any day of the year during your Sri Lanka Holidays.

Birds, Mammals, butterflies, Amphibians & Reptiles at Kitulgala Forest Reserve

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Myna, Yellow-fronted Barbet and the Serendip Scops Owl, Dollar Bird, Ceylon Frogmouth, Hill Swallow, Black-throated Munia, Black Bulbul & Black-capped Bulbul, Green-bill Coucal, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Brown-capped Babbler, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Spot-winged Thrush, Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layards Parakeet, Sri Lanka Orange-billed Babbler, White-faced Starling, and Leggs Flowerpecker can be spotted in Kitulgala Forest Reserve.

Kitulgala Forest Reserve is home to some of the smaller mammals of Sri Lanka. Among them are endemic & endangered Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Mouse Deer, Wild boar Grizzled Indian Squirrel and Layards Striped Squirrel.

The Reserve also affords the opportunity to spot most of the endemic species of butterflies in Sri Lanka: Tree Nymph, Common Blue Bottles and Blue Oak Leaf, The Tawny Raja, Red Helen and Blue Mormon.

Frogs and lizards are most seen amphibians in the forest reserve. Among the lizards are Earless Lizard, the Kangaroo Lizard and the Hump-nosed Lizard.


As if the kayaking hasn't not exhausted you, there is an exhilarating trekking opportunity through the virgin forests, lush green tea estates & gurgling waters. 5 km ahead are caves called Beli-lena lying beneath a waterfall where you could have a plunge. In these partly excavated caves several skeletons of Modern Man & pre-historic tools have been found dating back 28,000 years. Though area around the caves is a wonderful site to watch birds & butterflies, but the interior of the caves are full of dangers: cobras & vipers. Still ahead is the pleasing view of Kitulgala Tea Estate.

Red rice, Jack Fruit

We trek back to the village of Jackfruit trees & Mango trees. Let's make a move to the Rafters Retreat on the village side of the river. Set amidst rainforest is a rock strewn path leading to the Log cabins called "Cabanas" with roofs of thatched coconut palm leaves. A spring of water that sprouts out of chiselled piece of rock serves your tiredness as your royal shower. Also served is authentic Sinhalese cuisine. The right stuff of the village: Red rice, Jackfruit, Lotus stem curry, Mango curry, Cabbage etc all seasoned with spices & generous amounts of coconut milk or coconut sauce.

The best dessert in the world

You will top the heavy meal with a dessert, a superior kind of yogurt - fermented buffalo creamy white milk - called Curd with generous dollops of reddish brown Kitul palm honey poured over. Aha, that's what you call a dessert. This is the best dessert in the world. And, what's more that's natural to the hilt.

Kitul palm products at Kitulgala

Kitul palm tree is multipurpose tropical tree in the same vein coconut palm tree is: while it is alive it provides products for human consumption; when it is fallen, it provides hardwood timber. The sap collected [10-15 years] from tapping the inflorescence produces Kitul treacle, Kitul toddy and Kitul jaggery (solidified honey). Kitul flour is another nourishing product. The production is still done in the age-old traditions and the knowhow has been passed from generation to generation within the families. While the men climb up [20m] the straight up branchless trees without being secured by harness and tap the inflorescence and collect sap, the women of the families boil the sap in traditional methods to produce Kitul treacle and Kitul jaggery. During your Sri Lanka Holidays, you will have an opportunity to visit the villagers making Kitul treacle and Kitul jaggery.

Kitul palm tree naturally grows in the tropical South Asian countries of India, Myanmar and Nepal too. This treasure house of a tree has now been introduced to few other tropical countries.

Hard Adventure in Sri Lanka Holidays: Whitewater rafting in Sri Lanka

Whitewater rafting, categorized as a hard adventure, is a challenging recreational activity using an inflatable raft to navigate a river. Though it is not necessary to be skilled in swimming, it is necessary to be guided by a pilot whitewater rafting, follow the instructions and engage in the adventure as a team. The inflatable rafts used in Whitewater rafting are able to carry 6-8 adults wearing Personal Flotation Devices without being cramped.

While Kitulgala [ 2-4 rapids; 1.5 hrs] is the most popular site of Whitewater rafting in Sri Lanka there are few others too:
Sitawaka River off Avissawella [ 3-4 rapids; 2-2.5hrs]; Ulapane - Gampola: River Mahaweli grade 2 to 5 [for the experienced Whitewater raftsmen] Hatton - Nuwara Eliya: River Kotmale grade 4 and 5 rapids [for the experienced Whitewater raftsmen]

The other organized Hard Adventure available in Sri Lanka

Hot air ballooning at Sigiriya and Dambulla
Snorkeling in south western coast, southern coast and eastern coast
Scuba diving in south western coast, southern coast and western coast
Hardcore Scuba Divers holidaying in Sri Lanka wouldnt miss Kirinda reef of the Deep South and Trincomalee of the North eastern coast

Soft Adventure in Sri Lanka Holidays: Mountain Biking/ Cycling Trips in Kitulgala, Hatton and Nuwara Eliya

Mountain biking tours organized at Kitulgala beginning at Kitulgala [altitude: 100-820m], the trails run-through Rubber Estates to reach the areas of ea estates of the Central Highlands to ride crossing over the Hatton to reach the prime hill country sanatorium of Nuwara Eliya [altitude: 1800m].

Prehistoric Beli Lena Caves

Beli Lena cave located 8km from the town of Kitulgala, at a foot of a waterfall was occupied by Balangoda Man, described as Homo sapiens balangodensis by the paleontologist, and zoologist Dr. Paules Edward Peiris Deraniyagala [1900 - 1976], who found ten skeletons. Balangoda man is believed to have lived 32,000 years ago.

Caving at Beli Lena Cave requires a rope or rope ladder and headlights for entry. Caving herein is done strictly with professional guidance in view of the dangers within it.

Accommodation options at Kitulgala

Rafters Retreat, Hilland Estate, Kitulgala
Kitulgala rest House, Kitulgala
Plantation Hotel, 250, Kalukohutenna, Kitulgala: further towards the Adams Peak than Rest House

Sri Lanka Hotel Guide - Hotel Information, Special Offers, News and Trends and much more

Sri Lanka Travel Guide - Travel Information, Special Offers, News and Trends and much more

Photo Gallery

click on photo to enlarge

Kitulgala Landscape

White Water Rafting

Kitulgala rapids

Kitulgala Trekking

Kitulgala Beli Lena Falls

Makandawa Forest Reserve

Kitulgala Rafters Retreat

Kitulgala Rest House

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