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Must Visit Locations

Gal Oya National Park

Gal Oya National Park was established to protect the catchment area of modern Senanayake Samudra irrigation reservoir (7760 ha) nearly four times larger than ancient Parakrama Samudra Irrigation Reservoir. Gal Oya National Park wholly encompasses the great reservoir. Located east of the Sri Lanka Holidays  Central Highlands, Gal Oya National Park straddles borders of Ampara district of Eastern Province and Monaragala district of Uva Province. The gateway to Gal Oya National Park is at Inginiyagala, 50km inland from the Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka. And Inginiyagala can be reached from Siyambalanduwa, a small town, which is also the gateway to Arugambay surf beach, one of the finest surfing beaches of the world where International surfing competition are held. The 300km route to Gal Oya National Park from Colombo lies via Sri Lanka Holidays  Ratnapura (City of Gems), Pelmadulla, Udawalawe (the location of  Sri Lanka Holidays  Uda Walawe National Park, home to 400 elephants), Thanamalwila, Wellawaya, Moneragala and Inginiyagala. To the north-west of the park, within a couple of hours drive is the Maduru Oya National Park. A jungle corridor through Nilgala jungle (an area of 10,360 ha that was inhabited by Veddha, the aborigines of Sri Lanka until recently) has been proposed between Gal Oya National Park and Sri Lanka Holidays  Maduru Oya National Park [1] to allow the elephants traverse from one to other following the failure of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Colombo to have a veterinary surgeon attend an injured elephant at Gal Oya resulting in the death of the beast.

The expanse, climate, terrain and vegetation of Gal Oya National Park
The elevation of the park varies from 30 meters to about 900 meters, Danigala, Nilgala, and Ulpotha mountains being the highest peaks. Rain is received during the North-eastern monsoon resulting in an average annual rainfall of 1,700 milli meters.

Gal Oya National Park that extends to 540 km rolling country has Senanayake Samudra irrigation reservoir (7760 ha), the centerpiece of the park, bisecting it from east to west at its shortest breadth in the midway area, while extending three long narrow tongues to the northern part as well as the southern part. That is in the perspective while at Inginigala, 20 km west of Ampara.
In reality, the great reservoir begins at a location off the center, to the south, called Makara Kata (Sinhala: Dragon’s mouth). It was at this location the River Gal Oya falls in a natural tunnel to the reservoir.
45% the park is an ever green forest: Sri Lankan hardwood such as Vevarana, Halmilla, Veera, Palu, Ebony and Mahogany are found in great numbers. Rolling land is 33% savanna, tall grass called illuk and Mana, 09% grassland, 02% chena cultivations. The remainder is water bodies dominated by the Senanayake Samudraya. Some areas of the park are still home to herbs and plants that were planted centuries ago and made use in Ayurvedic medical treatments. A host of medicinal shrubs and trees including Aralu, Bulu, Nelli the three indispensable herbs of the Ayurveda medicine abound in the Nilgala area.


Gal Oya Boat Safari
Gal Oya National Park stand unique among the Wildlife Parks of Sri Lanka, in the sense it is best explored by boat unlike the other toured by jeeps. The park entrance at Inginyagala dishes out the chance to hire a boat to ride for 2 hours or more cruising 18km from Gal Oya bund to Makara Kata.
Boating Safari in Senanayake samudraya (Sinhala: Sea of Senanayake) brings all the tourists closer to the wildlife: the elephants swimming from one island in the reservoir to another; one of the islands called “Bird Island” as its name suggests, rich in birdlife, is the favorite nesting ground of the birds.

Jeep Safari
The jeep safaris can be enjoyed in two tracks, one of which is about 13lm and other only 5 km and other about 13 km. Jeep Safari too affords the opportunities for wildlife photography.

Mammals at Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park is a sanctuary to 32 terrestrial mammals: Sri Lankan Elephant, Sri Lankan Sambar Deer, Sri Lanka Leopard, Toque Monkey, Sri Lankan Axis Deer, Water Buffalo, and Wild Boar are among them.

Amphibians at Gal Oya National Park
Mugger Crocodile and Star Tortoise are the silent stars among Amphibians of the Gal Oya National Park.

Birdlife at Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park is a merry fly lucky refuge for more than 150 species of birds.
Among the resident birds are Lesser Adjutant, Spot-billed Pelican and Red-faced Malkoha.
The Indian Cormorant, Oriental Darter, Grey Heron, and Lesser Whistling Duck are among the common water birds of the Senanayake reservoir.
The White-bellied Sea Eagle, and Grey-headed Fish Eagle are the notable raptors of the area.

Butterflies at Gal Oya National Park
Gal Oya National Park’s butterfly species include the endemic Lesser Albatross.

Sri Lanka Holidays Cultural Attractions nearby Gal Oya National Park
Digavapi Stupa
Location: some thirteen miles east of Ampara
Ruins: 35 archaeological sites including the site of the ancient Buddhist shrine of Dighavapi hallowed by the visit of Lord Buddha.
Restoration: very slow in view of limited funds at the Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka
Devastation: very quick. The area declared under the Archaeological department is only four hundred yards in radius of each site leaving the other areas unprotected under the Antiquities Ordinance No. 9 of 1940. As a result of this pathetic situation there has been a great deal of illegal excavations, sand mining and encroachments in the open areas.

Buddhangala Hermitage
Location: 8km from the town of Ampara
Ruins: Buddhangala hermitage of about 1280 acres and Girikumbhila Vihara, where the Venerable Arhath Mahinda’s relics are enshrined, is located to the west of the hermitage
Restoration: following a century of negligence, the ancient site is being restored by Buddhist Monk Rev. Kalutara Dhammananda Thero.
The landscape: streams of water flows over and around the boulders of the ancient rock hermitage.
The highest point of the rock is about 150 Meters. On ascending to the top of it, one can see the Gal-Oya valley on one side. To the south are the Inginiyagala, Vadinagala and the Govinda Pabbatha which was once the realm of Buwanekabahu Äpa

Photographs are by kind courtesy of Mr. Pierre M. Richard.

[1] For Maduru Oya go to Maduru Oya

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