Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gal Oya National Park

After the end of civil war in 2009 Gal Oya National Park has become a major local and foreign tourist destination in Sri Lanka. Gal Oya National Park is situated 314 km from Colombo and it was established on the 12 February, 1954, in order to protect a portion of the 100,000 hectare catchment area of the massive Senanayake Samudra. It was created by the damming of the river called the Gal Oya with the goal of opening up 162,000 hectares of forest land for agricultural development and was handed over to the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1965.  Nestled quietly off the beaten track in the Moneragala and Ampara districts, it is not somewhere you can easily get to on the way to anywhere else. 

There are no bungalows at Gal Oya, the closest being on the Ekgal Aru tank 23km to the east.  This is a tall, handsome structure with a large, pleasant garden wonderfully situated overlooking the reservoir.  The best way to actually see the Gal Oya National Park and the wildlife contained within is to organize a boat trip around the tank. The best time to visit is from March to July when the area’s elephants (Elephas maximus) congregate in the shallows to feed on aquatic vegetation. It is also a great spot for bird-watching. In addition to the abundant birdlife, the park also shelters the usual Sri Lankan dry zone diversity of mammals and reptiles.
The vegetative structure of the park is a mix of thick, dry zone forest, savanna and grassland with some remnant chena areas in the west. The highest point in the region is Govindahela, a dominating 573m granite outcrop that sits just outside the southwestern corner of the park.

Due perhaps to its slightly awkward location, Gal Oya National Park has often been bypassed by visitors, local and foreign.  It is this untrammeled character coupled with a truly awe-inspiring natural beauty that makes the journey so very worthwhile.  The park is also unique in the country in that the best way to truly appreciate its moods, shades and shadows is from a boat on the tank itself, on the inside looking out.

Getting There
Gal Oya National Park can be reached from Colombo via Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Udawalawe, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya, Moneragala and then north from Siyambalanduwa to Inginiyagala. The park entrance is 20 km west from Ampara at Inginiyagala. Inginiyagala affords the tourists the opportunity of a boat trip around the great Senanayake Samudra reservoir. Ampara can be reached by domestic flight too.

View Larger Map

Google Analytics Alternative