Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon), is a beautiful, Pearl shaped, tropical island perched in the southern tip of India, surrounded by the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean. It is most befitting to be termed as the “Pearl of the East”. Sri Lanka is well known for its golden sun bronzed, palm fringed beaches, misty mountains, ancient monuments, diverse wild life parks and lush tropical rainforests.
Sri Lanka’s proud history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human remains dating as far back as 125,000 years. Sri Lanka, has been of great strategic importance to travellers, from the time of the ancient silk route to World War II, due to its geographic location and deep natural harbours.
Sri Lanka was known by a variety of names, due to her rich history and foreign influences. Sri Lanka was called by the famous colonial English name, “Ceylon” prior to 1972 by the British. However, the current official name of Sri Lanka was registered in 1978 as The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The name comes from the root Sanskrit words ‘Sri’ (island) and ‘Lanka’ (venerable).
The other names were as follows:
- Lankadweep – the name according to the Indian epic the Ramayana tale.
- Tâmbapanni ( or Tambaparni) – the name used by the legendary Indian Prince Vijaya
- Serandives – the name used by ancient Romans for Sri Lanka
- Taprobana – the name used by ancient Greek.
- Sarandib (or Serendib) – the name used by Persians and early Arabs.
- Ceilao – Names used by the Portuguese
- Ceilan- Name used by the Spanish
- Seylon – Name used by the Dutch
Sri Lanka is located in the southern tip of India, in South Asia, surrounded by the Indian Ocean. It shares maritime borders with India in the North West and Maldives in the South West. Sri Lanka is influenced in a number of ways by its rich multi culture, language and multi religions due to its close proximity to India.
Sri Lanka Time Zone is 5 ½ hours ahead of GMT/UTC.
The Area and Topography
The island is rich in terms of topographic features due to the extensive faulting and erosion over time. The varied climate and weather conditions that affect Sri Lanka has had a major impact on Sri Lanka’s landscape. It can be roughly divided into three zones which are distinguishable by variance in elevation: the Central Highlands, the plains, and the coastal belt.
The Central Highlands
Sri Lanka’s Central highlands, consists of the rugged plateau in the south-central part of Sri Lanka, where some of the island’s most famous mountains are located, the tallest of which is the Pidurutalagala mountain, 2524 m (8281 ft), the Adams peak to the west, Namunukula to the East, and the Knuckles mountains to the North.
Sri Lanka is well known for its gushing rivers that flow seaward in all directions, originating from the central hills. The longest river, flowing northeastward, is the Mahaweli ganga (335 km). These rivers contribute immensely towards the agriculture based economy of Sri Lanka apart from being fully exploited to harness hydro electric power.
The mountainous sections of the island are skirted by narrow coastal plains. This area forms a major part of the island’s terrain, and frequent soil erosion has caused immense impact to its landscape.
The Coastal Belt
The coastal areas of Sri Lanka rise to between 30 metres and 200 metres above sea level and comprises of Sri Lanka’s famous golden sun drenched beaches indented by lagoons. One can view limestone beds in certain parts of the Jaffna peninsula, which are exposed to the oceanic waves.
The coastline consisting of rocks, cliffs, off shore islands and bays, have given rise to two of the world’s best natural harbours, strategically located in Trincomalee and a smaller rock harbour in Galle on the southwestern coast.
These natural formations are major tourist attractions and provide the ideal setting for surfing and snorkelling and other water Sports in Sri Lanka.
Climate, Temperature and Weather
Sri Lanka, though a relatively small island in size, it has an amazing diversity of weather patterns and climatic conditions. Sri Lanka possesses a typical tropical climate with sunshine and warmth all round the year and does not have an off season. The mean temperature in the coastal regions is around 27 C, but cool and misty in the hilly areas, approx. 16 C.
May is considered the hottest period of the year as it appears just before the start of the south west monsoonal rains. The country is subject to two monsoonal seasons – the south-west monsoon (May – Oct) where rains are concentrated in the western, southern and central regions, and the north-east monsoon (from November to April) bringing rains to the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka.
Pre Historic Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a proud history dating as far back as 34,000 years, where evidence of human colonization in Sri Lanka was discovered in Balangoda ( The Balangoda man), who were Mesolithic Hunter Gatherers living in caves. This name has come about because of the human remains of this tribe that were found in the Balangoda area.
The earliest evidence of humans has been found in the Fa Hien Rock Cave, and artifacts found therein and in the Batadombalena Cave make it almost certain that they can be considered the first known inhabitants of this island.
The hunter-gatherer people known as the Veddahs or Wanniyala-Aetto, who still live in the Central, Uva and North-Eastern areas of the country are probably direct descendants of the first inhabitants of Sri Lanka, the Balangoda Man.
Ancient & Medieval Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka was ruled by 181 monarchs from the Anuradhapura to Kandy periods in ancient times. Anuradhapura, was the first capital of the Sinhala Kings. Historical records begin with the arrival of an Indian prince, Vijaya, the eldest son of King Singhabahu (“Man with lion arms”) and his 700 followers. Vijaya is an Indian prince, the eldest son of King Sinhabahu (“Man with Lion arms”) and his sister Queen Sinhasivali. Both these Sinhala leaders were born of a mythical union between a lion and a human princess.
The country was invaded on a few occasions by South Indian Kingdoms in that some areas were ruled by the Chola, Pandya, Pallaya and Chera dynasties. There were invasions by the Kalinga kingdom as well.
Sri Lanka was a very popular trading post and port centuries ago. Merchant ships from Persia and the Middle East, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia found the island very useful for their commercial purposes.
The Portuguese, led by Lourenco de Almeida landed in Sri Lanka in 1505. At that time, there existed three local kingdoms –Kingdom of Kandy in the hills, Kingdom of Kotte in the West and Jaffna in the North. The Portuguese colonization lasted from 1505 – 1658.
In 1638, the then king of Kandy with the help of the Dutch overthrew the Portuguese and by 1660 the entire island was under the Dutch rule with the exception of the Kandyan kingdom.
The British took over from the Dutch all areas ruled by the Dutch in 1802 except the Kandyan hill capital. The British invaded the hill capital in 1803 only to be brutally repulsed. Eventually the year 1815 saw the Kandyan kingdom finally succumbing to the British, ending the country’s independence.
Following the suppression of the Uva rebellion, the Kandyan peasantry were stripped of their lands by the Wastelands Ordinance. Thereafter, the British found that the up-country area was perfectly suited for the cultivation of Coffee, Tea & Rubber. A large number of Indian Tamil workers were imported from South India to work in these tea plantations.
However, by the mid 19th century, the famous “Ceylon Tea” had become a staple of the British market bringing in great wealth to a small number of white tea planters.
During the time of the World war II, the State Council leader, D. S. Senanayake was chosen to conduct the all-important negotiations regarding Sri Lanka’s independence. The Ceylon Independence Act of 1947 was the result of these negotiations and ruling power was transferred to the locals. Mr.D.S. Senanayake, was the founder of the United National Party which won the election held in 1947 and on the 04th of February 1948 a new constitution came into effect. This made Sri Lanka a dominion of the British and the following 10 years was a time of United National Party rule.
The Civil War
Civil war broke out in Sri Lanka on the 23rd of July 1983 between the Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who were fighting for an independent state in the North & East to be named Tamil Eelam.
Eventually, the LTTE separatists were defeated by the Sri Lankan forces in May 2009, ending almost 3 decades of civil turbulence.
Post Civil War
With peace finally returning to war ridden Sri Lanka, the Government and the people united to rebuild the island nation. With the commencement of major infra structure development projects, repairing damaged buildings, roadways and railroads, and building new expressways at a brisk speed, Sri Lanka is doing everything possible to rebuild the economy and to bring back life to normalcy. With military expenditure restricted to a minimum, more funds were being allocated for advancements in sectors such as Tourism, housing, health, water and sanitation which will benefit the economy of the country immensely.
Sri Lanka’s population according to the 2012 census is estimated to be approximately 21.4 million people with an annual population growth of 0.913%.
For every 1,000 people, the birth rate is 17.04 and the death rate is 5.96.
Sri Lanka takes pride in having an adult literacy rate of 92%, which is higher than that expected for a third world country ; it has the highest literacy rate in South Asia and overall, one of the highest literacy rates in Asia.
The population density is concentrated mainly in Colombo, in the south west part of Sri Lanka, where the country’s Capital, main port and industrial center, is located.
The Veddah people or Wanniale Aththo are believed to be the original inhabitants of the island are confined to certain parts of Sri Lanka.
Ethnically, the majority Nationality are the Sinhalese, accounting to 74.9% of the population in the country.
The Sri Lankan Tamils who predominantly live in the North and East of Sri Lanka, constitute the second largest minority group and accounts for 11.1% of the population, whilst the Indian Tamils living in the estate plantation sector in the south central parts of Sri Lanka, accounts for 4.1% of the population.
The Indian Tamils were brought into Sri Lanka as plantation workers by the British rulers to serve in the tea and rubber plantation sector in the 19th century.
The Moors (Muslim), descendants of Arab Traders that settled in Sri Lanka and married local women form the third largest ethnic group and accounts for 9.3 % of the population. They practice the Islam religion and have settled in the central and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.
The other minority communities that accounted for 8 % of the population, were the Burghers and Malays. The Burghers, descendants of Portuguese or Dutch, came during the European colonial period. They were concentrated mainly around the western coastal belt of Sri Lanka and were either Roman Catholic or Christian (Dutch Reformed Church).
The Malays (Muslims) also popularly known as the Javanese were from South-East Asia, former Malay peninsula which included Java and Sumatra (presently Indonesia). The first group of Malays arrived in Sri Lanka are believed to be the retinue of the king of Java who was exiled to Sri Lanka by the Dutch. The second group of Malays came as the military workers to fill in the ranks of the Dutch army, police, fire brigade & prison staff, and were later absorbed by the British services and were believed to be part of the military regiment.
The main spoken language Sinhala, is the first language of the Sinhalese while Tamil, is the first language of the Tamils and Moors. According to the 2012 census, 98 % of the Moors could speak Tamil and 59 % could speak Sinhala.
Malays speak Sri Lanka Malay, a kind of crude dialect mixing Sinhala, Tamil and Javanese. Many of the Burghers speak Sri Lankan Indo -Portuguese although its use has declined and the majority now speak English and Sinhala.
The Veddahs speaks Vedda, a Creole language closely based on Sinhala.
The use of English has declined since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, but it continues to be spoken by many in the middle, upper middle classes, and the elite upper class particularly in Colombo. The government is trying to reverse decline in the use of English, mainly for economic but also for political reasons.
However, the two official languages are Sinhala and Tamil, while English is spoken with considerable fluency by 24% of the people and used for business and educational purposes.
Sri Lankans are a multi-ethnic community and are therefore multi-religious. According to the 2012 census, the Buddhist make up 70.1 % of the population followed by Hinduism 12.6% the second highest number of followers (mostly Tamil), Muslims 9.7 % and Christians make up 7.6 % of the population in this country.
Most of the Sinhalese community are Buddhist and a few are following the Christian faith. The Burgher population are mostly Roman Catholic or Presbyterian, whilst most Tamils are Hindu and the Moors and Malays are mostly Muslim.
However, the 1978 constitution guarantees freedom of religion while giving the pride of place to Buddhism.
Given pride of place for Buddhism, Sri Lankans, are greatly influenced by religion and monthly Buddhist Poya Days (based on the Lunar Calendar) are strictly observed as holidays.
However, hundreds of Hindu Temples, Mosques and Christian Churches too are scattered all over the island for the convenience of the other religious faiths.
According to the census in 2012, the life expectancy was as follows:
Males – 72.43
Females – 79.59
Sri Lanka adopts a Universal health care system which provides free healthcare to all citizens, which has been of National priority of the Government. All doctors and nurses attached to the government hospitals in Sri Lanka are professionally qualified and trained, where most experienced staff are working at the teaching hospitals.
The emergency unit of the National hospital of Sri Lanka is well known for handling emergency services, particularly accidents, as they are well equipped with all modern facilities and doctors & staff working on a 24 hour shift.
The public healthcare system also has long waiting lists for specialized care and advanced procedures. As a result, reliance on private care have increased.
A large number of Private hospitals with state of the art equipment and facilities have sprung up in Sri Lanka, due to the rising demand for private healthcare services. They provide much more luxurious service than government hospitals, but they are mostly confined to Colombo.
Sri Lanka is known for having one of the worlds oldest Healthcare systems, Ayurvedic system of medicine. Authentic Ayurveda has now become increasingly popular among the western world resulting in the increasing number of ayurveda hotels spread around the island providing the much needed curative and wellness treatments to foreign tourists visiting the island.
Education in Sri Lanka has a long history that dates back to 2300 years. The Sri Lankan constitution provides for education as a fundamental right.
Sri Lanka takes pride in having a high literacy rate of 92 % among the developing nations and enjoys the status of having the highest literacy rate in South Asia.
Sri Lanka provides a free education system, which came into formal effect in 1938. Its education structure is divided into five parts : primary, junior secondary, senior secondary, collegiate and tertiary.
Most schools conduct classes from Grades 1 -13, and students read for the GCE Ordinary Level Examination in Grade 11, followed by the GCE Advanced Level Examination in Grade 13.
All examinations from GCE (O)Level and Advanced level upto University level are conducted by the Government Department of Examinations.
Most of the public schools were maintained by the Government as a part of free education which included the National schools, Provincial schools and Pirivenas (for Buddhist priests).
There has been a considerable increase in the number of Private Schools and International Schools offering good education for the expatriate community and for those who can afford.
Most of the International schools prepare students for the Edexcel General Certificate of Education (IGCSE), Advanced subsdiary (AS ) and Advanced A2 level examinations.
There are 15 state Universities in Sri Lanka, some of which are the University of Peradeniya, the University of Colombo, the University of Moratuwa, the University of Jaffna, University of Sri Jayawardenepura,University of Ruhuna, etc.
There are facilities for students who wish to pursue entrance/membership for professional bodies such as CIMA, ACCA, BCS etc) and local bodies such as ICASL, SLIM) or do studies at vocational Technical colleges that specialize in mechanical and electronic subjects.
Sri Lankan Culture
Sri Lanka is a multi ethnic and multi religious country with a population of over 20 million people, influenced by the impact of many cultures over the centuries, from South Indian to Moorish and that of the western colonisers, have resulted in the country’s culture being enriched by a rich diversity of different customs and traditions practiced during that period much of which are still evident today.
Sri Lanka, moving forward towards the path of modernisation, the country and its people, a majority of whom are of the Buddhist faith, still cherish most of their traditional values and take pride in their rich culture and heritage of what existed during the ancient times which is evident by the large number of temples and magnificent life-size statues of the Lord Buddha still to be seen among the ruins of the ancient Kingdoms of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy .
Hindus, Christians and Muslims are among the other main ethnic groups that still practice their own culture and traditions whilst sharing this wonderful Island.
Food and Drink
A burst of flavours and Spices … Located right in the middle of the big shipping lanes of the ancient world, this spice rich island, has attracted many visitors to this paradise island.
Sri Lankan culinary art is a combination of vibrantly colored spices cooked with fresh local produce.
If you were looking for a taste of Sri Lanka, you should try the traditional Rice & curry meal which forms the main staple food of the Sri Lankans.
Rice with a variety of curries, which include vegetable with a combination of coconut sambol, mallum (chopped leaf salad), fish or meat (chicken, beef, mutton, or pork), along with optional accompaniments like mango chutney or lime pickle, is consumed for lunch and perhaps also for dinner as well. The meal concludes with the traditional local dessert, fresh Curd and Treacle (honey).
A traditional Sri Lankan breakfast comprises of “Kiri Bath” also known as milk rice, Pittu ( Coconut steamed rice), Rotti (a thick pizza like dough mixed with green chillies, onions and coconut) or String Hoppers,( like rice noodles along with “Ambul thiyal” (rich thick black pepper fish curry) and “Pol sambol” (Shredded coconut mixed with green chilly and infused with spices).
Sri Lankan cuisine has also been influenced by the other ethnic groups who lived here. The Arab influence is to be found in traditional Muslim dishes such as Biriyani whilst Nasi goreng ( a type of richly spiced fried rice), Sathay (barbecued meat with spices), the delicious Watalappam, a dessert which is made of eggs, Coconut Milk boiled with jaggery and other ingredients form part of the traditional Malay cuisine.
Breudher (Dutch Christmas Cake) and the Portuguese layer cake Bolo Fiado are examples of western influence.
Sri Lanka is blessed with a large variety of seasonal tropical fresh fruits that are grown in many parts of the island and among them are the famous Pineapple, Rambutan, several variety of Mangoes, Mangosteen, Passion fruits, Avocados and the Durian and the refreshing “King Coconut” which is one of the most popular among the locals.
Festivals and Holidays
The Sinhala Buddhists, and the Tamil Hindus, celebrate the Sinhala and Tamil New year which is one of the most important festivals in Sri Lanka, which symbolizes the dawn of new year according to the astrological calendar.
Several age old customs, traditions and rituals connected like partaking of the first meal are widely practiced based on auspicious times mainly in the vilkages. The main highlight of the festival is, the traditional family meal with all the lovely sweetmeats, sharing with friends, relatives and neighbours, followed by traditional games like pillow fights, cross country road and cycle races, climbing the greasy pole etc. Wearing of garments based on the colour one must wear on this day are decided according to the astrological signs. The festival ends with the anointing of oil with the blessings of the Buddhists priest.
The Muslims celebrate Ramadan (Eid ul Fithr) after observing a months fasting and the Haj festival (Eid ul Adha) marking the pilgrimage of Haj in Mecca.
The Hindus too celebrate Thai Pongal and Deepavali festivals annually.
The annual traditional Kandy Esala Perahera taking place in July.August is also one of the major events featuring hundreds of decorated elephants, with the Tooth Relic casket carried on the back of a beautifully adorned and lit up Elephant, parading the streets of Kandy. This event draws large crowds including foreign visitors, is another most looked forward to event, given that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country.
The Perahera also consists of thousands of drummers, colorful Kandyan dancers, fire dancers etc .
Arts and Crafts
Sri Lanka is well known for its beautiful handicrafts, batiks and other art forms, some of which have originated centuries ago. It is much evident that Buddhism reflects some of the ancients forms of local art by the existence of the famous Buddhist temples, cave temples, western shrines scattered around the country contain stunning paintings and sculptures. In addition the beautiful frescoes of the lovely maidens found on the walls of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress are world-famous.
As for local handicrafts, the Sri Lankan devil masks and other forms of carvings on wood are extremely valuable and intricate, are mainly found in the famed city of Ambalangoda .
Sri lanka is also home to some of the Foreign art and craft forms, brought in originally by immigrants. Among these are the Beeralu Lace work from Portugal and Indonesian Batiks.
Music in Sri Lanka
The earliest venue for music in Sri Lanka were the open-air theatre of the olden days called Sokari, Kolam & Nadagam.
Sri Lanka’s first Radio Station was called Radio Ceylon, and is the oldest radio station in South Asia, founded in 1925. It is now called the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). English hit songs from the western music channels came to be introduced to Sri Lanka through the English Service and are still enjoyed by most of the listeners in Sri Lanka.
Around the mid 19th century, Sri Lanka was greatly influenced by the Indian Tamil and Hindi music which were broadcast by the local radio stations and popular among the Tamil listeners and even the Sinhala people. Eventually many local artists became extremely popular with their original sinhala music and gave local audiences memorable hits which are broadcast by the local radio and TV channels even today.
The Baila Caparinngha type of music which originated from the Portuguese is also made popular in Sri Lanka, and forms an integral part of any local party or Wedding.
The TV with several state owned and private channels are operating in this country to give the listeners live coverage of the latest English and Bollywood music and dance.
Sri Lankan Cinema
Sri Lanka has developed into a major award winning film industry, which gives the local audiences a variety films and teledramas based on love stories, family relationships and action packed movies.
Most local films are in Sinhala, with a handful of Sri Lankan English films being produced as well. Many of the local films produced here have won prestigious awards at International Film Festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival.
Sri Lanka is blessed with some stunning varieties of flora and fauna, be it in the southwestern ‘wet zone’ or the more arid ‘dry zone’. The latest addition to the island’s unique places of interest is the Jaffna Peninsula (found to be a very dry area) has some species of flowering Acasias. One can also find some very valuable varieties of timber such as Satinwood Ebony, Mahogany, Ironwood and Teak in most of the other dry zone forests.
The lowland areas of Sri Lanka are dominated by large tropical forest, with the typically lush green foliage trees, creepers, vines and dense undergrowth.
The Na Tree (Iron wood) or (Messua Ferria) was declared the National Tree of Sri Lanka in 1986.
This rain forest tree indigenous to the lower wet zone of Sri Lanka grows to about 30 m high. The unique feature of NA tree is the beautiful bright red leaves which finally matures in to a deep green. Timber has a solid hardness and durability and were used to make bridges during the early times.
The beautiful ‘Nil Mahanel’ or ‘Nympheae Stelleta’ or the Blue Water Lily, has been declared the National Flower of Sri Lanka from February 1986. This flower can be seen blooming in ponds and streams all over the country.
Animals and Birds
Sri Lanka is well known for the Sri Lankan Elephants, and are considered to have played a vital role, from culture to religion and transportation whilst featuring prominently in the various perahera’s.
The Sri Lankan or Ceylon Elephant is endemic to this country and resembles the Asian Elephant, different to the African Elephant, being smaller with a more rounded back and have 4 nails instead of 3 nails on its hind feet with shorter ears, which are easily distinguishable and its trunk has only a single ‘finger’ at the end. The temperament of the Asian Elephant is tamer and more compliant than its fiercer cousin, the African Elephant.
There are two Elephant species found in Sri Lanka – The Sri Lanka Elephant and the Sri Lanka Marsh Elephant, both listed by the World Conservation Union as endangered species.
Other animals to be seen in Sri Lanka are the Sri Lanka Leopard, Golden Jackal, Sambhur Deer, Sloth Bear, Wild Boar, Red Faced Macaques, Swamp Crocodile, Land Monitor and many more.
The variety bird life is exceptionally diverse with thousands of species found all over the island. The type of bird species to be found in Sri Lanka are the Common Mynah, White Throated Kingfisher, Brahminy Kite, Indian Pitta, Rose Ringed Parakeet, etc.
National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries
Sri Lanka as a nation, is one of the countries in Asia who recognises the value of conserving endangered animal and bird species whilst maintaining natural habitats for all wildlife.
Sri Lanka has several National Parks and Sanctuaries that are hot spots for both tourists and locals. Numerous Camping and lodging facilities are available in almost all these locations, giving visitors the opportunity to spend a great holiday experience in the vicinity of wild animals in their natural habitats.
Yala National Park
Yala National park, is one of the oldest and most visited second largest national park in Sri Lanka and designated as a National park in 1938. It consists of 5 blocks, two of which are open to the public and covers an area of approx. 979 square Km and is located about 300 Km off Colombo, in the deep south of Sri Lanka, close proximity to places of historical & religious significance such as Magul Maha Vihara, Sithulpahuwa and the famous Kataragama. It is also known as Kumana National park and is home to a wide variety of animals including the Sri Lanka elephant, Sri Lanka Leopard, Sloth bear, Crocodiles, Wild water buffalo, Wild Boar and more.
Yala, in Sri Lanka is reported to have the largest density of leopards, in the world.
The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami caused severe damage on the Yala National Park and 250 people died in its vicinity. Strangely though there were not many casualties reported among the wild animals in the Yala Jungles. Perhaps they would have sensed the imminent danger by instinct or sound waves and have drifted farther into the jungle to safer locations and thereby avoided the powerful tsunami waves.
Uda Walawe National Park
The Udawalawe National park is located, approx. 165 Km off Colombo, in the south-east of Sri Lanka, and covers over 30,821 hectares (119.00 sq mi) of land area and established on 30 June 1972. The National park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe Ganga, as well as to protect the Catchment of the reservoir. Udawalawe lies on the boundary of Sri Lanka’s Wet dry Zones on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, of Sri Lanka.
Udawalawe is an important habitat for Sri Lanka Elephants, and are relatively hard to see in its open habitats. Many elephants are attracted to the park because of the Udawalawe reservoir, with a herd of about 250 believed to be permanently resident. During a safari into the park, the visitors can enjoy a close view of herds of the Sri Lanka Elephant and other animals such as the Jungle Cat, wild Boar, Sambhur deer, Sloth bear, Crocodile and Langur Barking Deer. These animals share their home with over 400 species of birds that are both migrant and endemic to Sri Lanka.
Bundala National Park
Bundala National Park is an internationally important wintering ground for Migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. It is home to a wide variety of birds, the main highlight being the Greater Falmingo, which migrate in large flocks.
Bundala was declared a wild life sanctuary in 1969 and redesignated to a National park in 4 January 1993. In 2005 the national park was designated as a Biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the fourth biosphere reserve in Sri Lanka. The national park is situated 245 kilometres (152 mi) southeast of Colombo.
The Bundala National Park is basically known as a Bird watchers paradise. It contains 197 species of birds, 32 species of mammals, 324 species of vertebfrates, 48 species of reptiles, and many more.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains National Park is a protected area located in the central highlands of Sri Lanka which is covered by 10,000 hectares of montane grassland and Cloud forest. This is Sri lanka’s highest plateau which stands at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres (6,900–7,500 ft) is rich in its bio-diversity and many species found here are endemic to the region.
The Horton plains was designated a National park in 1988 and continues to be a popular tourist destination 32 Km from the city of NuwaraEliya.
If you are lucky you may catch sight of a Leopard, Hare, Porcupine or a Giant Squirrel disappearing across the plains. The famous World’s End which has a sheer precipice of 2854 ft drop and Bakers Falls are among the tourist attractions of the park.
Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu National Park (Willu-pattu; Land of Lakes) is a park located in the Northwest coast lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka, 30 km west of Anuradhapura. The unique feature of this park is the existence of Natural lakes – Natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. The park is 131, 693 hectares and ranges from 0 to 152 meters above sea level. Wilpattu is the largest and one of the oldest National parks in Sri Lanka reopened in March 2010 after 3 decades old civil war. Wilpattu is among the top national parks world-renowned for its Leopard.
There is also plenty of other wild life comprising of Elephants, Deer, Sloth Bear etc.
The legal currency used in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee. The currency apart from the coins, comprises of higher value notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000 Rupee notes.
Travellers cheques & foreign currency
The commonly used foreign currencies in Sri Lanka are the US dollar, sterling pounds, Euros, Saudi Riyals and UAE Dirhams.
It is possible to exchange Travellers Cheques and foreign currency in state banks, private commercial banks and leading hotels, with banks charging a varying handling fee and commission on Travellers Cheques.
There are also Authorised money changer’s in and around Colombo where foreign visitors can make a fair deal on foreign currency exchange rates.
Credit cards are widely used and accepted as well, with several ATM machines available in the main towns with the exception of some rural and remote regions of the country.
Sri Lanka has recorded a steady growth rate in recent years with the estimated economy (in 2010) of $43.323 billion and a per capita GDP of approximately $5,300 (PPP). This means Sri Lanka is far ahead of their neighboring South Asian countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh which is highly commendable.
Apart from the the traditional exports of Tea, Rubber and coconuts, the other main sources of income for the Sri Lankan economy are the export of apparel, garments, tourism, rice production and the production of other crops.
Employment of local workers in various fields overseas, contributed greatly towards the foreign currency earnings for Sri Lanka. The major countries that provided a very high percentage of foreign jobs for locals are the Middle east, Australia, Korea, where local labor is either unavailable or too expensive.
The 3 decades of civil war that rocked the island in terms of heavy human casualties and money seriously affected the economy, since the enormous funds that was utilised to fund the war could otherwise have been used for development.
With the end of the 3 decades civil war in May 2009, Sri Lanka has emerged to become one of the fastest growing economies of the world.
The 2004 tsunami was another major natural disaster that devastated Sri Lanka and the Asian region caused much loss of life and damage to property. Sri Lanka has recovered to a great extent from it with the help of foreign aid, and major reconstruction projects. The rest is history.
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), which was established in 1950 is responsible for the conduct of its Monetary policy in Sri Lanka and contains wide supervisory powers over the financial system. Whilst being responsible for its currency issue, CBSL is also responsible for securing its core objectives of economic stability, price stability and financial system stability. The CBSL also stands as the advisor on economic affairs to the Government of Sri Lanka.
The two major state owned banks in the country are the Bank of Ceylon and the Peoples Bank .
There other banks that operate in the banking system of Sri Lanka, according to local statistics includes 14 foreign banks, 9 privately owned domestic banks, 6 rural development banks located in out stations, 2 development financial institutions of considerable size, a national savings bank, 13 merchant banks and a mortgage bank.
There are a few American Banks operating locally, include American Express and Citibank.
The Colombo Stock exchange operated by the Colombo Stock Brokers Association, play a vital role in contributing towards the economy of Sri Lanka have been part of the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy.
Government and Politics in Sri Lanka
Politics in Sri Lanka operates in a framework of semi presidential representative democratic republic, where the President of Sri Lanka is the Head of both State & head of Government, while also heading a multi-party system.
The Government exercises Executive power, while Legislative power is vested with the Government and Parliament.
The patty system has been dominated by the socialist Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the conservative United National Party, for several decades.
The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The Politics of Sri Lanka reflect the historical and political differences between the three main ethnic groups, the majority Sinhala and the minority Tamils and Muslims, who are concentrated in the north and east of the island.
Sri Lanka’s Parliament comprises of 225 members elected for a term of five years, of which 196 are chosen from island-wide multi seat constituencies and 29 through a system of proportional representation.
The President, directly elected for a five-year term, is head of state, head of Government and Commander in chief of the armed forces.
The President appoints and heads a Cabinet of Ministers responsible to Parliament. The President’s deputy is the Prime Minister, who leads the ruling party in Parliament. Under the present constitution a parliamentary no-confidence vote requires dissolution of the cabinet and the appointment of a new one by the President. Furthermore all laws that govern the country are made by Parliament.
Sri Lanka has been divided into 9 Provinces which are sub-divided into 25 districts.
The 9 provinces are listed below :
- Western Province
- Central Province
- Southern Province
- Northern Province
- Eastern Province
- North Central Province
- North Western Province
- Sabaragamuwa Province
- Uva Province
Each District is again sub divided into Divisional Secretariats.
A District Secretary administers these Districts who is appointed by the central government. The main tasks of the District Secretariat involve, coordinating communications and activities of the central government and Divisional Secretariats. The District Secretariat is also responsible for implementing and monitoring development projects at the district level and assisting lower-level subdivisions in their activities.
Sri Lanka Travel – Top Destinations Colombo
Colombo -is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and is located within close proximity to the Bandaranayake International Airport.
Kandy- is the hill capital and home to the Temple of the Tooth, which houses the sacred Tooth of the Buddha. One of the main highlights of the city is the Annual Esala perahera, which parades the streets of Kandy carrying the sacred Tooth relic for people to pay their respects in an annual procession held in July/August every year.
Galle- Located in the Southern Province on the coastline, has its own old world charm and is home to the Dutch Fort built during the Dutch colonial era. It is declared a UNESCO World heritage site and even today it is considered as one of the living world heritage sites in the world.
Negombo is a characteristic fishing town located a mere 6 Km from the Bandaranaike International airport. It has a strong Dutch influence and is now a Catholic dominated area with lots of Catholic churches dotting its landscape and also major fishing village. It is a major tourist destination and a Gourmet’s paradise with plenty of sea food.
Anuradhapura is Sri lanka’s first capital founded in the 5th Century BC. Its famous for its dagabas and stupas whilst the reservoirs, and water channels built during the ancient times are now considered engineering marvels. It is home to the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi tree, venerated by Buddhists in Sri Lanka and all over the world.
Dambulla – is a vast isolated rock mass where King Valagam Bahu took refuge in the 1st Century BC. later it was turned out into a magnificent Golden Rock Temple. It has the largest collection of Buddha statues in one place.
Dambulla is also the venue of the famous Rangiri Dambulla Cricket Stadium giving the foreign players a cultural experience apart from playing first class cricket.
Polonnaruwa- was the islands medieval capital around the 11th Century AD and replaced Anuradhapura as the island’s capital after the South Indians’ invasion. It remained the capital for almost 2 centuries and is evident by the ruins of buildings and palaces that exist todate.
Sigiriya- known as the ‘Lion Rock Fortress’, was built by King Kashyapa in the 5th century AD, and was a royal citadel for over 18 years and contains some beautiful frescoes of damsels and a carving of Lion’s paws. Sigiriya has been named the 8th Wonder of the World.
NuwaraEliya- located in the central hills, amidst the Hill country tea plantations, was the holiday retreat the British planters and civil servants durig the British colonial era. It was also known as ‘Little England’ due to its cold, misty climate and the quaint architecture of the old buildings that are reminiscent of Britain. The 18 hole Golf course, The Hill Club with its strict dress code and the famous Horton Plains and Hakgala gardens are the main hot spots..
NuwaraEliya is a popular holiday resort among the locals as it draws large crowds of locals during the ‘April Season’ each year to beat the heat of the low country and coastal areas of Sri Lanka.
Located on the North-East coast, Trincomalee, is famed for its natural harbours and ranked 5th of the worlds largest natural harbours. Trincomalees, most famous landmark is Fort Frederick. The old Thirukoneswaran temple that stands on a cliff (Swami Rock) also known as the lovers leap is associated with a tragic romantic tale where a Dutch maiden who is believed to have jumped to her death from this spot seeing her fickle lover sailing away in the distance.
Media: Print, Radio & Television in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka takes pride of having the oldest operational Radio Station in the Asian region, the famous Radio Ceylon, established in the year 1923. It is presently known as the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. It is the most popular radio station in Sri Lanka and the rest of Asia and broadcasts its music and other programmes in English, Sinhala, Tamil and Hindi.
Presently there are several privately owned Radio Stations in the country, which are also fast gaining popularity and success.
The Independent Television Network (ITN) was the first TV channel launched in Sri Lanka in 1979. Since then several both state controlled and private TV channels have joined in to give local audiences a variety of programmes in many languages. In addition, Satellite TV and Cable TV have also being introduced in Sri Lanka featuring the latest local and world news, educational and entertainment programmes to the descerning public audiences.
Several states sponsored and private Newspapers are printed in Sinhala, English and Tamil, with the Sunday papers leading in popularity and advertising revenue.
In the recent past the state owned National Telephone Company used to provide a basic service but not good enough to the public. However, at present the service and quality has improved greatly due to its privatization a few years ago.
The latest concept of CDMA phones has now been introduced to the public, making it the current trend in the country. This has led to many more privately owned service providers and companies opening up to give the public a fast and effective service backed by the latest technology at affordable prices.
Internet connections too are freely available, for either fixed line or mobile broadband. ADSL was introduced in 2003 to the country by Sri Lanka Telecom. Unlimited internet access can be had at a speed of 512 kbit/s, at a reasonably fixed monthly rate. These facilities are freely available in the main cities and towns but to a lesser degree outside the towns and remote areas. However, steps are taken to speedily improve the coverage to more remote areas as well and cater to the ever-increasing demand for internet access.
Sri Lankan consumers have embraced the cellular phone market with great enthusiasm, and at present an average person is able to posses at least a pre- or post paid connection at affordable rates due to the strong competition in the market, with a score of extra benefits being offered to users.
Now with the latest technological development, the latest sophisticated 4G Smartphones have captured the imagination of the modern day youth with several social media networks, reaching out globally and opening new horizons for business opportunities and trade and to share information and other news live, relating to entertainment, medicine, engineering, and other educational and world affairs and many more offering the public the chance of a lifetime to enhance their personal knowledge and life style.
It is pleasant to note that the world has now become a small place and the great big world is within reach even of the poorest human being living in the remotest part of the world.
Sri Lanka’s National sport is Volleyball, but Cricket has taken center stage as the most popular sport in Sri Lanka and it has now become commercialized to the extent that more and more youth take to cricket. Sri Lanka has produced world class cricketers and have brought fame to the country.
Next popular game is Rugby which is widely played from school level to club level and is gaining momentum drawing large crowds at every rugby game played in Sri Lanka.
The other sports that are widely played in Sri Lanka are hockey, basketball, netball, hockey, Athletics, Tennis, swimming and Football or soccer which was one of the most popular games in the early sixties to the nineties and Sri Lanka was more or less close to becoming South Asian football champs.
Sri Lanka has produced many medal winners in the international arena in Athletics, Weight Lifting and other fields.
Specail mention should be made of Susanthika Jayasinghe who was the first Sri Lankan female who won an Olympic Silver Medal in the recent past to be the second fastest woman in the world, running the 100 metre dash.
Sri Lanka’s Cricket team gained worldwide acclaim by winning the ICC Cricket ODI- World Cup in 1996.
Sri Lanka has since been a strong team to reckon with alongside the best cricketers in the world and has developed tremendously training more and more talented youth for the future .
Several Stadiums have been constructed with ultra-modern facilities in order to stage international Cricket fixtures, such as the Galle International Stadium, the Sinhalese Sports Club grounds, the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium, the Pallekelle cricket stadium, and the R Premadasa stadium are featured among the list of cricket grounds in Sri Lanka.