Sinhala (Sri Lanka)Tamil (Sri Lanka)
You are here  : Home Forest Recreation Biosphere Reserves and Conservation Forests
Biosphere Reserves and Conservation Forests

Most important forest areas in terms of biodiversity and hydrological values are declared as International Biosphere Reserves and Conservation Forests and set apart only for visitation and forestry research. Following  forests are widely used for forest recreation.

  1. Hurulu International Biosphere Reserve.
  2. Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya (KDN) International Biosphere Reserve.
  3. Udawattakele Forest Reserve.

Hurulu International Biosphere Reserve

Hurulu forest which is named after the ancient Huruluwewa tank was declared as a forest reserve in 1942. The total area of the Hurulu Forest Reserve is around 25,000 ha. The forest is in the Dry zone of Sri Lanka and spans over the Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura Districts. Part of Hurulu Forest Reserve, an extent of 512 ha., was declared as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1977. A stretch of 1000 ha land in the reserve was declared opened as  an  eco park in 2007 by the Forest Department.


Hururu Forest Reserve can be reached through Habarana -  Trincomalee main road entrance to Hurulu Eco park can be seen on the left in a distance around 100 m past the railway crossing of Habarana.


The climatic pattern in the Hurulu area is typical of the Dry Zone. That is, moderate rainfall irregularly distributed combined with relatively high temperatures. The rainy season prevails during North-East monsoon from October to December and balance period of the year is mainly dry. Mean annual rainfall is 1600mm and Mean annual temperature is 27 - 30C.

Vegetation Types:

The forest reserve contains Dry Monsoon Forest (Dry Mix Evergreen Forest) with a typically layered structure comprising an upper canopy of moderately large trees, a sub canopy of smaller pole-sized species and a distinct herb layer. The upper canopy is dense about 15-20m height and interrupted by emergents of which Satin and Palu are typical. The sub canopy is characterized by species such as Korakaha, Kunumella, Weliwenna. The orchid Dendrobium maccarthiae in bloom is a colorful sight.

Other forest types that can be seen there are riverine forests, sparse and open forests and forest plantations mostly of Khaya, Teak, and Eucalypts.

Biodiversity - Flora:

Dominant plant species are Satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia) and Palu (Manilkara hexandra) together with the ebony tree (Diospyros ebenum). Palu , Weera, Halmilla, Kumbuk, Mee, Milla , Margosa, Thimbiri, Kolon and Nabada are some of the woody species found here.

Biodiversity - Fauna:

Mammals include endemic torque macaque, loris, wild boar, sloth bear, spotted deer, pangolin, bandicoot rat, porcupine, rabbit, jackal,  leopard, rusty spotted cat, mongoose, water buffalo and elephant. The avifauna includes a variety of endemic birds. Endemic birds such as Sri Lankan jungle fowl, spurfowl, and blue faced malkoha. and rare rufous woodpecker can be observed.


Hurulu forest area forms a long shallow basin between discontinuous parallel ridges to the east and west. The streams of the area form a simple drainage pattern and the Aluth oya, the Halmilla oya and the Gal oya drain the whole basin into the Mahaveli River. Streams in the north and northeast join the Yan Oya. During the drought all except the three main rivers dry up completely. However during heavy showers floods for short durations are frequent. Hurulu is the catchment area to Huruluwewa tank. There are several other ruined ancient tanks within the reserves.

Archaeological sites:

Thalgedikanda is a forest hermitage adjacent to the forest. It has an archeological importance as several ruins of ancient buildings, caves, ponds, and monuments belong to King TIssa’s reign. There is another temple called Katuvelgoda Raja Maha Viharaya of historical importance.

Elephant watching:

DDry-zone dry evergreen forests still provide shelter to relatively larger populations of the Asian Elephant. Hurulu acts as an important elephant watching site in the Dry zone. Large elephant herds can be seen from October to May in Hurulu park.

Unlike most other dry forests, the trees in these Dry Evergreen Forests retain their leaves during the dry season.. Flat lands, abundance of grasslands and minimal human intervention level have resulted an ideal habitat for elephants in Hurulu Forest. There is a considerable seasonal movement of elephants from Minneriya, Kaudulla and Flood Plain National Park due to the floods caused by the North-East monsoonal showers.

  • New resting place at “Dematawewa” and Bird watch hut.
  • Camping site with kitchen facilities
  • museum
  • Nature trail
  • Observation deck at ‘Balumgala’


Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya International Biosphere Reserve

Kanneliya forest which is a part of Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya (KDN) forest complex is located in the south-western part of Sri Lanka about 35km northeast of the city of Galle.  The total extent of the KDN is 10,867 hectares and the extent of Kanneliya forest is 6,100 hectares.The history of Kanneliya is a fascinating story of endurance of the nature. It is a forest which was able to resurrect as the most extensive surviving block of low land rainforest next to Snharaja, after heavy selective logging operations continued nearly for four decades.

The Forest department declared Kanneliya Forest as a Forest Reserve in 1934. Later in early 90’s it was designated as a conservation area. Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya forest complex was declared as an International Biosphere Reserve under the Man and Biosphere Program of UNESCO in the year 2004. Kanneliya Forest Reserve has been identified as a suitable area for in situ conservation of Crop Wild Relative species.


The Kanneliya forest reserve is accessible by Koralegama – Kanneliya road. It is  minor motorable road off Udugama- Hiniduma main road This road leads to the Kanneliya forest and ends just before the main entrance of the forest at Nannikitha Ela. A bridge has been constructed to cross the Nanikita Ela. An old logging road continues from that point.


The general landscape of KDN complex consists of ridges, valleys and low altitude isolated hills. The mean annual rainfall varies from 3500- 4500mm with an average annual rainfall of about 4445mm mainly during the southwest monsoonal period from mid May to the end of September. The mean monthly temperature is around 27◦ C, with a diurnal range of 4-5◦ C. Maximum temperature occurs from mid March to mid May.

Vegetation types:

The KDN complex is considered as one of the floristically richest areas in South Asia. It is categorized as a lowland wet evergreen forest. These forests show a luxuriant growth with the characteristic multistoried structure and diversity of species. The natural vegetation of KDN forests is dominated by Shorea- Dipterocarpus- Mesua association (Na-Dun association). Dipterocarpus (Hora family) dominates the forest structure composition of Kanneliya.As a result of past logging, much of this forest remains today as a secondary forest. However, the species richness and diversity of flowering plants are still relatively high in the forest.

Biodiversity - Flora:

There are 301 floral species in Kanneliya. These include trees, shrubs and herbs of which 52% has been identified as endemic to Sri Lanka, 15 species as being globally threatened and 26 species as being nationally threatened. The Kanneliya forest is notable for having the highest percentage of endemic woody species (60 per cent) of any single wet zone forest.

Biodiversity - Fauna:

The relatively undisturbed and complex environment of KDN forests provides a home to a richly diversified fauna with a high degree of endemism. A total of around 220 faunal species with 41 endemics have been recorded from the KDN forest complex and adjacent forests.

The KDN forest complex provides an ideal place to observe wet zone forest birds including majority of the endemic birds in the island within a range of diverse habitats such as heavily forested areas, riverine forests, disturbed areas, and peripheral village home gardens. The stratification of the forest vegetation has also created diverse habitats for birds and it has enabled the formation of mixed species foraging bird flocks. These flocks sometimes comprise of 30-35 species of birds are a spectacular sight which add colour to the forest environment.

The most recent studies show that around 120 bird species have been recorded from KDN forest complex. This includes 14 of the 23 endemic species in Sri Lanka. Birds of the KDN forest complex vary in size from the tiny Pale Billed Flowerpecker to the very large Black Eagle and range from those found in the under growth such as Dark- fronted Babbler to canopy dwellers such as Red Faced Malkoha.

Several species of toads, frogs, tree frogs are found in the KDN forest complex, including a number of rare endemic amphibians such as Nannophrys guentheri, Ramonella palmata and Icthyophis glutinosus.

A variety of butterflies can be seen in this forest due to the richness of the flora. These include two endemic species namely the Bird Wing and the Ceylon Rose.

A rich array of geckos, skinks and lizards and serpents are found in the area. The largest serpent in Sri Lanka, the Indian Python can also be found in KDN forests.

One third of the fresh water fish fauna in Sri Lanka is endemic and the tributaries of Gin ganga which originates from Kanneliya forest harbour most of these fish species. They distributed along the different parts of streams according to the state of water currents and the substrate condition. Majority of the land molluscs found in the KDN forest complex is endemic.

Several species of small mammals are also found in the area, and the Sambar being the largest herbivore. Leopard, the largest carnivore in Sri Lanka can also be observed. Giant squirrel and Purple faced monkey are some of the commonest mammals present in Kanneliya.

Hydrological Importance:

KDN forests are important hydrologically as they protect the headwaters of major rivers in southern Sri Lanka, Gin Ganga and Nilwala Ganga. Kanneliya forest is ranked among the most important natural forest in the southern Sri Lanka as it has a very high number of streams. These streamslets lead into 3 major streams which are river tributaries of the “Gin ganga’.  Two picturesque waterfalls originate from one of the tributaries, Anagi-mala-ella and. Naran-Gas-Ella.

Socio - economic importance:

There are 78 villages surrounding the KDN forests. Of these, 24 villages are immediately adjoining the forest complex. This includes 16 villages adjoining Kanneliya . The rural economy of villages around KDN complex is based primarily on tea and paddy small holdings. The homesteads are cultivated with crop mixtures. Some villagers are engaged in small scale cottage industries based on Kitul palm, rattan and bamboo Villagers depend on the forest for fuel wood , small wood and more specifically non wood forest products including medicinal herbs. There are three hermitage type temples within these forests and it is evident that the villages have had close religious associations with the forest complex.

Nature trails:

There are several nature trials within the forest designated to give first hand experiences to eco tourists who are eager to expedite this treasure trove of nature.

  • Anagimala Ella (Waterfall)
  • Wavul Lena (Bat Cave)
  • Narangas Ella (Waterfall)
  • Lihinigal Lena (Cave)
  • Kabbale Kanda Peak and Access


  • Trained guides.
  • Observation decks and rest areas at different locations in the forest
  • The Conservation Centre comprises an information center, a ticketing office, lecture hall, and outside seating area.
  • Informative materials are available for sale at Sales Centers.


Forest Department maintains lodging facilities within the reaches of the forest.

Apartments Location Nature of Residence Number of Guest
Thawalama Thawalama Cabin 1 12
Cabin 2 05
Cabin 3 12
Cabin 4 06

Reservation of lodging and camping facilities:

Reservations of all Forest Department bungalows/ campsites can only be made  through the Head Office situated at Sampathpaya, Rajamalwatta Road, Battaramulla. Requests should be made on working days of the week between 9.00 a. m. to 3.00 p.m . For confirmation the full amount should be paid.

Contact Numbers : 2866631 , 2866631 , 2875540
Ext : 250
Contact Point : Forest Inventory and Management Division
For Further Inquiries: Contact
  • Divisional Forest Officer, Divisional Forest Office, Galle, Tel ( 091) 2234306.


Udawattakele Forest Reserve

In 1371 AD King Wickremabahu of Gampola, the founder of the city of Kandy, built his palace on a site in Udawattekele, then a thick wilderness . Till 1815, Udawattekele was exclusively reserved for royalty. It was a forbidden forest to commoners. At times of peace Udawattakele was a pleasure garden to Kandyan kings and at times of war, they sought refugee under the thick foliage of the forest.

Udawattakele royal forest park lies north of Kandy Lake, within a less than kilometer away from the city center of Kandy, the ancient hill capital of Sri Lanka later designated as a World Heritage Site. Udawattkelle which spreads over an area of 104 hectares today has become unique due to its location, a lush rain forest in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a highly populated town.

Soon after the British conquest of the Kandyan kingdom a large part of this forest was cleared to erect military barracks and for the fear of hidden attacks from Kandyans. With the development of coffee plantation industry and transport facilities to hill country more and more areas of virgin jungle was cleared.

The Forest Department has put in a lot of effort in reviving the past glory of Udawattakelle . As a result of a long line of reforestation programs, Udawattakele has been able to retain most of its old world charm. The primeval luxuriance can still be seen in several areas of the forest. Udawattakele is the first forest to be proclaimed as a forest reserve by the British. In 1897.  Udawattakele was declared as a Forest Reserve by the Government. It has been reported that this forest was made a reserve for its importance to the scenery of Kandy. In 1938 it was declared as a wildlife sanctuary. Today Udawattakle forest reserve and wildlife sanctuary welcomes all, irrespective of their stations in life, equally and impartially.


Climatic conditions are similar to that of Kandy. South west monsoon effects from mid-May to July /August while the north east monsoon effects from October/November.  Annual rainfall is 1615 mm and temperature remains at about 24C throughout the year.

Hydrological Importance:

Udawattakele forest is an important catchment area for the waterways of the thickly populated Kandy town. It nourishes the head waters of the spectacular Kandy Lake. The ecological and social value of the forest is also significant to Kandy since it acts as a pollution controller, and contributes for a pleasant cool microenvironment around Kandy.

Biodiversity - Flora:

Its vegetation comprise of fairly dense forest, mostly plantation and secondary formation. Some of the areas are very dense and create an impregnable tangle by creeping bamboo. There are about 460 plant species including 135 tree species and 11 liana species, of which 9 species are endemic to Sri Lanka. When considering floristic composition of Udawattakele it is dominated by Swietenia macrophylla (mahogany), Michelia champaca (gini-sapu), Mesua ferrea (na) and Myroxylon balsamum (katta kumanchal). Myroxylon balsamum is an introduced exotic tree species which has later become invasive and is threatening the biodiversity in this forest. Udawattakele is a natural habitat to very rare endemic orchid called’ Wesak orchid’. Pus wel is one of the unique features of Udavattakele. This  massive climber is endemic to Sri Lanka.  It is reported to have over five feet long pods and natives carried the emptied pods as storage boxes. There is a Giant Puswela (Entada pusaetha) estimated to be around two hundred to three hundred years old near 'Kodimale' . The Kodimale Peak  which is about 1800 feet above sea level, is the highest point in the reserve  It is believed to be the place where the ancient Kings used to hoist their flags on special occasions.

Biodiversity - Fauna:

Hump nosed lizard is a rare lizard found in this forest. Fishing cat wild boar, monkey, hare, squirrel scaly anteater, porcupine, can be seen here. Troops of toque macaque monkeys make home here. This is a subspecies specific to hill country and have heavier coats. The most remarkable feature of Udawattakele is its rich birdlife. The forest is alive with the chirping of black headed oreoles,  Asian koels, three toed kingfishers, Blue winged Leafbirds, Spotted and Emerald Doves, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Paradise flycatcher, Hawk eagle, crested serpent eagle Yellow-fronted, Crimson-fronted and Brown headed barbets and Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher. Udawattakele is said to be one of the most easily accessible bird sanctuaries in Sri Lanka.


Center pond:

There is a pond wrapped up in mystery in the heart of the jungle. This pond is enclosed by a variety of tall trees on its banks and giant bamboo groves nearby. Many believe there is a tunnel from the middle of the Kandy lake to this pond.

Forest paths:

There are number of paths in the forest. The oldest is lady Horton’s drive constructed in 1934 in remembrance of Lady Horton. Lovers walk under cooling shade of trees and shrubs is a narrow path encircles the center pond.

Senkada cave:

According to historical writings, there had been a hermit called ‘Senkanda’ who suggested that Udawattakele is a place of victory and thus  an ideal place for a kings residence There is a  cave behind the old palace premises named after him.

Temples and Hermitages:

The forest was open to meditating Buddhist monks from the Kandyan kings’ time. Forest hermitage and Senanayaka Aramaya, Tapovana temple, Keerthi Sri Pothgul viharaya Siriwardanaramaya and the ancient Gangarama viharaya  are the five famous temples in Uadawattakele. There are few more temples including meditation centers nearby.

The Garrison Cemetery:

The British Garrison cemetery , in Udawattakele, is a reminder of the fate met by many of British colonial settlers in the island. One of the most famous tombs in it  belongis to Sir John D’Oyly.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 16:09