Horton Plains National Park Nuwara Eliya
There are 24 species of mammals, 87 species of birds, nine species of reptiles and eight species of amphibians that inhabit the Horton Plains National Park. The most commonly seen mammal on a walking safari is the Sambar Deer of which there is an estimated population of 1000 to 2000. Other mammal species found in the park include Toque Macaques, Purple-faced Langurs, Rusty-spotted Cats, Sri Lankan Leopards, Wild Boars, Stripe-necked Mongooses, Sri Lankan Spotted Chevrotains, Indian Muntjacs, and Grizzled Giant Squirrels. The Horton Plains Slender Loris which is a subspecies of the Red Slender Loris is found only in the highlands of Sri Lanka and is considered one of the world's most endangered primates and a rarely seen inhabitant of the Park.
Birdlife in the Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains is one of the Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka and of the 21 endemic species all the highland ones occur here. These include the Dull-blue Fly Catcher, Sri Lanka White-eye, Sri Lanka Yellow-eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Spot-Winged Thrush, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Scaly Thrush and the Brown-capped Babbler. The Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl and the Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush reside here too. Migrants to be found here include the Pied Thrush, Hill Munia, Hill Swallow, Pied Bushcat, Black Eagle, Jerdon’s Baza, Kashmir Flycatcher, Indian Pitta, Black Bird and the Mountain Hawk Eagle.
Reptiles and amphibians in Horton Plains
About nine amphibian species inhabit the Park and among them are Microhyla zeylanica, Ramanella palmata, Fejervarya greenii, Rana gracilis, Philautus alto, Philautus femoralis, Philautus frankenbergi, Philautus microtympanum, Philautus schmarda, and Polypedates eques. The reptiles to be found are Calotes nigrilabris, Rhino Horn Lizard, Cophotis ceylanica, Lankascincus taprobanensis, Common rough-sided snake and the Rat snake.
Flora in the Horton Plains National Park
The vegetation in the Park is classified into two distinctive groups - wet patana (Sinhalese for montane grasslands) and subtropical montane evergreen forests. Nearly 750 species of plants belonging to 20 families have been recorded in the Park. Nearly 54 woody plant species have been recorded as well of which 27 are endemic to Sri Lanka. Tree trunks and branches are adorned with many species of ferns and orchids of which about 16 of the orchid species are endemic to the island. Twisted trees are a common sight due to the prevalence of high speed winds. The forest canopy is dominated by the endemic Keena (Calophyllum walker) and is about 20m in height. The endemic Binara and Nelu have beautiful flowers. Tuttiri is the main grass. Rhododendron arboretum is now common and its flowers bloom every 14 years after which the plant dies.
Horton Plains History and Geography
Located on the southern plateau of the central highlands of Sri Lanka, Horton Plains is at an elevation of 2,300 meters above sea level. The mean annual rainfall is greater than 2,000 mm and the mean annual temperature is 13°C. Although some rain falls throughout the year, a dry season occurs from January to March. The headwaters of important rivers such as the Mahaweli, Kelani and Walawe are in Horton Plains. Slow moving streams, swamps and waterfalls are the important wetland habitats found here.
The original name of this National Park was Maha Eliya Thanna but in the British period the Park was renamed after Sir Robert Wilmot Horton, the British Governor of Ceylon from 1831 to 1837. Stone tools dating back to the prehistoric Balangoda period (34,000 BP) have been found here.
Horton Plains was designated a wildlife sanctuary on 5 December 1969 and was elevated to a National Park on 18 March 1988 because of its evident biodiversity. Horton Plains is 3,160 hectares in size and contains the most extensive area of cloud forest still existing in Sri Lanka.
Climate in the Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains is located on the southern plateau of the central highlands of Sri Lanka. The Park's elevation ranges from 2,100 to 2,300 metres. The mean annual rainfall is greater than 2,000 mm. The mean annual temperature is 13°C but the temperature varies considerably reaching as high as 27°C during the day time, and dipping as low as 5°C at night. Although some rain falls throughout the year, a dry season occurs from January to March. Ground frost is common in February and mist can persist during most of the day in the wet season.
Getting the most out of your Horton Plains National Park Safari
The closest city to this National Park is Nuwara Eliya and it takes approximately one and a half hours to get there. You can request that we pick you up from Nuwara Eliya if necessary. You will need a proper vehicle as low ground-clearing vehicles will not allow you to navigate the many hairpin bends that lead the way to Horton Plains. The best time to start a nature trail here is at 6.30 a.m. since locations such as World’s End will be covered in mist by late morning or noon and you will also need to avoid the rains. The easiest way to avoid these issues is to opt for a Mahoora luxury tented safari camp inside the Park. You will also need a pair of binoculars, while a naturalist guide comes in handy too. Make sure you have packed with rain and windy weather in mind.
The best time to visit Horton Plains
The Park can be visited from December to February since the rains do not occur that often. However the best time to visit in terms of weather is from March to May when it is also not too cold. You can definitely visit during other months as well but avoid September to November when there are moderate to heavy rains.
How to get to Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains is accessed by road through Nuwara Eliya, Ambewela, Pattipola (20miles/ 32km); Haputale or Welimada, Boralanda, Ohiya (24miles/ 38km); Nuwara Eliya, Hakgala, Rendapola, Ambewela, Pattipola (24miles/ 38km). The more adventurous can trek into the park along the Thalawakele-Agarapatana-Diyagama and the Belihul Oya-Nagarak trails. Alternately you can take an air taxi from Colombo (Peliyagoda) and land in Nuwara Eliya and go by road from there to Horton Plains. For more information on air travel please visit www.flysrilanka.lk