Sinharaja Rain Forest

Sinharaja Rain Forest

This virgin rainforest has become one of Sri Lanka's major eco-tourism destinations. Described as both a Tropical Lowland Rainforest and a Tropical Wet Evergreen Forest, the Sinharaja forest is a vast repository of wildlife that is endemic to Sri Lanka. Preliminary studies on the fauna of Sinharaja have revealed that there is a high degree of endemism among the butterflies, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Of the endemic birds, the rarest to be seen here are the Red Faced Malkoha, Green Billed Coucal and the Sri Lankan Blue Magpie. Endemism among mammals and butterflies is also greater than 50 percent.

the endemic blue magpie bird at sinharaja rain forest in sri lanka

Endemic Birds at Sinharaja Rainforest Sri Lanka

It’s known that 95 percent of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds are present in Sinharaja, making it a birding expedition unlike any other. Another interesting sight to be found in Sinharaja is the presence of mixed species of foraging bird flocks, a phenomenon commonly found in rainforests. A hundred such flocks have been systematically observed, and studies have revealed that some flocks contained 48 species, including 12 endemic to the island. The rare endemic birds to be seen in the Sinharaja Rain Forest are the Red-faced Malkoha, the Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, the Ashy-headed Babbler and the White-headed Starling. The Green–billed Coucal has been given the title of being the Rarest of Sri Lankan birds.

Mammals at the Sinharaja Rainforest Sri Lanka

Although elephants were said to be common in the past, there have been fewer reported sightings in the Sinharaja forest reserve during the past 15 years. There is a small herd of Sri Lankan elephants that reside in Sinharaja, but sightings have become rare. Other animals that have been spotted are the Sambar Deer, the Mouse Deer, and Barking Deer.

Though seldom sighted, it is estimated that 15 Sri Lankan Leopards live within the confines of this nature reserve while the Brown Mongoose and the Golden Palm Civet have been occasionally spotted. The most commonly seen primate however is the Purple Faced Leaf Monkey.

reptitles at sinharaja rain forest in sri lanka
Reptiles & Amphibians at Sinharaja Nature Reserve

The most common reptile is the Green Garden Lizard. The Calotes liolepis, an arboreal species, is the rarest of all agamids found on the island to reside within the Reserve. The only Tortoise recorded on the Reserve is the Hard-shelled Terrapin. Among the snakes, the Green Pit Viper and Hump-nosed Viper are commonly found in this forest and are endemic to Sri Lanka, along with 8 others; which include the endemic Torrent Toad and the common House Toad. The Wrinkled Frog and the Sri Lankan Reed Frog, too, are found in most streams and marshes within the Reserve.

Flora at Sinharaja Rainforest Sri Lanka

The vegetation in Sinharaja emulates both Tropical Lowland Rainforest and Tropical Wet Evergreen Forest. Some striking characteristics of the forest are the loftiness of the dominant trees, the straightness of their trunks, the abundance of regeneration and the diversity of species. The average height of the trees vary between 35 to 40 metres. Some trees rise even up to a staggering 50 metres.

Discover a humid, Wet Evergreen Forest with a high degree of endemism. The untapped genetic potential of Sinharaja flora is enormous; out of the 211 woody trees and lianas so far identified within the reserve, 139 (66 percent) are endemic to Sri Lanka. Similarly, high levels of endemism are perhaps true for the lower plants like ferns, and out of the 25 which are endemic to Sri Lanka, 13 are represented in the Sinharaja Rainforest. The total vegetation density, including trees, shrubs, herbs and seedlings has been estimated to be around 240,000 plants per hectare of which 95 percent comprise those of the ground layer, below 1m in height.

Getting the most out of your Sinharaja Rainforest Bird and Nature Tour

Since there are no vehicles allowed inside this nature reserve, tours take place in the form of walking trails, where you start off early in the morning and return either by lunch and set off again in the evening, or spend the whole day in the forest. So, naturally, having a top notch naturalist guide is a must. Bird enthusiasts may want to keep a record of daily sightings, and the guides at Mahoora are expert birders willing to provide you with back up and binoculars.

a monkey at sinharaja rain forest in sri lanka
History and Geography

A virgin, age-old rainforest like Sinharaja does not come without its fair share of vibrant history. The name itself translates into the ‘Kingdom of the Lion’ and according to legend, Sri Lankans are said to be descendants of the coupling of a princess and the lion king who lived in this forest. Being one of the last remaining and least disturbed biodiversity hotspots in Sri Lanka, the Sinharaja Rainforest was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and then a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is Sri Lanka's first nature reserve to earn this esteemed distinction.

This unique forest covers an area of approximately 11,200 hectares, measuring 21 kilometres from east to west, and just less than 4 kilometres from north to south. The Sinharaja Rainforest is situated in the southwest lowland wet zone of Sri Lanka and extends into the administrative districts of Ratnapura, Galle and Matara. The forest consists of a series of continuous ridges, aligned approximately in an east-west direction and lies between the tributaries of the Kalu Ganga (river) to the north and the Gin Ganga to the south.

Getting the most out of your Sinharaja Rainforest Bird and Nature Tour

The elevation of the Sinharaja Reserve ranges from 200 to 1,300 metres. It has a rolling terrain and the Hinipitigala Peak is the tallest, rising up to approximately 1,150 metres. Other important mountains in the reserve range between 550 to 900 metres in height, namely Moulawella (760 m), Kosgulana (797 m), Sinharaja (742 m), Kohilearambe (575 m), Dotalugala (769 m) and Tibbottagala (904 m).

Climate at Sinharaja Rainforest

The Sinharaja Rainforest lies within a rainfall range of 3,000 to 6,000 millimetres annually. The average temperature ranges between 20°C to 25°C.

The best time to visit Sinharaja

It rains in Sinharaja pretty much throughout the year, though the chances of rain are less during the months of December to April and July to August.

How to get to Sinharaja Forest Sri Lanka

Travelling by road from Colombo, the Sinharaja Rainforest can be reached via Ratnapura, Kiriella, Kalawana and Weddala. If you are planning to fly in by Helicopter, you can take off from the Bandaranaike Airport or from Ratmalana and land at Sinharaja, then reach the Rainforest by road. The Air Taxi service is not available for this location. For more information on air travel please visit

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