AT ITS WILDEST
Lankika de Livera experiences the unspoilt beauty of
Kumana is the ultimate dream destination in this country for any
wild life enthusiast. An unspoilt park, almost completely cut off
from civilization, one needs a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach
it as the approach is difficult and the road is in a bad condition.
was closed for 18 years due to terrorist activity and was opened
to the public only two years ago. Located approximately 391 km from
Colombo, it is also known as the Yala East National Park and is
18,149 hectares in extent. Situated in the Ampara district with
its northern fringes belonging to Moneragala district, Kumana has
some of the best camping sites in the country.
via Wellawaya, Moneragala, Pottuvil, Panama, Okanda and Kumana with
our World Travel Centre Colombo Group, we spent the night at Arugam
Bay and set off the next morning after breakfast in a four wheel
drive jeep to Kumana. Pot holes like huge craters dotted the road
and the tsunami damage too was evident. The road is narrow from
Arugam Bay and our jeep raised an incredible amount of dust, coating
our eyelashes, clothes and heads too. Travelling in an open jeep,
one has to go through this experience and it is essentially an integral
part of being one with the jungle; the smells, sounds and feel which
one would lose out on if one were to travel in enclosed air-conditioned
Kumana Park has a small office and inadequate facilities for the
staff so much so that Park Warden D.P Seyasingha has no option but
to sleep in the office. Staff is very scarce and safeguarding and
protecting the animals from poachers is near impossible without
adequate resources. However, the park is rich in avifauna for which
it is famous as much as the diversity of the other wild life such
as leopard, elephants, deer, hare, packs of jackal and huge lazing
estuarine and marsh crocodiles.
every villu we passed there were massive estuarine crocodiles some
as big as five metres long lying beside the water in pairs, with
their mouths open wide, jagged teeth showing in the heat of the
day. Apparently, they cool their systems in this manner by passing
out their body heat through their mouths.
The park is divided into two blocks and forms a most fascinating
region of scenic beauty, consisting of lagoons, many natural and
restored water holes, tanks, natural rock pools, rocky outcrops,
ridges, open parkland, scrub jungle and forests.
Kumbukkan Oya flows 28 km. along the southern boundary to form the
Kumana estuary and villu before it flows to the sea. The confluence
of the Alakola ara and other streams flow to Kumbukkan Oya and smaller
streams such as the Girikula and Bagura ara flow to their respective
Fauna International Trust’s book “Yala National Park”
records that the forest area in Kumana conceals an ancient civilization
dating from about 3rd century B.C. to about the 10th century A.D.
Approximately 24 km. of the eastern boundary is sea coast where
three species of sea turtles come to nest undisturbed by human activities,
but the eggs are preyed upon by natural enemies – wild boar,
crab and jackal.
with the sea coast are the serene, undulating sand dunes with the
vegetation peculiar to such an environment and five lagoon sand
spits across the Girikula, Andarakala, Bagura, Itikala and Yakala.
These lagoons have a variety of aquatic fauna and flora.
per se is generally popular for its avifauna. To see the migratory
birds coming from overseas, the best season is January and February.
The main attraction in viewing the local birds, is to witness the
nesting season, at Kumana Villu teaming with nesting birds and their
fledglings. There are two nesting seasons, December – April
and June –September. One can see the nests and the eggs from
a safe distance, without disturbing them.
was nesting season at the 285.2 hectare Kumana mangrove swamp (which
is supposedly world famous) and there was an incessant orchestra
in full swing. Squawks, squeaks, chattering, high pitched calls
in different tones and tunes assailed our ears.
the marshy swamp where Kirala and Hambu trees grow, birds like Pelicans,
Painted Storks, white Ibis, Spoonbill, Eastern Grey heron, Purple
Heron and all species of Egrets nest , lay eggs and look after the
fledglings. Occasionally raptors and other birds of prey would swoop
down on the unsuspecting chicks and carry them away for food.
beautiful sight to behold is the floating nests of the Pheasant
tailed Jacanas and Black winged stilts. We saw eggs placed neatly
on the middle of floating lotus leaves. The Jacana’s eggs
were golden yellow and speckled.
earlier years, there were many more trees in the swamp and the bird
numbers were far greater. However, when the park had been closed
for 18 years, people from the neighbouring areas of Panama and Pottuvil
had taken over the park, and burnt and destroyed many trees. To
the dismay of wild life enthusiasts, it was learnt that barbeques
had been arranged for foreign tourists coming from Arugam Bay. The
live fledglings were snatched from the nests and then thrown into
the barbeque spit.
we traversed the park we saw many elephants, some of them against
the backdrop of the beach and sea, making a beautiful sight for
But the grand finale to our Kumana trip was yet to come. It was
dusk as we travelled slowly back towards Panama, after passing the
famous Okanda Hindu Temple. The journey was long and we started
singing to ward off sleep. Suddenly we spotted a herd of elephants
by the roadside with a few babies. Almost stopping the vehicle,
we were observing the babies on the right hand side of the road
when one member of our group just casually glanced to the left and
saw a massive elephant charging full speed at us. At the rate she
was coming, if she hit us, our jeep would have gone hurtling.
driver panicked and accelerated, but the beast was getting closer
and closing in on us. We were frozen in shock. Suddenly, a huge
bus appeared opposite us on the lonely stretch of road and the driver
realizing what was happening started tooting his horn loudly. At
this point, the pachyderm stopped in her tracks. However our driver
who was still in a state of panic, drove frenziedly over the pot
holes and was still racing along the bad road until we told him
that he could relax. Having gone over the huge pot holes at great
speed we soon found that the seat had broken and that we were on
the floor of the jeep.
driver’s fears were quite justified when we heard that just
a month before a foreign tourist who got down from her jeep to photograph
elephants had been crushed to death by an elephant who had toppled
Completely wild, Kumana is a nature lover’s paradise.