Walawe Jungle River Safari, Ambalantota

Take a twilight cruise on the mangrove-filled Walawe River and you're sure to see langur monkeys, peacocks, blue-and-green parakeets, long-necked Indian darters and white-bellied sea eagles. We helped a group of local environmentalists start this boat tour to bolster ecotourism.

The Walawa Nadee Eco Tours Organization provides boat rides for those of you interested in spotting some wildlife in an area known for its rich bio diversity. The Walawa River Boat Rides popular among locals and tourists will take you through a rich biodiversity area complete with six varieties of mangroves, 52 fish species, 72 bird species, 38 plant varieties and 28 animal species.

The best time to begin is late afternoon. As you travel down the river, listen as peacock call from their roost. White bellied sea eagles soar overhead, cormorants spread their wings to dry, and curious langur monkeys watch from through the trees. The lucky naturalist might even spot a crocodile before it sinks beneath the surface.

Take a Jungle River Safari at Ambalantota at twilight, and watch as playful monkeys follow the boat down the winding river. Peacock settle in the trees for the night, birds of prey circle overhead, and giant bats take flight, as the mystery of the jungle surrounds you.

Mind you Yala  and Bundala  are not the only options available for vacation spots in the Hambantota  District. Although the river safari in the Walawe is not very famous it's highly recommended. To the untrained eye it may not seem like a haven for wildlife, for the wildlife here in the Walawe river are highly elusive.. From crocodiless to bats, peacocks, Weavers and Brahmin Kites, the birds are swift and the crocs even swifter.

It was dusk and the river was deserted so to speak except for our little humble boat.

Travelling with a bunch of journalists who were more than a little queasy about taking a boat ride, it was a blessing that there were plenty of life jackets and the guides who accompanied us from Pattiya waraya to the Godawaya river mouth were quite experienced. "This area of Walawe River is important not just for the wildlife it houses, but for its significance as a Mangrove system that helps to preserve ecological balance." The details R. D. Nandasena came up with took me off guard because I took him for a plain old guide. But it turned out that he was the Secretary of the Walawe Nadee Eco-tourism Organisation.

Important mangrove habitat
As he explained there are approximately 65 mangrove plant species in the world. Out of the 23 mangrove species in Sri Lanka Walawe river is home to six species. Consequently Nandasena explained that the Walawe River is an important mangrove system. Prasanna Gunawardena, Manager Tourism Promotion Project of Chamber of Commerce Hambantota explained that their objective is to promote attractive but less famous potential vacation spots to tourists as well as the public and Walawe River is one of their candidates.

Dowry of a nest
The Walawe river is beautiful and tranquil during dusk. But if your objective is bird watching better get up bright and early. Among its tenants the Weaver bird is an interesting character. The male Weaver supposedly weaves its nest out of grass during the mating season and the females - apparently very picky - inspects the nests before construction is completed. The males only chance of getting his girl depends on his competency at weaving. If the nest suits her fancy they complete the nest and settles in. Unfortunately we could only observe a few nests abandoned half way dangling from branches of trees. It's been reported that people pluck finished nests off trees for their ornamental value.

There are trees that line the river that bats and cranes take shifts in inhabiting! Bats dangle from edges of branches like huge black buckets and cranes move in when the bats move out in search of food by dusk, dotting the tree with milky white spots. The Walawe River comes highly recommended for migrant bird watching. It is home to a number of eagle species. Added to it the occasional forlorn call of a peacock it's a haven for any one who prefers a peaceful vacation away from all worldly worries.

A sudden flurry in the water brought me rudely back from my reverie. And to our amazement and shrieks and wows we were told that it is a crocodile. I was suddenly reminded of Placid Lake and the like and eagerly awaited some adventure - a giant crocodile to leap over our boat! But I could only barely make out its snout and then with a sudden ripple it disappeared. Well so much for adventure but take it from a person with the travel bug you won't be disappointed by the Walawe Nadee River Safari.