Kitulgala is a small town located in the west of Sri Lanka 95km away from Colombo. It is a Rain Forest patch which has gained many residents and tourist attraction for its natural beauty. It is in the wet zone rainforest, which gets two monsoons each year, and is one of the wettest places in the country. The beauty of Kitulgala is surrounded by forested hills making way to the swift waters of the River “Kelani Ganga”. Surrounded by low wooded hills, Kitulgala is a village of lush vegetation.
January to March is the dry period that increases the number of tourist attractions of Kitulgala and makes Kitulgala one of Sri Lanka’s foremost place for those who love White Water Rafting. Kitulgala is also a base for white-water rafting, which starts a few kilometers upstream and also popular as a location for adventure-based training programs. And also Kitulgala affords the opportunity to engage in nature adventure, jungle trekking, outdoor camping, mountain biking, and Bird Watching. The other main value of Kitulgala to make it famous is that David Lean filmed his 1957 Oscar-winning epic “Bridge on the River Kwai” here on the banks of the Kelaniya Ganga. Though there’s little physical evidence left to see, the picturesque location of the movie by the river is accessible to all visitors.
The beauty of KItulgala gets more attractive with the spectacular Kelani River that flows near to it. It is wide at Kitulgala, but it is shallow apart from a deep channel near the opposite bank, so in the drier months it provides a safe and attractive place to swim, wash and play. The river can be crossed by walking out across the shallows and crossing the deep channel in a dugout canoe, which is stabilized with an outrigger. Many birders stay at Kitulgala. Just across the Kelani River is a primeval forest with lush tropical flora, while it is home to about 54 rare species of birds. This area has most of the rainforest bird species that are found at the World Biosphere Reserve at Sinharaja, although in lower numbers.
The agriculture of Kitulgala is typical of the hilly wet zone. The solitary fishtail palm, Caryota urens, which is called kitul in Sri Lanka, gives rise to the town’s name which is found in abundance in this village. Its sap is concentrated into a delicious syrup, not dissimilar to maple syrup, and crystallized as jaggery. It is also fermented to make palm wine. The pith is used to make sago, and the fibers to make rope. And Kitul palm syrup is a necessary ingredient in the preparation of various traditional Sinhalese sweets. Numerous varieties of Bananas together with other fruits and vegetable are grown in the village of Kitulgala. The restaurants and Hotels at Kitulgala are famous for traditional Sinhalese rice and curry supplemented by the dessert of curd sweetened with Kitul palm, honey.
White Water Rafting in KItulgala
This is the most interesting activity that you can engage in here which mainly contributes to the increasing number of people attraction of Kitulgala. The stretch of the Kelani River, 5km upstream from the village of Kitulgala provides seven grade two and three rapids suitable for white water rafting. The upper section is suited for the experienced whitewater rafting adventurers while the lower section is suited for the beginners of white water rafting. In between the rapids are a few calm stretches of 6.5 km. The Kitulgala run takes about 90 minutes to complete. Each rapid brings off its own distinctive character. Their colorful names which include Head Chopper, Virgin’s Breast, Butter Crunch, Killer Fall, and the Rib Cage could perhaps carry indications as what you can expect.
Other than white water rafting what other activities you can do at Kitulgala:
- Jungle walks to see beautiful rivers and waterfalls
- Mountain biking on the roads or in the forest
- River bathing in the shallow branches of the main river in Kitulgala
- Visit prehistoric Belilena caves in which the 12,000 years old skeletal remains of the prehistoric ‘Balangodaman’ (Homesepiens Balangodensis) have been found
- Waterfall Jumps and Waterfall Abseiling
- Bird Watching/li>
- River expeditions
Sri Lankan Rice and curry for lunch and Curd with honey must is highly recommended to experience the local food flavors while your expeditions in Kitulgala. While one night or two nights stay is recommended Kitulgala can be enjoyed in one day also. But staying a night will be a nice experience. A night out in an eco-lodge near the river bank in Kitulgala is amazing to experience amidst a roaring.