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Author Topic: Gilimale  (Read 137 times)
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« on: February 28, 2013, 04:34:58 am »

Encompassing one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the Island, residing adjacent to the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary at the foot of the Sri Pada massif, the Gilimale Nature Reserve is located in the Ratnapura district of the Sabaragamuwa Province. The amazing wildlife diversity in such a small area makes a simple hide for a wide array of creatures that crawl, fly, creep, climb, and swing through the jungle. This is a perfect place not far from the main city, just a three to four hours drive to catch the sheer pleasure of catching the wildlife in action.

Many centuries back, Gilimale was 
a village in the trail that led to the 
Sri Pada Peak. The first historical mention about “Gilimale” dates back to the reign of King Sri Sanghabodhi Vijayabahu (1065-1119 AD), who had dedicated this village to thousands of pilgrims – who came to worship the sacred footprint of Lord Buddha on the Sri Pada peak – 
as a resting place before the difficult journey uphill. Stone inscriptions found from Gilimale and Ambagamuwa confirms this chronicle. Buddhist pilgrims who climb Sri Pada Peak, for thousands of years have considered “God Sumana Saman” as the protector of the “Sri Pada adaviya” or the area of the Sacred Foot Print. One of the oldest statues of the God and the stone inscriptions can still be found in the Rankoth Rajamaha Viharaya of Gilimale.

sun’s rays seep its way through the canopy to the forest floor, your ears are filled with the loud melodious tunes of birds... one cannot resist to stare in amazement at what’s in store in this jungle

It is a low-land tropical rain forest surrounded by hills and valleys, 
lush vegetation, and also accommodates one of the main rivers – the Kalu river. The forest is the main catchment area to the Induru river, one of the main branches of the Kalu river. The pristine waters comes all the way from the springs of the Sri Pada massif, and if you are a waterfall lover this is the ideal place to watch, or just take a dip in the cold waters that gush their way past the jungle and cascades into several locations. The famous “Mapalana Falls”, the fourth highest in the Island reaching 141 metres high and the “Dumpus Falls”, are undoubtedly the most mesmerising and lively waterfalls that are found at Gilimale. The trails are harsh and wind through the wilderness, and upon seeing these waterfalls you’re finally rewarded with simple ecstasy. For a photographer, the panoramic views seen from here are simply breathtaking.

Walking through the path inside the forest and opening your eyes to a misty morning, where the sun’s rays seep its way through the canopy to the forest floor, your ears are filled with loud melodious tunes of birds that fly in flocks just above you, and the endless hoots and chatters one cannot resist to stare in amazement at what’s in store in this jungle. For bird enthusiasts, Gilimale is an ideal location to see most of the endemics found in the tropical forests in Sri Lanka such as the Ceylon Blue Magpie, Crested Drongo, Rufus Babbler, Jungle Fowl, and the Spur Owl without much hassle. It’s true that every part of a tree, even a fallen leaf on the moist ground, provides a place for millions of creatures. From leaf insects perfectly camouflaged to look like a dry leaf, to owls like the Frogmouth and the amazing mechanisms of poisonous creatures – scorpions to snakes – each one of them goes through a struggle to survive a never ending battle in the jungle.

The beauty, majesty and the timelessness of the Gilimale rainforest 
is indescribable. Giant trees with sprawling roots soaring to the canopy, their branches draped with orchids such as the endemic “Wesak orchid”, and blooms of the rare “Binara”, lilac petals with bright yellow centres are a common sight if one visits in the correct season. The jungle springs out with life with the roars of the Purple faced leaf monkeys chasing each other, swinging from one branch to another, and the squeals of the giant squirrels. But Gilimale is home to a special kind, a species endemic and very rare scientifically called Aneuretus simoni (Sri Lankan relic ant).

At night it’s a different world in there. Learning the secrets of the nights in the jungle is an art that has to be mastered. The flashes of light reflects the stares of tree climbing primates like the Red Slender Loris or of a Golden Palm Civer with its glowing red and golden eyes; both animals are endemic to the island. Just after rains at night the forests will be filled with the endless chirping of the crickets, croaks of the amphibians, and the high pitched vocalisations of owls. One would be fascinated by the unusual similarity of a high pitched vocalisation of a rather opposing duo; one an owl and the other a frog both having similar sounds, they are the Serendib Scops Owls , and the Ramanella’s Nagao. 
It was in the rainy season, one night some years back when we first encountered the Ranwella’s horned 
tree frog from its unusual croaks. 
Later described, the species has never been sighted anywhere else in the Island. Mere chance and luck on another occasion, on a moonless night, and we witnessed a very rare event of a duo embraced in love, sighted for the first and the only time.

The locals of Gilimale lead a simple life. Although there simple homes have now become modernised with time, most houses have crops that are commercially viable or forest garden products like banana, pepper, malabar tamarind or goraka in Sinhala, coffee, wild nut megs, and fishtail palms sustain their livelihood. The hospitality of the villagers and the quiet surroundings all blend so well with the wilderness that one would feel there is no place so close to paradise than Gilimale!

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