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"Lahugala"

Lahugala sri lankaTen miles inland off the East Coast town of Pottuvil in an area that belonged to the ancient kingdom of Ruhuna are three a tanks, the Mahawewa, Kitulana and Sengamuwa. The most famous of the trio however is the Mahawewa, which is more famously known as Lahugala. This is in fact the name of the little village about a mile from the tanks. Lahugala a tanks is about 600 acres in extent, and had a storage capacity of 2760-acre feet and a 3700-ft. long bund. The history of Lahugala is lost in the mists of time, but it is almost certain that it dates back to the hay day of that historic realm. Brohier in his classic works statesa a | evidently served large and populous regions in ancient times"Lahugala and "a | was filled by channel that took off from an anicut thrown across the Heda Oya. Traces of this ancient channel, which was about 6 miles in length, are in evidence to this daya. The terrain around Lahugala is typically "dry zone", with secondary brush and forest. Between main road and Heda Oya however it is deeply forested, with giant trees, magnificent buttress roots and closely entwined undergrowth. The special vegetative feature in the Lahugala area is the beru (Oplismenus compostus). This tall succulent grass completely covers the three tanks and is a favorite among the elephants. While growing freely in this area, it is hardly encountered in large expanses in other parts of the island.

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Watching Game/Lodge The trunk road A4 runs through the National Park from the 190-mile post on the Moneragala side to about the 195 on the Pottuvil side. At the 191 mile post is the now famous an elephant observation point, from where one gets a clear view of almost the entire Lahugala a tanks. The casual visitor could park his vehicle and stay here, even the whole day if he should so desire. However, tempting though it is do not walk along the bund, it is not permitted and it could also be very dangerous. A glimpse of Kitulana too could be had from the road, at a point just before reaching the Lahugala village from the west. Here, however one could alight from his vehicle and if one cares to, a short walk will take him to the bund. About A3/4 of a mile from A4 and beautifully situated by the Lahugala a tank is a spacious lodge, and the best way one could observe elephants would be to spend a few days here. Even during the worst times of the year, at the height of the drought, when the tanks are almost dry, one is sure of seeing at least a couple of these great beasts feeding among the beau. The scenery around the lodge too is very pretty. The jade green of the beru stretches before you, waving in the mild breeze while far way almost directly before you and a little to the left, the towering megalith of Govinda Hela (Westminster Abbey)stands like a mute sentinel, watching over the elephant corridor that passes just below it, on its northward way to Gal Oya. Away to your left the mighty range of Badulla dominates the skyline. While one is staying at the lodge, a visit to the Kitulana tank could be fruitful, so suggest it to your guide. Though Lahugala is famous for elephants, the area around is not devoid of other game. Very often, especially in the early Mornings and in the evenings one could see herds of spotted deer and groups of wild boar in the tank. Leopards have been spotted several times, and happily these sightings have been more frequent in recent times. Bear however is rare, though however they have been encountered by the wild life staff on a few occasions.

Bird life is in plenty. In the tank one would see commonly the purple coots, jacanas, bitterns and purple herons among a host of others. Among the beautiful arboreal types are the orioles, the radiant paradise flycatchers and the minivets. The brilliant and uncommon red faced malkoha has been sighted on many occasions in the deeply forested area near the Heda Oya. The specialty dished out however are the birds of prey. Among the numerous types one would see are the Brahaminy kites, the small but powerful shikras, the tank eagles and the magnificent white bellied sea eagles the islands largest bird of prey.

The area surrounding Lahugala is steeped in history. Take a few hours off from wild life and visit a Muhudu maha viharaa Translated loosely to mean the great shrine by the sea. It is on the beach off Pottuvil and place worth seeing. Then a closer to home in fact just 2 miles away from the lodge is the a Magul Maha vihara. The ruins here remind one of the Anuradhapura periods, the main attraction being a beautiful preserved moonstone. Though not archaeologically Established, here is another place that stakes a claim as the venue of the wedding of the patents of one of Sri Lanka's Greatest monarchs, Duttugemunu (165 BC). In this place one could also view a natural freak. Two major trees, the Banyan (Ficus bengalensis) and the ironwood (Mesua ferrea) growing on another major tree the sacred Bo (Ficus religiosa).

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