Located on a hillside behind the historic Dalada Maligawa or the “Temple of the Tooth Relic” is the lush forest of the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary or the Royal Forest Park of Kandy. This forest extends over a range of 257 acres and is considered to be a crucial bio reserve for the adjacent heavily populated city of Kandy.
Historically, it was once a royal forest reserve where admittance was restricted to only the Sinhalese king and his court. A pond located in the heart of the forest is where the queens use to bathe. During attacks on the Kandyan Kingdom, the kings used the forest as their defense against attacks and often escaped through the heavy foliage to a safer sanctuary. The remains of a fortress ruin can still be seen on the southeastern side of the forest. The Udawatta forest also holds religious significance as there are three Buddhist meditation temples and three rock shelter dwellings for Buddhist monk hermits.
The forest is home to an abundance of wildlife from wild boar, monkeys, hares, civets, porcupines to reptiles, and varieties of birds. Dense foliage restricts sunlight and creates a gloomy and mysterious atmosphere amid the tall canopies. There are several walking and hiking trails that take you safely through the forest, however, during rainy weather, watch out for leeches that cover the paths.
For nature lovers, the best way to enjoy the forest is to spend a full day walking through the thick jungle greenery and leisurely explore all the hidden ruins and see the Buddhist temples. There are several comfortable Holiday Bungalows in Kandy, like the Mountbatten Bungalow, for solo travellers or families to stay at.
The forests holds a special treat for bird watchers as around 80 bird species have been recorded in the sanctuary. Layard’s parakeet, yellow-fronted barbet, and even the rare three-toed kingfisher Ceyx erythacus has been observed here. The Udawatta Kele Sanctuary is a great escape from the chaos of the city and whisks you away into a world of kings, mystics and adventure.
Catalina Forbes is a travel writer who bases her content on many thrilling escapades experienced across the world.