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Month: September 2021

Mobile Camping within Kumana National Park

Mobile Camping within Kumana National Park

Imagine camping in the heart of one of Sri Lanka’s remotest places- Kumana National Park, and relaxing by the Kumbukkan River, swinging on a hammock under the shade of the giant Kumbuk trees, sipping your favourite drink as you watch a herd of elephants drink water on the other bank. This truly might feel like paradise, and yet this experience is very much real and a possibility. Thanks to professional outfitters like Xtreme Nature, mobile camping in the last wild frontier of Sri Lanka is the perfect way to get out of civilization and be engulfed with nature.

A father and son duo, Chris and Shirley Perera have been part of the Kumana landscape for most of their lives. Shirley was the former park warden of Kumana National Park, and hence Chris’s childhood was surrounded by the wilds of this remote wilderness.

With the best hospitality and the mobile nature of the camp, the service and overall experience of camping in Kumana are second to none. Nowhere will one feel as much as one with nature as here. A land filled with amazing animals from the enigmatic leopard, sloth bear and elephant as well as many more wonderful species waiting to be discovered.

The camp tents are comfortable and allow a good night’s rest as the jungle sounds lull you to sleep at night. The camp is complete with mobile toilets as well as showers with the mighty Kumbukkan River providing the natural swimming pool. Breakfast is sometimes served in the shallows of the river where you have a view which is priceless and tiny fish swimming past your feet.

The game drives are filled with amazement and wonder. From the amazing stories of the natural world, as Chris and Shirley take you to their “back yard” and also the mythical and historical legends this ancient land holds, from the mysterious ape-men known as the “Nittaewo” to the man-eating leopards of Lenama.

Head to many ancient caves and archaeological sites whereby your guides have special knowledge and access to these mysterious locations hidden deep in the jungle.

Enjoying a sundowner back at camp in front of a roaring campfire might remind you of the days of the colonial explorers of a bygone era as you listen to the many stories and legends this land has to offer.

Classic Sri Lanka in exclusive partnership with Xtreme Nature offers to bring Sri Lanka’s last frontier closer to you.

Kotti Rotti- Sri Lanka’s king of Streetfood

Kotti Rotti- Sri Lanka’s king of Streetfood

Kottu Roti is a Sri Lankan street food favoured by locals and visitors alike. Some love it late at night after a stint of partying, others love it for breakfast. The coolest thing about Kottu is the way it’s made. Believe it or not, Kottu-making has a rhythmic beat. It’s an iconic food loved by all in Sri Lanka.

The legend says that once upon a time there was a kottu seller on the east coast of Sri Lanka that was closing up his roti stand when a group of tourists arrived asking for some food. The roti seller only had scraps leftover from the day, bits of cooked roti, some vegetables and leftover chicken curry. Instead of telling the tourists that he was all out of food, he made a mashup of the leftovers. Tourists loved it and raved about it in their travels. Thus, Kottu Roti was born. No one knows if this is a true story but it’s fun to have myths and legends, even about food.

The main ingredient is roti, which is cut up into small bits. Apart from roti, other ingredients added are usually onions, leek, cabbage, eggs and sometimes chicken, mutton, beef and the more modern version, with cheese.

The preparation of Kottu Roti has a rhythmic tune that can be heard blocks away. First, the onions and vegetables are put on the griddle, then the eggs. Once the eggs are scrambled and cooked, the cut-up roti is added to the mix. This is when the music starts. The Kottu cook puts the two metal spatulas to work and starts mixing and cutting the stuff on the griddle with a rhythm. Every cook has his own personal rhythm.

Medirigiriya- An ancient wonder seldom visited

Medirigiriya- An ancient wonder seldom visited

One of the most impressive ancient sites in Sri Lanka is Medirigiriya, and yet this is seldom visited, which also makes it an amazing place to explore with fewer crowds and on certain days all to yourself. 

The Medirigiriya vatadage is one of the most beautiful and well preserved archaeological monuments in Sri Lanka. Situated 20 Kilometers from Polonnaruwa, this is an ancient shrine that is surrounded by lush paddy fields and a beautiful forest complex. The vatadage is a unique structure with three concentric circles of rock pillars that surround the central stupa which is inside. The graceful entrance consists of 27 pillars constructed from granite and has four limestone images of the Lord Buddha which are located at four cardinal directions within the structure. The vatadage is surrounded by other important ruins sprawled across beautifully maintained lawns with a wooded area in the perimeter.

Based on historical records the origin of the structure would date to the Pre-Christian Era. The ancient text Mahavansa seems to associate the structure with the reign of King Kannitissa.  During the reign of King Wijayabahu I, the Medirigiriya Vihara remained a major significant shrine to be restored and developed. The text relates that the Medirigiriya Shrine had been a significant seat of learning by the 10th Century AD.

Cinnamon a truly Sri Lankan Spice

Cinnamon a truly Sri Lankan Spice

The quest for spices was one of the earliest drivers of globalization. It is said that half of the world was discovered and settled because of the spice trade. Cinnamon trade can be traced back even before the Christian-Era.

Cinnamon originating from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) was recognized as superior quality. It is said that at one time, Ceylon cinnamon was valuable than gold and was used only by nobles. The temptation for Ceylon Cinnamon was unique, and it attracted Portuguese, Dutch and British sailors to the Island for many years throughout history.

 Today, Sri Lanka continues to lead the Ceylon Cinnamon Trade in the global market and we are committed to delivering the best natural Ceylon Cinnamon with a blend of our own inheritance, passion and care.

The history of cinnamon ages back to a hundred and thousand years. Cinnamon has been mentioned in ancient records from early as 2800 B.C. Cinnamon has been found referenced in Kwai in Chinese writings where it was used as a healing ingredient. Pliny, the author of “Natural History” in the first century has also mentioned cinnamon in his writing. Evidence from the Old Testament suggested that cinnamon has been used as an ingredient for anointing oil.

In the other parts of the world, Roman emperor Nero burned this precious spice at the funeral of his second wife. Ancient Egyptian used cinnamon to embalm mummy’s bodies because of its unique odour and antibacterial qualities. This particular preservative ability of cinnamon was used to safeguard the meat in the winter season in early times.

The history of Cinnamon is not only about its medical and culinary uses. It is also about control and profit. The Arabic merchants bought cinnamon to Europe, where it ascertained more popularity and was treasured. Arabic conveyed cinnamon through cumbrous land routes, and itself was a reason for the limited and costly supply of cinnamon to Europe. This made cinnamon a symbol of luxury and status in society. The supply of cinnamon to Europe was held a monopoly by the Arabic and retained its expensive price levels. So this laid paths to initiate explorers to set out sail for the discovery of Cinnamon. Famous voyager Christopher Columbus wrote to queen Isabella of discovering the land of cinnamon in the new world, but it wasn’t to be the spice as his sent sample failed to prove so. Gonzalo Pizarro, a Spanish explorer set sail to the Americas with the optimism of finding “Cinnamon Country”.

In the 15th Century, Portuguese merchants made their way to Ceylon and they took over the monopoly held by Arabic merchants in Sri Lanka. Even before the times of Sinhala kings, cinnamon was one of the mainstream incomes of the state. Portuguese increased the production in their time by enslaving the Sinhalese. In 1638 Ceylon kingdom of Kandy allied with the Dutch and overthrew the Portuguese. Falco, Dutch governor at that time initiated the systematic cultivation of cinnamon in Sri Lanka. The Dutch succeeded in holding the cinnamon monopoly till 1796 when the British overtook Sri Lanka. Since then cinnamon was no longer an expensive or uncommon spice, so the British began cultivating other sources of valuables like coffee, tea, etc. instead of cinnamon.

Visiting a modern Cinnamon Plantation will give valuable insight into this amazing spice once valued more than gold. Your tour will begin with a walk through the working cinnamon plantation located close to Villa Ma. It is in the south of Sri Lanka where the world’s finest cinnamon is produced.

Heading back to the main house, witness the process of cinnamon peeling and have a go too. Learn from the workers whose nimble hands work speedily to peel the cinnamon stick.

Next, walk a short distance to the working factory where the processing and packaging take place. A local cinnamon planter will talk through the process of making cinnamon. Finally, to end, a cinnamon-infused lunch will be prepared for you to enjoy.

A curated experience that will surely bring you closer to the wonders of Sri Lanka.

Rarity is Snow White

Rarity is Snow White

There are few things that can be considered truly mind-bogglingly hard to find. The rarity makes the aura of its/their existence almost mythical. Given this context, the knowledge of a very rare recessive gene in a particular troop of endemic species of monkeys found only in Sri Lanka is music to my ears.

The particular recessive gene in question creates a white morph in select troops of these primates. This white morph is different to the albino in that the animal affected does not suffer the extreme depigmentation suffered by the albinoes with red eyes and pale skin. But, rather certain parts of the body are affected like the fur and certain areas of the skin. Further, the eyes tend to remain unaffected much like the blue eyes found in certain white tigers and lions. This feature makes the animal in mention extremely beautiful and a feast for the eyes.

I heard about this elusive troop of monkeys who contained a few of these rare individuals, hidden in the deep dark corners of the country’s wet zone. Despite a few attempts of finding them, I was not that lucky.

This time around of course I was not really trying to find the monkeys but was rather doing a sort of reconnaissance for my next trip when I spotted a snow-white individual crossing my path. Getting all excited, I scrambled to a suitable vantage point to view this rare beauty. To my amazement, the individual I saw was a fully mature adult female who had a sort of “pied” appearance where few areas still had traces of black. What was amazing was that the female was carrying a white baby. This was amazing to see as this adult is clearly breeding and producing white offspring. There was yet another juvenile among the trees whose white was even more pronounced. More forward than the big female, this youngster got into view and remained feeding on a tree. What an amazing sight this was, it was one of the few moments in my life which I can say was not only breathtaking but life-altering. Seeing such a rare animal with my own eyes was such a pleasure.

This is a white morph of the endemic purple-faced leaf monkey, who is black/purple in colour, with the whiskers being white or grey. There are 5 subspecies of this monkey with key differences in the coating in all of them.

Well known environmentalist Rohan Pethiyagoda, says this is due to a phenomenon known as leucism. Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation in animals that gives colour to their skin and fur. In the case of albinism, it is the reduction of a skin pigment melanin, but in this case, a reduction in all types of skin pigments occur. “Clearly the leucistic gene has been spreading across several troops and may even be selected if males prefer white females.

White may prove to be disadvantageous for animals as they are easier to spot by predators. But maybe, in this case, there are few predators around, and with a big troop such as this, the survival rate might be higher. The rest of the troop seen by myself were having the normal colour of this species.

An encounter so special and rare I will cherish for the rest of my life.