Dunumadalawa Forest Reserve – a habitat island in Kandy City
By Arundathie Abeysinghe
Dunumadalawa Forest Reserve also known as Wakara-watta (known by locals for decades) or Walker Estate (its former estate name) is a forest cover overlooking Kandy City (part of the forest reserve is within Kandy City) located at a height of approximately 548- 875 meters (1800 -3200 feet) above sea level. Dunumadalawa Forest Reserve is a semi-isolated, hill country wet-zone forest reserve situated in Kandy City.
There are 13 endemic bird species, 29 endemic subspecies and 10 restricted range bird species in the forest reserve. As there are endemic as well as restricted species, Dunumadalawa Forest Reserve is considered as a habitat island in the midst of a city. As such, environmentalists are of the view that the forest reserve should be conserved due to its biological significance and unique features.
The forest reserve has an area of approximately 480 hectares. The forest reserve encompasses the watershed for Kandy City’s main reservoir fed by the two main streams, Dunumadalawa Oya (Oya meaning stream) and Roseneath-ela (ela meaning canal). The huge tank in the middle of the forest supplies drinking water to Kandy City.
Located on the edge of the *Hantana Mountain Range, this forest reserve is a mixed forest reserve extending above *Hillwood College, Kandy and extends through the Hantana Mountain Range towards *Galaha. It is a forest with wild tea bushes, jak trees (jack fruit tree also known as jak tree – Artocarpus heterophyllus) and ironwood trees (Olneya tesota), some of them indigenous to Sri Lanka. The forest reserve is also home to many animals including barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak malabaricus), toque macaque (Macaca sinica), porcupines (Hystrix indica), wild boar (Sus scrofa), fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus), reptiles, butterflies, insects, frogs, lizards and leopards (Sri Lankan leopard – Panthera pardus kotiya).
According to folklore, this forest reserve dates to the Kandyan Kingdom. The name Dunumadalawa in Sinhala refers to the place where bows were hardened using mud. During the British Colonial Era, there had been tea, coffee and cocoa plantations in the forest reserve and deforestation had taken place within the range. As such, this forest reserve is an abandoned tea, coffee and cocoa estate. As there had been a shortage of water in Kandy City due to deforestation and commercial plantations such as tea, rubber and cocoa, in 1910, the British had built two reservoirs in the former forest reserve and planted trees too. As a result, Dunumdalawa Forest Reserve that exists at present is considered as a secondary forest as the majority of trees in the reserve were planted after 1910.
As the forest reserve is a paradise for nature lovers and for those who want to relax amidst nature, there are avifauna enthusiasts, nature lovers, undergraduates and researchers who spend many hours studying the fauna and flora.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, *Udawattakele Forest Reserve, *Knuckles Mountain Range, *Hunnasgiriya Mountain Range and Matale Mountain Range can be seen from the forest reserve.
This is the only forest reserve in Sri Lanka maintained by a Municipal Council (Kandy Municipal Council). As the forest reserve is under the purview of Kandy Municipal Council, prior permission is necessary to visit it.
Dunumadalawa Forest Reserve is a national treasure.
Location: above Kandy City linking Hantana Mountain Range
Distance from Kandy City – 2.1 kilometers (10 -15 minutes from Kandy City)
Directions: Dunumadalawa Forest Reserve can be reached by walking along Rajapihilla Mawatha (situated above Kandy Lake) and turning towards right at the popular lookout point *Arthur’s Seat and walking towards Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe Mawatha (formerly Roseneath Road).
- Arthur’s Seat – A mesmerizing lookout point situated in Kandy City about 550 meters above sea level, southwest of Kandy Lake, a few meters past Royal Palace Park (Wales Park or Wace Park) at Rajapihilla Mawatha.
- Galaha – A mountainous area with green hills and natural water sources located within the Central Province of Sri Lanka.
- Hantana Mountain Range – Situated approximately 1240 meters above sea level, Hantana Mountain Rangeis in central Sri Lanka, south-west of Kandy City. Hantana Mountain Range stretches from Kandy City to the town of *Galaha situated about 20 kilometers to the south of the City. There are seven peaks in the mountain range.
- Hillwood College – A private girls’ school in Kandy City that was founded by British Anglican missionaries based on Christianity. But pupils of different races and religions attend the school.
- Hunnasgiriya Mountain Range – A 1,184 meter peak situated in Kandy at the edge of the Knuckles Mountain Range and is famous for amazing views. The lower slopes of the Mountain are covered by tea plantation and sub-montane forest.
- Knuckles Mountain Range – Located in Kandy and Matale Districts at a height of approximately 914 meters above sea level with a land area of around 21 hectares, Knuckles Mountain Range has a total of 35 peaks which rise above 900 meters. British Surveyors called this Mountain Range Knuckles Mountain Range as the Range is similar to a clenched fist.
- Udawattakele Forest Reserve – Also known as Udawattakele Sanctuary or Royal Forest Park and popularly known as “Udawattakele” is a historic forest reserve situated on a hill-ridge behind Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic) in Kandy City.