Unveiling the mysteries of Horton Plains
by Thuvaaragan Kirithiran, and Tharushan Fernando
Explore a natural paradise where the beauty of the mountains, forests and wildlife comes together in harmony and the thrill of adventure awaits your presence.
Sri Lanka is a land that has been kissed by nature's bounties and boasts an incredible array of diverse terrain in such a small area. From the vivacious vibes of the coastline to the serene elegance of the mountains and the vibrancy of the lush jungles and forests, Sri Lanka offers an unparalleled adventure through paradise.
And for those seeking to immerse themselves in the natural splendour of this island nation, a visit to the Horton Plains is an absolute must. There are countless ways to explore this majestic mountainous terrain, whether you choose to embark on an invigorating day-long hike or prefer to camp out amidst the cool mountain air, surrounded by towering hills and verdant forests. Whichever path you choose, you are sure to be entranced by the unparalleled beauty of the Horton Plains. With its breathtaking vistas, unique ecosystems, and rich diversity of endemic flora and fauna, this protected area is truly a feast for the senses.
The elegant beauty of the Horton Plains
Nestled in the heart of Sri Lanka's central highlands lies a natural wonderland unlike any other: the Horton Plains National Park. Designated in 1988, this breathtakingly beautiful park sits at an elevation of 2,100–2,300 meters (6,900–7,500 feet) above sea level and is home to a stunning array of montane grassland and cloud forest.
But it is not just the sheer natural beauty of the Horton Plains that draws visitors from all over the world - this park is also a richly biodiverse area with many species found here that are endemic to the region. From the majestic Sri Lankan sambar deer to an incredible array of birds not found anywhere else on Earth, the Horton Plains are a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
But perhaps what truly sets this park apart are the many unique attractions that dot its pristine landscape. From the dramatic precipice of World's End, where visitors can gaze out at the rolling hills and misty valleys below, to the thundering cascade of Baker's Falls, there is no shortage of natural wonders to explore in this incredible national park.
And yet, for all its glory, the Horton Plains face a number of threats, including forest dieback, which some studies suggest may be the result of a natural phenomenon. But even in the face of these challenges, the Horton Plains stand as a testament to the enduring beauty and resilience of the natural world, and a powerful reminder of why it is so important to protect and preserve these precious places for generations to come.
A bit of history
Originally named Maha Eliya Thenna, the plains were renamed in the British era after Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton, the governor of Ceylon from 1831 to 1837. Legend has it that King Rawana landed his aircraft, Dandumonaraya, at Thotupala mountain in Horton Plains, as it was the place where he kidnapped Sitha, the wife of Rama, in the act of revenge. According to folklore, Hanuman, the monkey-like human leader, set fire to the plains, causing the area to have a semi-arid climate and a species-restricted plant community in the late quaternary period. Horton Plains National Park was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1969 and a national park in 1988 due to its unique biodiversity value. The park's land area covers 3,160 hectares, including the most extensive cloud forest in Sri Lanka. In 2010, the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, incorporating Horton Plains National Park, Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, and Knuckles Mountain Range, were inscribed on the World Heritage List, making it an even more significant destination for nature lovers and adventurers alike.
What's Horton Plains like?
This breathtakingly beautiful park is also the lifeblood of some of the island's most important rivers, including the Mahaweli, Kelani, and Walawe. But the Horton Plains are more than just a source of vital water - they are also a critical habitat for a stunning array of wildlife, including many rare and endangered species.
And with its high elevation and frequent fog and cloud cover, the park also plays host to a variety of unique wetland habitats, from slow-moving streams to shimmering swamps and thundering waterfalls.
Horton Plains National Park in Sri Lanka is a natural wonderland, home to an incredibly diverse and fascinating range of fauna. Among the 24 species of mammals in the region, the sambar deer stands out as the largest and most commonly seen. But there are other equally captivating creatures that call this park home, such as, wild boars, Indian muntjacs, and grizzled giant squirrels. And let's not forget the elusive and endangered Horton Plains slender loris, which was only recently captured on camera by a team of researchers from the Zoological Society of London.
If you're looking for a truly thrilling encounter, keep your eyes peeled for the illusive Sri Lankan Leopard in the mountains. These majestic animals are a rare sight, but for those lucky enough to spot them, the experience is unforgettable. With their broad facial features and imposing size, the leopards of Horton Plains are distinct from their lowland counterparts. Scientists theorize that their unique physiques are the result of the cold weather and rich protein sources, such as the Sambhur, which are plentiful in this region.
Despite their formidable presence, these enigmatic creatures are masters of stealth. They glide through the tall grass with ease, blending seamlessly into the landscape. With the skill of expert hunters, they prowl through the tussocks undetected, stalking their prey with deadly precision. Even the wary Sambhur can fall prey to their mastery.
The birdlife in the park is equally spectacular, with 21 bird species found only in Sri Lanka and three species found only in Horton Plains, including the Sri Lanka white-eye and the Sri Lanka wood pigeon. Migratory birds such as swiftlets and alpine swift also make their way here in the winter months, adding to the already rich diversity of avian life. Meanwhile, herpetology enthusiasts will be thrilled to discover the park's herpetological paradise, which is home to around 15 amphibian species, including Microhyla zeylanica and Hydrophylax gracilis, as well as five endemic reptiles, such as the Rhino-horned lizard and the common rough-sided snake.
A short drive away, W15 Lake Gregory can serve as your base as you venture out into the majestic mountains for an unforgettable experience. From exhilarating hikes to breathtaking landscapes, the wonders of Horton Plains await, while the cosy confines of W15 Lake Gregory provide the ideal retreat to rest and recharge for your next adventure.
Professional photographer who specializes in travel, people, editorial, real estate and interior photography, with a further focus on branding and art direction. He also has a passion for wildlife and fashion photography. He is currently the in-house photographer for The W15 Collection and Steradian Capital Investments (Pvt) Ltd and a member of the Jaffna Photography Society.
Tharushan FernandoContent Creator
Former journalist, copywriter, concept developer and digital media professional. Has been in the field of professional writing for over 10 years, with experience in a variety of industries, including advertising, content writing and news. He is currently working as the content writer for Steradian Capital Investments and W15 Collection.
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