Esala Perahera is colorful and splendid
Every year at the time of the full moon from late July to early August, thousands of Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus gather in Kataragama to take part in the processions and rites of the Esala Perahera, which is known throughout Sri Lanka. The celebrations last nine days, with the hustle and bustle and the festive activities increasing from day to day to reach their absolute climax on the last night. Before each ceremony, the faithful take a bath in the Menik Ganga. After various rites, the actual procession begins, in which elephants, magnificently decorated, take part. One of the pachyderms carries the relic. The procession is repeated every evening and is always more beautiful and longer.
A highlight of the program takes place on the last evening of the festivities. Then some of the believers run over glowing coals, others fall into a trance and still others castigate themselves. In addition to the thousands of pilgrims who take part in the Esala Perahera, there is a crowd of believers who start the celebrations 45 days in advance. You start your Pada Yatra, a pilgrimage, on foot on the Jaffna Peninsula, in the very north of Sri Lanka. The start is at the point where, according to legend, Buddha entered Sri Lanka for the first time. The pilgrimage then leads via the cities of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and through the Yala nature reserve to the destination Kataragama. This group of believers is at the center of the Esala Perahera festivities
Yala National Park
The oldest nature reserve in Sri Lanka
Yala is the oldest and second largest of the 14 national parks in Lanka. It was founded in 1938, is located in the southeast of the island and has an area of around 1500 km². The national park is approx. 300 km from the capital Colombo and can be easily reached by car.
As early as the 2nd century, the area of today’s national park was populated by Buddhist monks. Some temple ruins are still preserved. The former kingdom of Ruhuna gave the nature reserve its nickname – Ruhuna National Park.
Yala is one of the most visited nature and national parks in the country. Most of the guests come to the region on sightseeing or study trips. The large national park has varied landscapes with coastal monsoon forests and lagoons as well as dry thorn bush savannas with medium-high field formations
The wildlife is particularly fascinating. More than 30 animal species, including elephants, leopards, sloth bears and numerous species of monkeys as well as around 130 species of birds live in the areas and, with a little luck, can watch them on a safari. After the monsoon rains, many plants bloom in lush colors.
Yala National Park: characteristics and travel time
The national park is divided into 5 blocks, of which only the Yala West area with an entrance northeast of the city of Tissamaharama is accessible to the public. On almost 100 km of paths, visitors pass watering points and resting places for the animals. The national park administration provides jeeps with experienced local guides for the tours. Walking without a guide is not permitted. There are a few simple huts available for occasional overnight stays.
The Yala National Park is closed between August and October. The best time for a jeep safari is from March to July, when the tide is low in the park.
Marine reserve off Sri Lanka
Pigeon Island National Park is one of two marine national parks in Sri Lanka. The park is 1 kilometer off the coast of Nilaveli, a coastal city in the east of the province, with a total area of around 470,000 hectares. The national park is home to some of the best preserved coral reefs in Sri Lanka. Pigeon Island was designated a protected area in 1963. In 2003 the area was transformed into a national park. Pigeon Island is one of several protected areas that were affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Pigeon Island consists of two islands, the large island is surrounded by a coral reef and is about 200 meters long and 100 meters wide. The smaller island is surrounded by rocky islets. The rocky outcrops and islets are the breeding and feeding ground for over 300 species of coral reef fish that keep the colorful underwater symphony alive. Pigeon Island has one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in Sri Lanka. The place is really idyllic and delightful, here even stressed holidaymakers will find peace and serenity. The long beaches invite visitors to immerse themselves in many recreational activities such as surfing, diving, fishing and whale watching. According to locals, the best time to visit Pigeon Island National Park is in June.
The Pigeon Island National Park is a paradise for people who are looking for a dreamy snorkeling area. The clear water makes snorkeling an unforgettable experience. There is a colorful underwater world to watch, ranging from angel fish to eels to parrot fish and other colorful fish. There is also a high chance of seeing giant sea turtles and even black tip sharks. When snorkeling isn’t enough, the park also offers deep-sea dives for the adrenaline junkies and various packages for deep and night dives and safe dives for children.