Monday, August 25, 2014

Jetwing Yala: Chasing Asia’s Leopards

As we drive off on board the safari jeeps, the dusty red, clay road ahead of us is only just a modest start to our prolific wildlife explorations for the day, at the Yala National Park – the Park is known to have one of the highest leopard concentrations in the world while it is also home to a number of Asian elephants, sloth bears, peacocks, crocodiles and a plethora of flora and fauna.

Our driver, a young, funny fellow, well trained in leopard spotting from any considerable distance otherwise unattainable to the human eye, is a refreshing burst of jokes, combating our fatigue from the subduing heat.
Nothing on the road yet, some complain, until we suddenly come to a shrieking halt: an unidentifiable creature leisurely crossing our path.
This is how daily life unfolds at Yala, Jetwing’s newest hotel in the midst of some of Asia’s paramount wildlife. Blissfully insulated twenty minutes away from the main road, what initially looks like army quarters from afar is soon revealed to be a zen hotel surrounded by lush greenery, set on a 38 acre land adjoining the Indian Ocean. The panoramic views are sure to make you gasp!

Jetwing Yala exudes simple elegance from every corner, while focusing on sustainability; it hosts the largest privately owned solar park in Sri Lanka. Whether it’s the surrounding wild habitat, or the interior’s colors and details, the property offers its guests a back to nature feeling. All guestrooms (with a choice of Superior and Deluxe accommodations) exhibit muted, earthy tones, with a splash of turquoise or red.
The King coconut I was zealously sipping out of as I walked into my room, perfectly matched the green tones of the canopy bed. The Superior room I would now call home was no ordinary space, but a spacious dwelling to rest, dine and lounge on my very own terrace.

The finest feature, however, is surely the bathroom. Larger than most hotel rooms in other parts of the world, this bathroom teased me from the very beginning, with its showerhead under the clear blue sky and liberating feeling, due to lack of unnecessary doors, bulky bathtubs and slippery floors.
One other extraordinary feature is the infinity swimming pool, with seemingly fresh water from the ocean. Don’t be surprised to see guests stay well into the night into their robes, having transitioned from the pool onto the beach where cocktails are served. Jetwing Yala is just the place to do so. From a blanket full of stars to a first glimpse of a burning sunrise, your stay here is full of rewards.

Dining is another. From lotus curries and the island’s spiciest dishes, to Western delicacies and Japanese delights, to a sinful palette of desserts, Jetwing Yala is a gastronomic journey in itself that is both diverse, as it is delicious.

So grab your Lion (the Sri Lankan beer, what else?!), and join the beach party for the night. This may be Jetwing Yala, but no lions, or leopards, for you tonight …

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bird Watching with Jetwing Vil Uyana

Sri Lanka has always been listed as a birder’s paradise, because of its many different habitats, all easily accessible from the island’s capital: lowland rain forests, montane forests and plains, wetlands and monsoon forests, each with different communities of birds. 150 bird species are common in the dry zone. Many of these dry zone species can be seen in the Sigiriya area.

Green bee-eater

Grey heron

Malabar pied hornbill

Spot-billed pelican

Jetwing Vil Uyana is located in Rangirigama, which has become known as a haven for birders with over 120 recorded species. The resident naturalist will lead you on a bird watching tour — a treat for your eyes and ears.

The Rangirigama birding trail takes the visitor outside the Hotel premises, through lush vegetation and past villagers working in their paddy fields. After about 15 minutes, the Rangirigama Lake will be reached. Here, it is possible to see about 40 different species.
During the months of November to April, the number rises to 50+ species, as there are many migrant birds in the area.

Via Jetwing Naturalists

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Explore Negombo Lagoon and Muthurajawela Wetland

Picturesque Hamilton Canal connecting Negombo lagoon

Muthurajawela – the largest saltwater coastal peat bog in Sri Lanka, located on the west coast between the Negombo lagoon and Kelani River. It is one of the island’s most important wetland habitats and together with the Negombo lagoon forms an integrated coastal wetland ecosystem extending over 6,232 hectares of marshland and mangroves. It is sheltering about 190 species of plants and over 200 species of animals, including over 100 species of birds.

Take a boat ride to see a rich assemblage of water birds, including various species of Herons, Bitterns, Egrets, Cormorants, Lesser Whistling Teals, Pheasant-tailed Ja├žanas, White-breasted Water hens, Purple Swamp hens, and Common Moorhens. Common perching birds (such as several species of kingfishers) birds of prey (such as the Brahminy Kite and Shikra), as well as mammals (such as the endemic Toque Monkey) and reptiles (such as Water Monitors and Saltwater Crocodiles), are also common. A cruise along the Negombo Lagoon, Muthurajawela, Hamilton canal (built during the British period) and Dutch canal (built during Dutch period) will take you through a lush vegetation of mangroves. The Hamilton canal and Dutch canal starting from Kelani River near Colombo and opens into the vast expanse of the serene waters of the Negombo lagoon.

Muthurajawela marsh has been declared as s sanctuary by the government in 1996 due to its vast bio diversity.

Jetwing Lagoon conducting boat rides in Negombo lagoon and Muthurajawela marsh. For more information please contact resident naturalist of Jetwing Lagoon on 0312233777

Brahminy Kite

Flock of Whiskered Terns

Purple Swamphen

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Whiskered Tern

Little Cormorant Juvenile

Common Redshank

White-throated Kingfisher

Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Red-wattled Lapwing

Oriental Darter

Saltwater Crocodile Juvenile (Crocodylus porosus)

Common Kingfisher

White-bellied sea eagle

Black-winged Stilt with breeding plumages 

Land Monitor (Varanus bengalensis)

Muthurajawela mangrove and wetland

Little egret

Whiskered Tern

Lesser Whistling-duck

Saturday, August 16, 2014

UK Bird Fair 2014: 15th - 17th August 2014 at Rutland Water

Our Desk at UK Bird Fair - 2014 - 15th - 17th August 2014 at Rutland Water

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Journey to the end of World

Horton Plains National Park 

(Journey to the end of World)

Horton Plains National Park is a protected area in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and is covered by Montane Grassland, Aquatic & Wetland Habitat and Cloud Forest. This plateau at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 meters (6,900–7,500 ft) is rich in biodiversity. In early singhala the plains are known as Mahaweli Plains or Maha Eliya and Stone tools dating back to Balangoda culture (before 1000 BC) have been found here.The second & third highest mountains of the country namely Kirigalpotta & Thotupola respectively are found within the borders of the park. Park receives rainfall from both northeast & southwest monsoons as well as inter-monsoonal rains with annual precipitation of about 5000mm. The area is headwaters of three rivers, the Kelani, Walawe & the Mahaweli. Due to altitude the area is comparatively cold. Mean annual temperature is around 15C and during colder months it will go down further. 

The plains vegetation is grasslands interspersed with montane forest, and includes many endemic woody plants. Most of the fauna and flora found in the park are endemic and furthermore some of them are confined to highlands of the island. 

Though this was one of the best elephant habitats in the country they are locally extinct due to sports hunting occurred during the British colonial era. Large heard of Sambhur & wild boar are the most common large mammals in Horton Plains. Endemic Bear Monkey, Rusty- Spotted and Fishing cats, Otter, Black napped hare and Giant Squirrel are among other mammals. The national park niches to largest carnivore cat species of the island the Leopard. Many species of endemic & threatened rats & shrews are also found in the park. Diversity & endemicity of reptiles (Lizards) and amphibians are remarkably high.

Though this is cold highland plateau the bird diversity is very high. More than 70% of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds are found here.

The park is named after Sir Robert Wilmot Horton, the British governor of Ceylon from 1831 to 1837, who travelled to the area 1836.Horton Plains was designated as a wildlife sanctuary on 5 December 1969 and because of its biodiversity value, was elevated to a National Park on 18 March 1988. The land area covered by Horton Plains is 3,160 hectares.

Photo credits - Ishanda Senevirathna (Naturalst, Jetwing St.Andrew's)