Explore the unexpected beauty of Sri Lanka's mangroves

Visitors wanting to experience Sri Lanka's Mangroves can start their journey in Negombo, roughly 20 miles north of Colombo. A 90-minute tour of the area's wetlands begins in the Dutch Canal
August 07, 2017 | 03:36 pm / cnn.com
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Tourism in Sri Lanka -the tropical island nation just a stone's throw from the tip of southern India is on an upswing, thanks to thousands of miles of sugar-sand coastline, lush interiors dotted with tea plantations and the mystique of a place that's still relatively undiscovered.

And while the country's pristine beaches, not yet overrun with tourists or towering condos, draw budget and luxury travelers alike from around the world, a different kind of coastal tableau -- shallow, shore-hugging waters where mangrove forests grow - is not only worth exploring, but a matter of national attention.

At Negombo, a laid-back beach town roughly 20 miles north of the country's capital, Colombo, tours of the area's wetlands start across the street from the Muthurajawela Visitor Centre, in the gray-green waters of the Dutch Canal. This long, narrow waterway was built in the 18th century to transport spices and now links Negombo and Colombo. As the sun sinks towards the horizon, I climb aboard a modest, motorized boat for a 90-minute tour led by Amal Priyankara, a 26-year-old naturalist and Negombo native.

As our boat slowly plies the canal, Priyankara points out birds that, to an untrained eye, are slow to appear among the leaves, branches and brush. In the 30 or so minutes it takes us to reach the end of the waterway, we spot white-throated kingfishers, cormorants, graceful green and purple herons, cattle egrets, red lapwings and other colorful birds.
Eventually, our boat arrives at the canal's northern mouth and moves into the wide-open Negombo Lagoon, a shallow, 3,000-hectare expanse of saline water surrounded by dense, green, leafy growth.

◼ Editorial / inStory.net
Topics: Sri Lanka

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