Make a pre-dawn start with a packed breakfast to Horton Plains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and take a guided walk along the nature trails to a viewpoint known as World’s End. A variety of wildlife including endemic Rhino-horned and Hump-nosed Lizards, highland bird species including the Sri Lanka White-eye, Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Yellow-eared Bulbul may be encountered. Also, keep your eye out for troops of Bear Monkey, and Sambar (Sri Lanka’s largest species of deer) which are regularly seen on the plains close to the entrance.
Horton Plains, its surroundings, forests and the adjoining Peak Wilderness constitute Sri Lanka’s most important catchment area of almost all major rivers. The plains are also of outstanding scenic beauty and conservation importance, containing most of the habitats and endemic plants and animals representative of the country’s wet and Montane zones. The western slopes support the most extensive area of Montane cloud forest surviving in the island. Horton Plains is not merely a destination for nature tourists. Since the rich biodiversity of Horton Plains is still grossly underexplored, it affords invaluable opportunities to those engaged on educational and research activities. Protecting Horton Plains is a call of duty for all Sri Lankans.
The Climate of Horton Plains is that of a wet Montane forest. The average annual temperature of 14-16⁰ Centigrade while the humidity is relatively low at 65%. Though annual rainfall of the highlands is about 2540mm, Horton Plains records over 5000 mm of rainfall annually.
During the dry season, the temperature drops to around 5⁰ Centigrade in the day time. Swept with strong gale force winds at times, over-night frost is fairly common.
The great plains of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka was discovered by the planter Thomas Farr in the early 19th century. In 1834 it was named Horton Plains in honor of then Governor of Ceylon (1831-1837) Sir Robert Wilmot Horton. In the year 1969, Horton Plains was declared a nature reserve.In 1988, the reserve was elevated to the status of a National Park.
The visitors center is significant in the sense, it has become the starting point for the 9km main trek of the Horton Plains. The main trek taking a circular route can be enjoyed within 3 hours. The trail opens up with an expansive view of flora: bare patina grassland here; densely wooded cloud forest over there. Once the grasslands are passed, the trek leads for about 2km through a fine expanse of cloud forest. Grown in the forest amidst nellu shrubs and keena trees are spices grown in the wild: pepper, cinnamon and cardamom.
The most frequent site of wildlife at Horton Plains are herds of Sambar Deer. Among the other mammals in the park are Strip-necked Mongoose, Long-tailed Giant Squirrel Wild Boar, the endemic Bear Monkey and Toque Monkey, Fishing cat, Otter and
All of the Montane endemics of Sri Lanka are found in Horton Plains. Sri Lanka bush warbler, Dull-Blue flycatcher, Sri Lanka whistling thrush and the yellow-eared bulbul, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka White-eye, Spot-winged Thrush, Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Scaly Thrush, Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Spur-fowl and Sri Lanka Jungle-fowl. Other highlights are the Himalayan migrants Pied Thrush, Kashmir Flycatcher & Indian Pitta. Black Bird, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Black Eagle, Jerdon’s Baza, Pied Bushchat, Hill Swallow and Hill Munia.
Now the Horton Plains has become a happy field of herds of Sambar Deer. However the growth population of Sambar Deer has resulted in the increase of number of Leopards. Wild Boar, the endemic Bear Monkey and Toque Monkey, Slender Loris, Fishing cat, Otter, Barking deer, Strip-necked Mongoose, Long-tailed Giant Squirrel are some of the other mammals found here.
Until a century ago, Horton Plains was rich with Elephants. Then the whole population was hunted down to extinction by the British colonialists in Sri Lanka then called Ceylon. Today Horton Plains is the only national park in Sri Lanka where elephants aren’t seen at all.