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UDAWATTA KELE SANCTUARY

Udawatte Kele located north of Kandy Lake and on the hillside behind the Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Tooth Relic. It has a long history dating back to many centuries. The sanctuary contains three Buddhist forest monasteries and three cave dwellings for Buddhist monks. This sanctuary acts as a catchment area for the supply of water to the city of Kandy. Udawatte Kele extents about 257 acres (104 hectares) and is considered to be an eco-tourism site and vital Bio reserve for the much-populated Kandy City. Centuries back, area surrounding Kandy had been a Rain Forest and the human settlements took place during the era of King Panditha Parakramabahu (1302-1326 AD) and in 1371 AD, King Wickramabahu made Kandy his Kingdom. During this era Kandy was called as "Senkadagala". This name came into being due to a Brahmin named Senkanda, who lived in a cave at Udawattakele during that era. During the Kandyan Kingdom, this forest area behind the palace was called " Uda wasala watta" or the 'Upper Palace Garden' frequented by the royalty and was out of bound to the people. Thereafter all the kings who ruled took appropriate measures to conserve `Udawatte-kele: forest and regarded it as a part of the Royal Palace. This resulted in declaring the forest as a property of the crown and a restricted zone (Thahansi Kele) for the public. The royal family used this forest as a pleasure garden. During foreign invasions and wars, this forest helped the royals to retreat and hide themselves and also as a’ passage for them to flee to other safer areas.

The condition of the forest deteriorated due to human activities and in 1856, the Government declared it as a Forest Reserve and later in 1938, it was made a sanctuary. The Kandy Lake gets its water resourses mainly from this forest's catchment areas and also believe that there was a tunnel connecting the pond with the Kandy Lake. This precious forest area supplies the much-needed air purification activity to the Kandy city which is enclaved by several hills.

Udawattakele forest being situated in the mid country within the intermediate climatic zone, the species composition has been complemented by both wet and dry zone species. Studies revealed that there are about 400 species of plants inclusive of ferns, herbs and orchids. The Park is mainly covered with some introduced tree species, while the area around the lake is dominated by exotic Mahogani (Sweetenia macrophylla) and Myroxlion balsamum. The native liana called “Wevel” (Calamus sps.) and other exotic creepers provide the forest a breathtaking beauty. The rich vegitation of the forest is a home to many wild animals. The park hosts 15 defferent mammals, more than 80 species of birds, 32 species of butterflies and several varieties of reptiles and amphibians. Among the large mammals, Barking Deer, Wild-boar and Tree living mammals species called Toque-monkey are commonly seen in the area. Udawatte Kele sanctuary houses to varieties of birds like yellow fronted barbet, Layard’s Parakeet, Spot-bellied eagle owl, Sri Lankan hanging parrot, Green-fronted leaf bird, and native three-toed kingfisher, Sri Lanka hill myna (approximately 80 species of birds can be seen). Therefore, for the bird experts armed with binoculars, this is a great place to explore the bird life. Fresh water turtle species called Black Turtle and fish species called Thilapia are common aquatic fauna in the Royal pond. One can notice a monitor lizard swim lazily catching a glimpse of a prey in the water, disturbed by its movement a blue kingfisher flashes across with its widespread wings when it failed to catch a fish.