The estuary of the Madu Ganga river is a complex coastal ecosystem of mangroves and islands. It may be one of the last remaining tracts of pristine mangrove forests in Sri Lanka.
A boat trip is a wonderful way of seeing some of the hundreds of species of plants and animals – monkeys eat fruit in the trees, a water monitor lizard glides slowly through the water, and cormorants, egrets and kingfishers wait patiently on the banks, eyeing the water for prey.
There are around 64 islands in the river and lagoon, from a tiny speck housing a deserted shrine to one housing 250 families connected to the mainland with a very long footbridge.
You can visit an island with a Buddhist monastery, where the friendly young monks will show you a 150-year-old book made of palm leaves and how they cook on cinnamon wood on an open fire.
The main occupations of the local inhabitants are producing cinnamon and prawn fishing – if you take the trip in the evening you will see the fishermen in their canoes lighting lanterns to attract the shellfish into their traps.
It was Bevis Bawa, brother of Heritance Ayurveda MahaGedara architect Geoffrey Bawa, who converted this former rubber plantation into a wonderful series of landscaped gardens.More