The Sri Lanka Travel Specialists
The top sight at Horton Plains National Park is World’s End, where this highland plateau comes to an abrupt halt and a yawning drop of around 1,000m opens up before you. Close by is Mini World’s End, where the drop is a mere 300 metres. Catch the view before 10am and you are most likely to be rewarded with something quite spectacular. Arrive late and the mists might have rolled in, leaving you gazing into whiteness, particularly in the wettest time of year from May to September. A small viewing viewing area is fenced off, but not sticking to the approved path carries obvious risk when you approach the cliff edge.
Also worth a visit for the energetic is an extension to nearby Baker’s Falls, one of the finest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. This involves a fair deal of scrambling up steep slopes and is only recommended to those fleet of foot. The walk to World’s End along flat terrain is 4kms, with a demanding loop to Baker’s Falls (2km) and another 3.5km back to the entrance). The entire 9.5km round trip takes a leisurely three hours.
The best way to explore the park is on foot, although the plains can also be experienced by jeep, preferably from early morning as the mist often falls by lunchtime.
Horton Plains, at its worst, can be a desolate spot so go prepared for all weathers. Take good footwear with a firm grip and dress in layers. This has become a popular package tour excursion so entrance prices are not cheap. This undulating 2,000m-high plateau lies 28km south of Nuwara Eliya. The grassy plains, which are interspersed with small patches of forest, are home to sambur deer, sloth bears, monkeys and a rich array of birds, including some endemic species. Any wildlife, though, is a bonus in this bleak landscape. Horton Plains’ gently undulating landscape is at the southern end of the central mountain massif of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s second and third highest peaks, Kirigalpotha (2,395m) and Thotupola Kanda (2,357m) are found here and three of the island’s largest rivers – the Mahawali, Kelani and Walawe – originate from the Horton Plains. Entrance tickets are sold until 2:30pm daily, and travellers must exit the national park by 6pm. To control litter, any plastics and other items might well be confiscated.
Horton Plains is well-recognized for its rich biodiversity. About 5% of the species of flora found here are endemic to Sri Lanka. The Plateau supports grasslands fringed and interspersed with patches of dense montane cloud forest. The forest canopy grows to about 20m and is dominated by the endemic Keena (Calophyllum walker). The tree fern Maha Meewana dots the forest openings. Binara and Nelu are endemic and have beautiful flowers. Bivitiya is another plant with strikingly pretty flowers. The main grass species of the patina are Tuttiri. Rhododendron arboretum is now common on the plateau, which has spread to Sri Lanka via the Western Ghats and mountains of the Southern India from Himalayas. These flowers bloom every 14 years and then the plant dies off.
A century ago, Horton Plains was rich with elephants though, sadly, British hunters shot them to near-extinction; however signs of a small population of elephants in the Peak Wilderness area are still evident. Now the park is frequented by Sambar Deer and due to their large numbers the population of the Leopard also has increased. 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.
All of the highland endemics are found in Horton Plains. A birdwatcher must visit Horton Plains to complete the list of endemics in Sri Lanka. Some of the highlights here include Sri Lanka 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 Flycather & Indian Pitta. Black Bird, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Black Eagle, Jerdon’s Baza, Pied Bushchat, Hill Swallow and Hill Munia.
Some highland butterflies seen here include the Indian Red Admiral, Common, Tamil & Ceylon Tree brown, Common Jay and Indian Fritillary.
There are some endemic Lizards and amphibians found in these highlands as well. The Rhino Horned Lizard, Painted Lip Lizard are among them.
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