The Sri Lanka Travel Specialists
Horton Plains is an undulating 2,000m-high plateau just 28km south of Nuwara Eliya. The grassy plains, which are interspersed with small patches of forest, are home to leopards, sambur, deer, bear, monkeys and a rich array of birds, including some endemic species. The most dramatic feature of the national park is `World’s End’, where the plateau comes to an abrupt halt and drops nearly 1000m straight down. The best way to explore the park is on foot, though the plains can also be explored by jeep, preferably from early morning as the mist often falls by lunchtime.
Horton Plains comprises a gently undulating highland plateau 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. The highlight for walkers is the trek to World’s End and Baker’s Falls.
Entrance tickets are sold until 2:30pm daily, and travellers must exit the national park by 6pm.
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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