Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary: A Bird Lover’s Retreat

Kalametiya is the place of wonderful birds and an amazing history.

Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary is a major wetland area between the towns of Tangalle and Hambantota. It’s home to nearly all of Sri Lanka’s bird species—as well as countless or migrants who roost and nest during the migratory season.

Kalametiya is one of the oldest bird sanctuaries on the island of Sri Lanka. Keep an eye out for the black capped purple kingfisher, flamingos, the Asian openbill, the eurasian spoonbill, the purple swamp hen, the common snipe, the black winged stilt, and the glossy ibis, among many others!

Be careful—elephants and crocodiles may also sneak up on you. Take a tour around the park to experience the beauty of nature.

Things to Do

Bird watching

Kalametiya National Park is one of the best national parks in Sri Lanka to go for bird watching. You can find almost all Sri Lankan birds residing here, and of course some migratory birds as well. Aquatic, migratory aquatic, and wetland birds are a common view in the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary. The best time to visit is in the early morning or evenings. Hire a guide to learn more about birds and why are they amazing. You can also go on a boat tour to watch these wonderful and colorful creatures from the river!

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Rs 4000 per person

Opening Hours: 6 am to 6 pm

Website: http://www.kalametiyabirds.lk/

Boat Rides

Boat rides are available in the newly built Conversational Center. Take a trip around the lagoons and mangrove forests from the water! You can book your tour online or at the Conversation center. Most of the aquatic birds can be spotted during a boat ride, not to mention the various types of mangrove plants. Even in wet season you can spot many interesting birds and animals! Hire a professional guide to take you on the best boat ride.

Duration: More than 3 hours

Cost: Rs 4000 per person plus tips

Opening Hours: 6 am to 6 pm

Camping

The Kalametiya Sanctuary consists of several types of vegetation mixed with shrubs and grass lands. Since the sanctuary is maintained by Wildlife Conservation Authority, you have to get special permission for camping. A few campsites are available in the sanctuary that are safeguarded from elephants and wild boars. The campsites are well equipped and nicely renovated. You can spend up to 3 days in the camping, and you will also get a safari tour included in the price. Such an amazing place to spend a night under the shining stars!

Mangrove Habitat

The lagoon area between the land and sea is rich with a mangrove forest. This protects several kind of fish, including endemic species. Some mangroves in Kalametiya are also endemic to the Sri Lanka. You can visit this mangrove areas from a boat ride rented from the Kalametiya Park Conservation Center. Many different types of animals live in mangrove habitats, and you can even see some jellyfish and crabs moving around. Due to Kalametiya being on the coast of the island, even some barracudas and baby sharks are present in the mangrove habitats. What a fantastic experience!

Kalametiya Beach

Kalametiya beach is a calm, white sand beach. On one side of the beach, traditional fishermen fish with traditional nets in the evenings – you can see them sitting on bamboo legs after sunset. On the other side is a paradise of calm waves coming in from the Indian Ocean. Sitting on the white sand and watching glamorous sunset in Kalametiya beach would be truly unforgettable! Take a dip in the ocean or do some water activities! Just make sure to keep an eye on sharks, ray and turtles.

Fishing Harbour at Kalametiya

The fishing harbor at Kalametiya is only a short beach walk away! Mornings are very busy in the harbor, thanks to locals buying and selling fresh fish on the shore. If you wish to know about few traditional boats and fishing techniques in Sri Lanka, a visit to this small fishing harbor is a must. You can experience the authentic Sri Lankan life, how locals live their everydays. They are super friendly, so do not hesitate to chat with them – you will learn so much about history, culture and people.

Mulkirigala Temple

These rock temples date back over 2,000 years! They’re perched on a two hundred meter boulder. Climb the stairs leading up to the top and find a series of caves that house reclining Buddha statues (among others). One cave also has a library where a number of olas (palm-leaf manuscripts), were discovered by British administrator George Turnour in 1826. The manuscript provided the key to translating the great chronicle of Sri Lanka (Mahavamsa) from Palito English and then to Sinhala. The complex also has ancient murals and devalayas. Enjoy the wonderful culture and the amazing colors of this complex!

Duration: 2-3 hours

Cost: Rs 500 per person

Opening Hours: 8 am to 6 pm

Location: 450 B | North of Tangalle, Tangalle

How to get there: 30 km from Kalametiya

Rekawa Turtle Conservation Project

The aim of this conservation project is to protect turtle nesting sites until the hatchlings are able to return to the ocean. Join the turtle watch program and catch a glimpse of five species of marine turtles laying their eggs on the sand at night. These are leatherback turtles, loggerhead turtles, Olive Ridley turtles, green turtles, and hawksbill turtles. On night tours you can see turtles laying eggs, helping hatched babies to navigate to the ocean. When there are baby turtles which need help you can even hold them. Such an exciting addition to your trip!

Duration: 2-3 hours

Cost: Rs 500 per person

Opening Hours: 8 pm to midnight

Location: Rekawa Beach | Visitor Centre, Rekawa, Tangalle

Website: http://www.turtlewatchrekawa.org/

You may ask for more details via email at turtlewatch.rekawa@gmail.com

Where to Sleep

The nearest accommodations to the Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary are mostly located in Tangalla. Your options range from guesthouses, hostels, or resorts.

Turtle Bay

This boutique hotel in Kalamatiya is part of a turtle conservation project that also offers room accommodation. All rooms have a view of the Indian Ocean and other beaches. There is a restaurant and bar available. Al fresco dining can also be arranged.

Tangalla Bay Hotel

This hotel is designed to resemble a boat, and used to be part of Jetwing Hotels. Aside from room accommodation—which is equipped with a large TV, mini-bar, and a safe—it also features a large outdoor pool and an Ayurvedic treatment center. Your booking may include breakfast.

Where to Eat

Most hotels and guest houses in Tangalla serve food with their in-house restaurants, but you do have off-site options.

Nature Secret

This wooden cafe at Marakolliya Beach offers a menu dominated by seafood, sold at a price lower than most hotels. It’s built on stilts over mangroves and waterways!

Saliya Restaurant

A short way off the town center of Tangalla is this eccentric wooden shack that offers seafood and rice and curry. Take note of the old clocks and radios that decorate the interior!

Dress Code

Before traveling to Sri Lanka it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with cultural standards of Sri Lanka, including dress codes. Because Kalametiya National Park is on the coast of Sri Lanka, you will spend some time on the beach, but please remember, swimsuits and bikinis are only acceptable on and near the beach. Do not go into restaurants or shops underdressed or wearing a hat. When visiting temples and sacred sites, wear clothing which covers up your knees and shoulders as well. It is inappropriate to visit these sites with visible shoulders and ankles. When spending a lot of time outside make sure to bring a sweater or a light jacket with you, because evenings and early mornings could get quite chilly.

Getting In and Around

Kalametiya is on the eastern south coast of Sri Lanka. You can access it with flights, taxis and with public transportation.

Colombo: Colombo is 215 km away from Kalametiya National Park on the west coast of Sri Lanka. Take the train from Colombo, which goes every 4 hours to Kamburugamuwa, then transfer to a local bus to reach the national park in 5 hours. You can also take the hourly bus to Tangalle to reach Kalametiya in 7.5 hours. Via taxi or private car you can be at the national park in 3 hours. 

Negombo: Negombo is 250 km away from the national park, just above Colombo. The easiest way is to take a local bus or a taxi to Colombo, where you can transfer to the express train or bus to reach Kalametiya National Park in 6 hours. Via taxi or private car you can be there in less, than 4 hours.

Kandy: Kandy is 250 km away from Kalametiya National Park, in the heart of Sri Lanka. The public transportation is the not the best in the central region of the island, so in order to reach the national park the easiest way is to travel with taxi or a private car to be there in 6 hours. You can take a local bus to Haputale, then transfer to a local bus towards Kalametiya to reach it in 10 hours.

Ella: Ella is 130 km away from the national park, in the central region of the island as well. Due to the lack of public transportation, it is best to take a taxi or a private car to Kalametiya National Park.

Galle: Galle is 100 km away from Kalametiya National Park, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka. You can take a direct bus to Kalametiya, which goes every 2 hours, so you can reach the national park in less, than 3 hours. Via private car or taxi you can be at Kalametiya National Park in 2 hours.

Budget

Sri Lanka is a stunning place with its beautiful history and rich culture. If you plan to go there prepare yourself because there are a few highly priced tours, entrance fees and safaris.

However, you have the chance to find cheaper hotels and hostels starting at $8, mid-range hotels starting at $50 or luxury high-end hotels starting at $90. Because Kalametiya is on the coast, you also have the chance to stay in a cute beach-hut hotel starting at $60.  These prices allow both backpackers, families and luxury lovers to experience the beauty of Sri Lanka with their own set budget.  The public transportation is the cheapest option to get around ($1- $4), but it’s not so comfy, as you have to stand most times and travel times could go up to even 15 hours. You can hire a driver who will take you anywhere in town for around  $50/day. Restaurants usually ask $25/meal because of the view, but you can grab food from buffets and stands, which won’t cost too much ($1-$5).  Try the papayas with chilli powder or fresh cut fruits from street vendors!

Conclusion

Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary is a gem of Sri Lanka, as you can tell! Not only does it house and protect many species of birds, but mammals and fish as well. Take a Jeep Safari and keep an out of rare and endemic bird species. If you want more, then take a boat ride! Not only can you get up close with nature, but you can also enjoy a beautiful white sand beach and a local fishing village. What a great way to learn more about local culture—and get some great seafood in the meantime. Tangalla offers all you need for a place to stay and eat, which makes Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary an obvious first choice in your trip to this beautiful island country!

Updated by Teddy

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