The Tara Watergate hotel in Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka is always going above and beyond to give their guests the best possible accommodations. Our person on Paradise Island Safari, Mr. Dhanushka Liyanage, is here to introduce himself. He successfully shares his own experience, knowledge, and passion in this article.

August 22, 2021
Can you tell us little bit about you ?
I started my own business in 2012 as an adventure hiker offering some adventure hiking packages to the local market. Then slowly started studying about birds, mammals and other fauna in Sri Lanka. I got the membership from Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) in University of Colombo. FOGSL is the associate Sri Lankan partner for BirdLife International. I gain much knowledge about the birds by participating for seminars, workshops and field visits. Apart from this I have participated many sessions done by the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS – one of the oldest societies in Asia) regarding the mammal behaviour such as Leopards, Elephants, Sloth bears etc. Now I’m a District representative at WNPS and working strictly on Leopard conservation, raising awareness campaigns for students, government servants and the villagers. From 2015 onward's I started to offer wide range of tours for local and foreign markets including adventure hiking, trekking, guided bird watching tours, guided safaris, village trekking experiences and cycling tours.

Can you tell us about Yala Wildlife National Park?
Yala is undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s most visited national park, and best in Sri Lanka for observing an extensive diversity of animals. It is a majestic place, with a variety of habitats from scrub jungle, lakes, brackish lagoons, riverine forest, open grass lands etc. Yala National Park is divided into five blocks out of which block 01 is the most visited, guests now can visits block III and IV also. The flora is of typical of dry monsoon forest vegetation in the southern belt. Plains are scattered with pockets of forest containing plant species such as the Palu (Manilkara hexandra) Satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia) Weera (Drypetes sepiaria),Maila (Bauhinia racemosa)Mustard Tree (Salvadora persica), Neem (Azadhirachta indica) and Wood apple (Limonia acidissima).

Why Yala Wildlife National Park is very famous in Sri Lanka?
Yala is known as one of the highest leopard densities in Asia and in the world. The average leopard density was as high as one leopard for 2.5 square kilometer in Block 01. The density of a carnivore is associated with the availability of its pray, water and denning sites, and lack of hunting by humans and predation from other hunters. Yala is a perfect habitat for carnivores since it has been modified by humans, which has maximized the population of its prey. The Spotted Deer (Axis axis) is the preferred prey of Leopards in Sri Lanka, and Yala has an amazingly high form of protein on hooves per square kilometer. Given the abundance of foraging and water, the prey density is very high, so Leopard population inevitably goes high. This is why Yala is so much special to spot Sri Lanka Leopard, the apex predator in Sri Lanka.

Which unique animals that a guest can see there?
In Yala unique animals are Sri Lankan Leopard (Penthera pardus kotiya), subspecies is endemic to Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) which is the largest Asian Elephant subspecies and Sri Lankan Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus inornatus) is a subspecies which is confined to Sri Lanka.

Little bit of bird watching?
Not at all…not little bit of bird watching, Yala a perfect place for bird watching. Yala is ranked as a one of the IBA’s (Important Bird Areas) in Sri Lanka. Yala harbors over 200 bird species including some endemic birds such as Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl, Sri Lanka Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Wood-shrike and Sri Lanka Swallow. Yala is the best place to see Sri Lanka’s biggest bird namely Black-necked Stork, one of the rarest birds. A day’s birding in the park during the winter season can yield a hundred species.

Why a guest should choose you?
Because of knowledge, experiences. I have experience naturalists that can serve Tara Watergate guests.

Do you provide any equipment a guest to use?
Yes, we have up to date field guides, check lists and binoculars which need to do a good safari

What are the other tours can take with you from Tara Watergate Hotel ?
Bundala, Udawalawe,Lunugamwehera, Debara wewa, and Yoda wewa are our favorite bird watching destinations.

To cite an example, guests should consider having a naturalist, such as Mr. Liyanage on hand when visiting Yala Wildlife National Park. You will benefit in ways that you could never even imagine after every dollar you spend on your vacation with Mr.Dhanushka Liyanage .