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Being set about halfway along the route to Hatton of the Central Highlands and passing Avissawella of the low lands of Sri Lanka, Kitulgala is surrounded by forested hills making way to the swift waters of the River “Kelani Ganga”. Surrounded by low wooded hills, Kitulgala is a village of lush vegetation.
Kitulgala being blessed with two monsoons each year records the highest rainfall in Sri Lanka. However, January to March is the dry period that makes Kitulgala one of Sri Lanka’s foremost tourist attractions for those who love White Water Rafting.
In addition to the white water rafting, Kitulgala affords the opportunity to engage in nature adventure, jungle trekking, outdoor camping, mountain biking and Bird Watching.
Just across the Kelani River is a primeval forest with lush tropical flora, while it is home to about 54 rare species of birds. Though in a lesser density, most of the rain forest bird species that are found at the Sinharaja rainforest can be sighted at Kitulgala. Elusive endemic species like Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Green-billed Coucal and Spot-winged Thrush too are seen in the woods. The hills above the rubber plantations are populated with Mountain Hawk Eagles, Crested Treeswifts and Layard’s Parakeets.
The stretch of the Kelani River, 5km upstream from the village of Kitulgala provides seven grade two and three rapids suitable for white water rafting. The upper section is suited for the experienced white water rafting adventurers while the lower section is suited for the beginners of white water rafting. In between the rapids are a few calm stretches of 6.5 km. The Kitulgala run takes about 90 minutes to complete. Each rapid brings off its own distinctive character. Their colourful names which include Head Chopper, Virgin’s Breast, Butter Crunch, Killer Fall and the Rib Cage could perhaps carry indications as what you can expect.
The river flowing through the village is exceptionably enjoyable. Though generally broad, at Kitulgala, the Kelani River is shallow for the major part of its width and provides safe locations to swim and enjoy the waters and surroundings especially during the first three months of the year. The other bank can be accessed from the village by wading out in the shallow waters and then by a traditional outrigger canoe. The name of Kitulgala is derived from the Kitul Palm Tree (Sinhala: Sago Palm tree) that is found in abundance in the village of Kitulgala. Kitul palm syrup is a necessary ingredient in preparation of various traditional Sinhalese sweets.
Numerous varieties of Bananas together with other fruits and vegetable are grown in the village of Kitulgala. The restaurants and Hotels at Kitulgala are famous for traditional Sinhalese rice and curry supplemented by the dessert of curd sweetened with Kitul palm honey.
Kitulgala has been famous for being the location where the award winning classic movie “Bridge on the River Kwai” directed by David Lean was filmed. The picturesque location of the movie by the river is accessible to all visitors.
Beli Lena Caves
Located 8km from Kitulgala, the caves revealed the remains (ten skeletons) of the prehistoric “Balangoda Man” (Homo sapiens balangodensis), Sri Lanka’s oldest inhabitant, deduced to have lived there 32,000 years ago.
The foot of the Adam’s Peak is a two hour drive away from Kitulgala. December to April is the traditional season for the night ascent of the 2234 meter stepped mountain where many travel to worship.
In addition to whitewater rafting; Kithulgala is also a natural centre for many other adventure sports, including abseiling, canyoning, white water and flat water kayaking and many more. As such Kithulgala has an adventure sports base with highly trained instructors, safety equipment and medical assistance if required.