Located just off the southern tip of India, the island of Sri Lanka is also known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. This jewel-inspired moniker is a testament to the nation’s wondrous beauty which ranges from powdery white beaches, wide plains, verdant forests and a mountainous south.
Within its relatively small space exists the most biodiverse land mass in Asia, and Sri Lanka has been as one of the world’s 25 Biodiversity Hotspots. Over a quarter of the flowering plants found on the island, together with over a fifth of its mammals are found nowhere else in the world. The country is home to 24 official wildlife reserves, where leopards, Asian elephants, langurs, pangolins, sloths, loris, deer and wild boar roam, stalk and sway. There are also four biosphere reserves.
A century ago, half the island was forest but that figure has fallen to just a quarter today. The government is actively promoting conservation and using eco-tourism as a tool to reverse that decline. This has resulted in encouraging response from both established tour and travel operators and new ones. The eco-tourist visiting Sri Lanka will be spoiled for choice – there is natural fauna and flora to amaze, a wondrous and peaceful amalgamation of religions, as well as a long and fascinating history which has left a diverse architectural heritage going back millennia.
The rise of Sri Lanka on the world eco-tourism map has facilitated unprecedented interest in the country’s environmental conservation programs. It has allowed remote communities to leverage the resulting tourism revenue to alleviate poverty, protect their communities, and strengthen their
age-old harmonious relationship with the natural world around them.
The success of the eco-tourism sector in promoting ecological preservation goals has been assisted greatly by the fact that it has begun to stem the flow of youth and talent from remote communities to the cities. The creation of jobs in these areas allows young people to remain in their traditional habitats, and has the added effect of strengthening the community fabric in these areas.
Sri Lanka is largely a year-round destination for both regular tourism and eco-tourism. However, the monsoon months between May and July, and between October and January can bring a lot of rain which makes them unpopular. On the other hand, some of the most remote areas become accessible by boat at these times and the eco-tourist may find them to be best of all. November to April is said to be the best time to spot wildlife, both on land and for the dolphins offshore. Leopards and elephants are most active and visible between July and September.