It frequently rains here at Sinharaja. The best months with less precipitation are January to March and August, September. Anyhow, if you visit Sri Lanka, it's a must to come here with a minimum stay of one night rather two. Sinharaja is a biodiversity hotspot with endemic trees, wildlife, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. One of the rare places with a stunning primary tropical rainforest.
The Sinharaja rainforest is affected by the southwest monsoon with heavy rainfall from May to July and the northeast monsoon from November to January. Driest months and the best time to travel from January/February until March. April, and August to October expect more precipitation but still worth a try. Located at the island’s wet zone, rain can always occur also in the drier season. The annual rainfall ranges from 3000 up to 6000 mm. Night temps are above 20°C / 68° F and day temps are almost 30° C / 86° F with an average humidity of 85%.
Needless to say to watch birds you need to be there very early. To spot a frogmouth sleeping ask your guide. Usually, they know where to find this rare to spot nightjars.
Sinharaja is a World Biosphere Reserve since 1978 and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. Parts of the primary forest were saved from commercial logging by its inaccessibility. The exceptional rainforest is only 21 km long and between 3 to 7 km width. Sinharaja starts 90 m above sea level up to an elevation of 1.170 m. This forest and the secondary lowland rainforest are a treasure trove for endemic species of mammals, birds, butterflies, and reptiles. It's a birders paradise.
There are about 160 bird species, with roughly 30 endemic birds. The birding highlights are the elusive red-faced malkoha which we spotted on the top of a tree, the beautiful Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and the night active frogmouth.
Sinharaja is very well known from the phenomenon of moving birds in mixed feeding flocks. The tropical rainforest is home to 45 species of reptiles, more than 20 are endemic like the green pit viper.
Beware of leeches; they occur in abundance even in the dry season. Protect your legs; long trouser only is not enough. I had a blood-sucking leech on my calf. Nowadays you get leech socks at the office of the entrance.
Where to Stay in Sinharaja
It's a long and bumpy drive to Sinharaja. You get to the rainforest by foot only. It is advisable to stay either at the border or nearby to be early morning at Sinharaja for birdwatching. The Rainforest Mount Lodge close to the Sinharaja border the south-east entrance is perfectly located and offers guided walks. We spent here two nights, and even this was much too short for this outstanding nature experience. Another outstanding lodge is the Sinharaja Rainforest Vini Villa directly at the Sinharaja south-east entrance. If you come from the north there are fewer options for a comfy stay. The only one we can recommend close to the north entrance with lots of bird around is the Blue Magpie Lodge Sinharaja. Next time we definitely stay in Jansen's bungalow Sinharaja. It's situated secluded within the border of the rainforest.
Three Must-Know Tips
- To get the most out of your trip, you need a guide with English skills, knowledge, and passion. Either ask in your lodge for an experienced guide or check the skills of the guide at the entrance. Most of them do an excellent job with lots of passion, but unfortunately not all of them. We were lucky with our guide.
- Buy leech socks at the office of the entrance for about RS 350 - less than 2 € Even in the dry season it's a good investment. Just in case bring salt if one of the bloodsuckers got you.
There are three different entrances. In our opinion, the south-east and the north offer the best experiences. More information in the next heading.
Entrances and Hiking Trails
Northern Entrance - Kudava, Weddagala coming from Udawalawa takes roughly 3 hours
From here you can walk and climb to the Sinhagala Peak and the Moulawella Peak
South Entrance - The Galle District
From here you get to the Neluwa Doowili Ella Falls
South East Entrance - The Matara District close to Deniyaya
From here you get to several waterfalls
But it doesn't matter which entrance you choose; it depends on where you are coming from. Every visit is different and can be spectacular.
What to Bring
- Rainproof jacket
- Mosquito net (we always have our own in our bag)
- Zoom Camera