Friday, 6 February 2015

Sri Lanka Trave Pt 4: Madu Ganga River Safari

One of the best things to do in Balapitiya is to take a boat ride around the Madu River. This ride called Madu Ganga River Safari is a special package that will enable you to enjoy the biodiversity of the river which is home to more than 300 species of plants and about 250 species of wildlife. The ride includes a stopover at a riverside farm for a relaxing fish spa and a visit to one of the islands to see how cinnamon is processed.

A number of boat companies at Balapitiya offers such trips. They are mostly located along the river bank at the edge of Balapitiya town and the best way to get a good deal is to compare prices and bargain as you walk along.
Shinagawa Beach Resort where we were staying is just 3km from the boat stations. We left our resort very early that morning so that we could enjoy a cool ride before the scorching sun emerged. After a little haggling with the owner of Sanuthi Boat House we settled for a sum of 3000Rs for a 12-seater boat. There were just two of us and we chartered the whole boat. The boatman assigned to bring us was Samanta.
Madu Ganga (Ganga means river) together with a nearby lake forms a large wetland where mangrove thrives. This body of water used to encompass 64 small islets and islands but over the years the number has dwindled to less than 30. This river ultimately enters the sea at Balapitiya. There are villages along the river bank and the ride is a good way to see the lifestyle of the people living around the river. 

Listed below are the highlights of our safari trip.

1. Wildlife
Samanta just knew where to find the animals that live in the river. He would slow the boat down each time a wildlife is spotted and steer it as close as possible to the wildlife for us to take snapshots.  We saw reptiles, many species of birds, fish and monkeys along the journey.
a cormorant
a kingfisher
a stork
The cormorants which are found in abundance prey on the fishes in the river.
As our boat steered near the river bank, a monkey jumped in and refused to leave. Samanta teased the monkey by taking off making the monkey panicked and it started to pee. The boat was later driven back to let the monkey off.

2) Fish Spa And Baby Crocodile
We stopped  for a fish spa in the midst of the river.
The fish that did the foot spa are huge compared to the tiny garra ruffa which are commonly used.

The owner of the spa even brought his pet baby crocodile out and allowed us to hold it. That was the first time I ever held one.

3) The Mangroves
After the spa, Samanta took us for a little adventure by maneuvering the boat through a labyrinth of mangrove trees.  

Being engulfed by a canopy of mangroves was quite an experience.

4) Lifestyle
The main occupation of residents living around Madu Ganga are fishing, prawn farming and cinnamon cultivation.
The fishermen use catamarans which are traditional canoe-like boats indigenous to Sri Lanka for their fishing activities. Unlike the canoe, the cavity in a catamaran is too narrow to sit in. Instead the boatman sits on a plank across the upper part of the boat.

We cruised past a few prawn farms too.

5. Cinnamon Island And Other Islands In Madu Ganga
There are many small islands and islets within Madu Ganga. We stopped at Cinnamon Island where only one family resides. 
The owner of the only home in Cinnamon Island is an elderly man who sprung into action to display his skills the moment we arrived. He demonstrated the process of producing cinnamon bark which involves debarking the branches and air-drying them at the roof.
This is how a cinnamon bark looks like before hardening and turning brown.
The cinnamon are dried in neat rows at the roof.
He also demonstrated how ropes are made from coconut husks.
After all the demonstration, he took out his products to sell which include cinnamon barks, cinnamon powder and cinnamon oil each packet costing 300Rs.
That's me and Samanta sitting on a catamaran on Cinnamon Island.
We cruised past another island which housed Kothduwa temple. This temple is very old and and we were given the option to stop and visit it if we wished.
We cruised by and just had a good look of it from the outside. 

We also cruised past a very tiny islet on which stands a deserted shrine.

The largest island within the river is Maduwa Island.  It is the most populous island with a couple hundreds of families residing on it. It is also the only island that is linked to the mainland.

The footbridge that links the mainland to Maduwa Island is very long.

6. Beautiful Scenery Of Madu Ganga
One of the things I enjoyed most about the ride is the picturesque scenery of tranquil villages by the river bank. Village houses by the edge of the water, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation are indeed a charming sight to behold. Below are some memorable snapshots I took.

A little store selling drinks and coconuts.

Calm water and beautiful reflection.

Rich floras.

Verdant green

Slanting coconut tree

Boats by the river

Peaceful solitude

A short bridge

Balapitiya fishing harbour
The boat ride lasted close to two hours. We were taken to see the estuary where the river meets the sea before detouring back to the pier.

This is the map of Shinagawa Beach where we stayed and Madu Ganga, the big mass of water where we took our boat ride. The distance between them is just 3km.

The boat ride which lasted one and a half hours was one of the best things we did in Sri Lanka. It was educational, refreshing and therapeutic at the same time.

Details of the boat safari:
Boat Operator:  Sanuthi Boat House
Address:            Galle Road, Bridge View
                         Balapitiya (Sea Side)
Tel:                   091-2259771
Rate:                 No fixed rate (We bargained for Rs3000/boat)
Tips:                  We were happy with our tour and tipped the boatman 500Rs

Reminder:         Never ask a tuk-tuk to bring you to a boat operator as you will never 
                         get a good rate if you do so. A commission is usually demanded by he 
                         tuk-tuk driver from the boat operator who consequently has to charge
                         One thing you can do is to stop the tuk-tuk 50 metres away and walk.
                         An early morning or evening boat ride is the best as Sri Lankan 
                         weather is super hot. Bring sunglasses and hats.

Related Posts: Click To View
Sri Lanka Travel Pt 7: The Journey From Galle To Balapitiya
Sri Lanka Travel Pt 8: Brief Garden - Wow What A Garden!


SS Marketing said...

Yes Sanuthi Boat House is a good company, you can find their full price list from visit this link and tell them you saw the prices from Dahasakshops and they will probably discount you. Madu Ganga River Ride Prices

Anonymous said...

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free.

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