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RURAL ECO TOURISM AT OFFBEAT HIRIWADUNNA LAKE, DAMBULLA, SRI LANKA- BOAT RIDE & VILLAGE WALK!
This blog is about the village walk and boat ride I took in and around Hiriwadunna lake in Dambulla, Sri Lanka. It is an Eco Tourism project and one of the top offbeat things to do in Sri Lanka. I saw my first glimpse of world famous Sigiriya here.
It was late afternoon. We had just arrived at luxury resort Amaya lake in Dambulla in Sri Lanka. We had few hours left before we could finish our lunch and rest. I and my travel blogger friends had just landed at Colombo airport a few hours ago. What is the one activity we can do in the few hours that we have before the sundown? The luxurious Amaya lake is situated at a very strategic location. Both top tourist attraction such as Dambulla caves and Sigiriya are close to the resort. But these ancient monuments for sure need exploration of an entire day to do justice to them. Our local guide, the super cool Mr. Rane suggested a village walk through Hiriwadunna lake at sunset. It was very close to the place and sunset is the best time to enjoy it, we were told.
We wolfed down our club sandwiches, juices and potato wedges ferociously. We had less time within which we had to freshen up, check in, eat and leave. I had requested to cancel the bullock cart which was a part of the itinerary as I am against the use of any animal for human entertainment or other activities.
ECO TOURISM AT THE OFFBEAT HIRIWADUNNA LAKE, DAMBULLA, SRI LANKA
As we arrived at the main road leading to the Hiriwadunna lake, we left the car and walked on the dirt path under the canopy of tall trees. It was an isolated place. No other human was in sight yet barring a few locals. The first glimpse of lake arrested us. I had seen similar places in India. Yet, it was an intriguing sight to behold. This place was being developed as an eco friendly destination designed as an immersive travel experience for the discerning travelers who like to go deeper and wish to explore a place beyond the usual suspects.
MY FIRST VIEW OF SIGIRIYA FROM HIRIWADUNNA LAKE, DAMBULLA
This was where I had my first view of the world famous Sigiriya and Pidurangala rocks at far distance. As soon as we sat in the boat, one person at a time, the guide showed us the huge mountain which stood out in the absence of any other similar mountain in the vicinity. That is Sigiriya, 10 Best Places to Visit in Sri Lanka!
My eyes open wide, I asked them impatiently, “When are we going to Sigiriya” It was the next day, I was told. From the distance, it looked like a mysterious mythological structure. I will find out the next day. Awestruck, I stared at it one last time, eyes failing to blink, before the boat swerved to narrow waterways, reminiscent of the backwaters of Kerala.
THE SERENE AMBIANCE OF THE OFFBEAT HIRIWADUNNA LAKE, DAMBULLA, SRI LANKA
When we started the boat ride, the lake was wide and had small islands on which sat the exotic birds of all kinds. The humidity of the Sri Lankan afternoon was replaced by cool breeze. The traffic of roads was not very far yet we were insulated from it. Souvenir shops were non-existent. So was any hint of any other tourist trap. Pollution was absent. The boat moved around lyrically, creating ripples in the lake. I would often stretch my hand and touch the water, achieving a childlike joy.
WEAR A COOL LOTUS HAT AT THE OFFBEAT HIRIWADUNNA LAKE, DAMBULLA, SRI LANKA
Flowers like lily and lotus gave us company throughout. My back was facing the guide. We were sitting on 2 canoes joined as one. Few minutes into the ride, the guide tapped me on my back. I turned around to see him smile, stretch his hand and present me with a hat made from a lotus leaf he picked fresh from the lake. It was a cool eco friendly hat. Soon, he made one quickly for all of us. I am sure from a distance; we all looked like some eccentric aristocrats out to colonize a new exotic island. We toyed with our new hats amidst mirth and peals of laughter.
VILLAGE TOUR AT THE OFFBEAT HIRIWADUNNA LAKE, DAMBULLA, SRI LANKA
We were in the rural area of Habarana city. Villages were located parallel to the lake but we could not see it from our canoes due to dense foliage and greenery. As the waterways narrowed down, we spotted white tourists on other canoes, enjoying. It started getting cooler and darker as we navigated deeper. The boat halted at a stop. We disembarked carefully on to the makeshift wooden bridge, shaky yet strong. We maneuvered our way through the dense forest to arrive at a quaint village home.
Pics above (left to right, clockwise): Our host offering us local food. Kevum balls. Old Arrack.
We were served delicious kavum aka kevum. It is a sweet ball made with kithul treacle (local jaggery extracted from palm tree), rice flour and coconut oil. Ambrosia is the word! I ate like a glutton! We also had our first taste of sambols and coconut roti and old arrack (Sri Lankan equivalent of Goan Feni). Do read about my vegan and vegetarian food guide on Sri Lanka. Links of all my other blogs on Sri Lanka are shared below.
RURAL TOURISM AT THE OFFBEAT HIRIWADUNNA LAKE,
DAMBULLA, SRI LANKA
The hut we had congregated at was a local house and all the dish were prepared by local ladies. It was a personal space. The construction of the house was simple and eco friendly. Only natural ingredients were used to build the hut. There was no electricity. As it turned darker, I strained my eyes to look at the belongings of the household. Wicker baskets, posters of local deities on the wall, grains, the works! It gave me a quick insight into the lifestyle. I could not help but admire the effortless ways the rural areas of Sri Lanka and India are eco friendly. Unlike their city counterparts, people in rural areas do not even try hard to be eco friendly. It is in fact a part of their daily lifestyle. There is a lot for the urban planners to learn from here.
SUNSET AT THE OFFBEAT HIRIWADUNNA LAKE, DAMBULLA, SRI LANKA
We bid adieu to our smiling hosts and jumped back to our canoes. The sky was now bursting in a riot of colors. It was a surreal sunset. The green forest had turned black with a backdrop of a brilliant orange sky.
The silhouette of leaves made them appear like the guards of the island. The air had become cooler. We had turned silent. Nature dwarfed us with its subtle power and beauty. As we hopped on to the rickshaw (tuk tuk), I peeped out of the window to look at the sunset one last time.
WHERE TO STAY IN DAMBULLA,
Amaya lake in Dambulla is a wonderful luxury property to stay when in Dambulla. It is a great place to stay if you are visiting not only the Hiriwadunna lake, but also Sigiriya and Dambulla caves. It is a sprawling property and has individual cottages for all guests. It is located next to a beautiful lake. Read about it in detail on my blog. Links are shared below.
The view from my #SoulWindow is soothing!
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