Directly outside the main part of the Greater Colombo City, lie the suburbs of Rajagiriya and Ethul Kotte. The area was once the location of the Kotte Kingdom, centuries ago, and remains the seat of power with the country’s Parliament being located in the area.
Ethul Kotte in specific, was the heart of the Kotte Kingdom and held a fort, homes of ministers and, a moat. The names of the roads in the area, such as Rampart Road and Colombotantri (Colombo Regime) Mawatha, still bear the footprints of their long history. The fort appears to have been protected by Diyawanna Lake at the back, while a moat fed from the lake protected the other sides. With the passing of centuries, there was water seepage and a major portion of the water drained back into the lake. The water that remained turned the surrounding land into a sludgy marshland, unfit for inhabitation by humans. It also became a part of the flood plains of Diyawanna lake.
The marsh remained undisturbed for many centuries, becoming overgrown with mangroves and wetland plants. It became the location of a rich and flourishing ecosystem as many birds and animals made their home amongst the wilderness. Untouched by humans and unseen from prying eyes, the marshland became a haven for rare local and migratory birds, and a large number of insect life. Seeds brought in by the birds also gave rise to many beautiful and rare flowering plants, causing a number of butterfly species to visit the area.
In 1985, the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation took into consideration the biodiversity in the area and declared the 18 hectare area a Wildlife Sanctuary. Then in 2013, the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project (MCUDP) redesigned the area as a wetland park where people could enjoy nature and have some healthy recreation. It was opened in 2016. Today the park also serves to protect the flora and fauna in the area, while helping control the flooding that occurs from any overflows from the Diyawanna Lake. It is visited by locals and foreigners alike and is famous for birdwatching and butterfly watching.
Visiting Beddagana Wetland Park
Beddagana Wetland Park is located in the Beddagana area of Ethul Kotte, close to back end of Rampart Road. The main entrance can be reached by turning at the Beddagana turn-off while traveling down Kotte Road, and then turning onto the lane on the left (one lane after the lane with the Beddagana Bo Tree) that leads to the wetland park. The park itself has a spacious carpark available at the corner, right after your read it. So you can park your vehicles there easily. You will need to do a lot of walking. So keep your jogging shoes and glass water bottles ready. Plastic bottles and containers are not allowed in the park. You will have to leave them outside at the ticket counter. If you bring any snacks, please do not leave any wrappers or plastic within the park. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and cameras though. Keep the flash and shutter sound switched off on the cameras to avoid disturbing the wildlife.
Entering the ParkEntrance to the park requires tickets at a fee. The ticket counter is at the main entrance, which is some way away from the car park. You can reach it by walking further along the lane, or taking a shortcut along the Migratory Birds Trail (see details below) from the back of the car park. It will lead you alongside the public ground adjoining the car park, and then through some scrubby brush until you enter from the side. This shortcut will also allow you to see some birdlife.
The park is open from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm all 365 days of the year. After purchasing tickets you will be able to enter. The park has various zones with 2 main trails. The zones have clear name boards, allowing you to distinguish them.
Trail 1 – Lakeside TrailThis trail consists of a boardwalk through the greenery, runs alongside the lake and ends at a floating deck that gives an amazing view of the lake. The trail passes through 2 key zones: the Butterfly Walk and the Duck Pond.
Butterfly WalkButterfly Walk is an area with a large number of flowering plants much loved by butterflies. A number of rare butterfly breeds seen in Sri Lanka are present here. Butterfly enthusiasts willl find this zone a haven. That said, it will take a sharp and patient eye to spot them in their glory.
Duck PondThe boardwalk will lead you over marshland, and through curtains of vines and mangrove tunnels. They form a delightful experience on their own. After some time you will come upon a large pond with many waterbirds. This is the Duck Pond. While many ducks visit it, there are also many other species to be seen here. If you travel around the shore of the pond. You will also be able to find a wooden observation tower. After climbing up the flights of stairs you can watch the birds in the pond and its surroundings without disturbing them. It’s a great place to do some birdwatching at dawn and dusk.
Diyawanna Walk and Floating Deck
After leaving the Duck Pond, the boardwalk of Trail 1 will continue on towards the lake. Along the way you will also come across a little open hut with seating, where you can get some rest. After going further, you will reach the lakeside and find that the boardwalk follows the bank. This section is known as Diyawanna Walk. You will pas by a small timber deck that extends over the water. You can enjoy the lake here.
Then the trail move on to more firm ground as it passes through a forest area, known as the Forest Trail. There are many migratory and local bird species, and fauna such as the Fishing Cat and Water Monitor, to be found here. After enjoying the picturesque scenery along the way, you will come to the end of the trail – the Floating Deck.
This wooden deck protrudes over the water, appearing to be floating. You will be able to have a great view over the lake. The place is earmarked as one of the best photography locations within the park.
Trail 2 – Migratory Birds Trail
Trail 2 is the trail that ends in the car park. When you enter this trail from the entrance, you will find the Park school first. This school gives information and small lectures on the biodiversity of the park, wetland management, conservation, etc. You can learn a lot about Beddagana Wetland Park here.
The Bird trail which continues from here passes through an open area with scrubby low trees, a natural water reservoir, and marshland. You will find many waders, water birds and other bird species here. Visitors are not allowed to step off the trail as many birds nest on the ground, and their nests may be disturbed by human interaction. You will also find artificial nests made with rocks, pebbles and straw by the park management, where migratory birds make their temporary nests and even lay eggs.
There will be much to see here for Birdwatching enthusiasts so keep your binoculars and cameras as hand. This trail will allow you to leave the park ending your tour.
【LK94000945: Beddagana Wetland Park】 Photos by Vijayaratnam Ganeshkumar and Text by Shankari Sivananth.