Behold wild blue yonder!
Kumana National Park breathes new life:
Birds flying in formation. Pictures by Thusitha
With the scorching sun glaring down, no one looks for greenery in
this dry zone. Surprisingly however this region is teemed with blue
ocean-like streams here and there. Dogs tread waters to soothe the
heatwave, as well as with the hidden motif of fishing.
Despite the hot gusts of wind, this East-bound journey is no longer
much exhausting, thanks to the newly carpeted highway.
Kumana national park now offers shelter for Hindu pilgrims on their
Pada Yathra, the holy foot-journey to Kataragama. The journey sets off
in Jaffna, which takes days to reach the destination. A number of
devalas could be sighted within the confines of Kumana park - Okanda
Devale is foremost. The small-scale devales generally have no guardians,
which will be temporarily taken over by senior members of the
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa on an
"I am carrying out this because our ancestors have done this in the
past. I feel happy to oblige to engage in this holy deed," said a civil
engineer who was taking part in a devale ritual with his family.
God Skanda of Kataragama motivates the Hindus to make the holy foot
journey. The sound of bell chimes from a distance is common to hear.
Pilgrims' cries of devotion overcome the sound of bell chime at times.
Everything these Hindu pilgrims execute during the journey is meant
to be holy. The food they cook is strictly vegetarian. Drinks they
consume are strictly devoid of alcohol. And throughout the journey they
holler haro hara blessing each other.
The blessing on another hand is a signal to wild creatures of the
human presence. Most wild creatures are naturally scared to be within
the reach of humans. Besides, these pilgrims always walk in groups.
These precautions hardly raise an eyebrow for any threat on a human
Environment pollution issues rise apparently with the human
congestion. Kumana park's wildlife officers however have managed to
overcome the issue by conducting constant awareness programs.
Things are easy for these pilgrims with enhanced facilities by the
Neganahira Novodaya program, under the directive of Economic Development
Minister Basil Rajapaksa. Sanitary, water and garbage facilities are
improved along with additional Wildlife staff and volunteers.
Most of the Hindu pilgrims however have proper environment sense.
They don't pollute environment, as it is part and parcel of their
ritual. The environment is victimized mostly by the local tourists who
selfishly use the park merely for picnic purposes.
The park earlier known as Yala East National Park was changed to
Kumana National Park since September, 2006.
The park was closed for some time because of the LTTE threat. STF
camps are also posted, since poachers are an issue the Wildlife
department alone cannot handle. Historically speaking, Kumana bears a
tale of ancient civilization back to the 3rd century BC according to
The national park is famous for its migrant creatures - large flocks
of waterfowl and wading birds in particular. The number has however
taken a nosedive during the recent years. Among the common birds are
pelicans, painted storks, spoonbills, white ibis, herons and egrets.
Birds spotted in Kumana
The season for migrant birds falls between April and July.
Campsites are also available inside the national park, though it
needs advanced booking. The Wildlife Department will soon start working
on a circuit bungalow in the vicinity enabling the tourists a convenient
access to the park.
Tourists will be shuttled in four-wheel drives, and it will be no
comfortable ride either since the path is quite bumpy due to potholes.
The path however may need no modification, as the wild creatures
claim the lion's share of the kingdom.
When the evening slowly wears into night, any passer-by could
silently observe elephants taking their moonlight walks.
To the eyes familiar with the dark and gloom, it is easy to make out
an elephant. Sighting these large creatures wandering in leisure,
without caring a heck about a vehicle or two moving back and forth on
manmade freeways, is truly rare.