Not many get the opportunity to travel far and spend a few days away from the hustle and bustle of the busy metropolis.
Now there’s the ideal location for those in the form of vast extent of land in Muthurajawela, the Muthurajawela Visitor Centre, to be exact.
Just a 20-minute drive from the city in Tudella, Ja-ela, the MuthurajaweIa marshes offer the visitor, especially children, a vast array of bird and plant life.
"The "Muthurajawela marshes and Negombo lagoon form one large wetland of 7,000 ha between Colombo and Negombo. Some 2,000 ha of this wetland will be conserved in its present state, mainly because of its rich plant and animal life and flood detention.
Some 40% of the vertebrate species of Sri Lanka are recorded here, many of which are endemic (existing only in Sri Lanka), rare, or threatened. Famous mammals are the fruit bat, the slender lords, the otter, the fishing cat, and the mouse deer. Birds are numerous; commonly sighted species include cormorants, storks, bee-eaters, and kingfishers. Of the reptiles the brackish water crocodile is occasionally seen, whereas the large monitor lizards and many species of serpents are common.
Plant life is also rich. ‘The marsh vegetation includes mangroves, ferns, and many grasses and sedges. The famous "godakaduru" tree, providing the wood for Sri Lanka’s masks, is still fairly common. In wet areas the beautiful lotus flowers abound, together with the ‘kankun’ vegetable.
All this beauty can be conserved... with public co-operation. The Muthurajawela Visitor Centre has been established to raise funds for conservation management activities, without which the area would soon be urbanised....
A main attraction of the Muthurajawela Visitor Centre is a guided boat trip, that shows a variety of landscapes and ecosystems. Starting at the old Dutch Canal (constructed in the 16th century) with its many aquatic plant and fish species, it brings you to the Dandugam Oya, a picturesque river with various fishing activities along the banks. The river suddenly opens into the Negombo Lagoon, where again bird life and fisheries activities are seen. From there, the trip proceeds through the marsh proper through ever narrowing waterways and between ever more impressive vegetation. You will certainly come across cormorants and herons, and if you are lucky (and silent) many interesting animals.
The centre itself provides a bounty of information of the area through exhibits, slide shows and videos. Sipping a refreshing drink the visitor may enjoy the brochures or nature-related souvenirs that are for sale or write postcards to friends who missed the opportunity to explore Muthurajawela...
In the course of time, more attractions are planned. A traditional fishing village is being composed; the visitor will be surprised to see the simple ways in which house and fishing gear were made from natural materials. A nature trail will bring the walkers through a garden of medicinal and ayurvedic herbs and through a part of the marsh...
The Muthurajawela Visitor Centre is open to everyone interested in nature: Sri Lankan and international tourists, families from Colombo seeking clean air for themselves and their guests, and students of all ages. Special activities will be designed for children.
Although there is a standard excursion and activities programme, with set prices adapted to the average spending level, special activities can be accommodated. Possibilities range from special boat trips (longer duration, smaller groups) to use of the venue for exhibitions, meetings or an evening dinner get-together. The manager will provide all information.
One thought should be in the mind of all visitors. The Visitor Centre has been established to serve the environment, and the environment needs respect, care and quietness. The centre seeks the cooperation of all visitors in serving the environment by refraining from activities that disturb other living creatures, plants, animals and human beings.
Service to the environment also means that the number of boat trips has to be restricted. The centre recommends that boat trips are booked beforehand to avoid disappointment.