Most people who talk about the central mountains are not interested in the beautiful mountains of Sabaragamuwa. If you observe the Google map, you will see that this mountain is a different mountain region away from the central mountains. Geologists have named the Sabaragamuwa mountain region where the top of this mountain is Bulutota – Rakwana mountains.
The highest peak in the Sabaragamuwa mountain range is the Gongala peak. People who love nature often come to climb Gongala mountain with a very beautiful environment near Deniya city.
How to get there?
If coming from Colombo to climb the Gongala hill, the route is as follows.
You can reach the foothills of Gongala through Palamadulla – Madampe – Rakwana – Suriyakanda – Boraluvageinna – Hayes Estate. By coming to Deniya via Matara, you can also reach the foothills of Gongala. Hayes Tea Factory is accessible by car and from there on foot. If you continue along the road passing through the tea plantations, you can reach the top of the mountain.
There are television towers and a naval base. To get to the top of the real Gongala hill, one has to walk up through the thick forest for another 3 kilometers from the naval base. In order to travel to the top of Gongala, it is mandatory to inform the naval base and get their permission. Since there is a possibility of getting lost on the way, it is best if you travel with someone who knows the way. Remember that it is important for tourists to behave during their trip in order to preserve the natural environment.
The location of the mountain range
Gongala mountain peak is located near Deniya town on the border of Matara district. The boundary that separates Southern Province from Sabaragamuwa Province also runs through this mountain. You can definitely see this peak while traveling on the Deniya Rakwana route. Bordering the eastern part of the Sinharaja forest, the ridge stretches from Rakwana to the Matara district boundary in the west.
Facing south-east and south, it spreads at a height of 600-1358 meters above sea level. Gongala, the highest peak, is 1358 meters (4455 feet) high. The Rakwana Gongala mountain range is important as a geographically and biologically important and sensitive ecological region.
This mountain range spread from Beverly Watt to Suriyakanda in Matara district, belongs to the two village official domains of Kandilpana and Viharahena belonging to the Kotapola Divisional Secretariat Division, and to the two village official domains of Ulliduvawa and Boraluwa Aina belonging to the Kolonna Divisional Secretariat Division of Ratnapura District. It is said that the name Gongala is due to the location of a rock in the shape of a bull’s head on the top of this hill and at that time this area was a kingdom of bulls.
The top of the mountain is a beacon
When you come to Gal Talawa, which is at the highest point, you will have the opportunity to observe a large area of the Southern Province and Sabaragamuwa Province. During this trip, you will find small water streams on the way, so you can get water from them. An abandoned cardamom plantation can also be seen here. It can be seen how the top of Gongala mountain, which creates very beautiful views, is often covered with earth. A very cool climate can also be enjoyed here.
The Rakwana mountains, the mountain ranges towards Kalawana, the mountain ranges including Sinhagala in the Sinharaja forest, Udawalawa reservoir, Deniya, Balangoda etc. can be seen here. Mountain forests can also be observed at the top of the mountain.
A tropical rain forest
The Rakwana hills act as a mountain range extending over the southern border of the wet zone and the dry zone. It is also important as a southwest wind barrier. The annual rainfall here exceeds 5000 mm. The forests of Gongala mountain directly contribute to the fertility of Matara district and the southern and western border of Ratnapura district due to the southwest monsoon rains caused by this climate. The whole economy of this area rests on the tea plantation which is secured on this catchment forest system.
The Ging Ganga starts from the top of Gongala hill and is fed by Sinharaja until it falls into the sea at Ging Tho. Its catchment area is 922.2 square kilometers. Water streams flowing north from this mountain range contribute to feeding the Kalu Ganga.
It also gives water to the river
It has been revealed that a large stream of water is provided to feed the Walave River from the eastern part of Sinharaja. On the road from Embilipitiya to Ratnapura, all the streams on the left to Godakawela are born from the Gongala range and the Sinharajae range. Environmentalists say that there are 44 active water flows that start from Gongala and Sinharaja and feed the Walawe River in the 39 km from near the 93 km post to the 132 km post of Rakwana on the A17 road that runs from Deniya to Madampe.
Thus, Rakwana mountain range headed by Gongala contributes to providing rainwater to a large area in the southern region of Sri Lanka.
Strong wind currents blow across the mountain range. Due to this wind condition and the nature of the land, the trees around the top of the mountain grow slowly. Due to a geographical region that is more than 3000 feet above sea level, the vegetation of the mountainous region is abundant.
Its branches are flat like a seven-leaf clover. The leaves are thin and thick and facing the fast wind currents. Because of the high humidity, it is prone to aphids. Wild cinnamon, randotalu, wild sapu, kattu kitul, kudu daula, cane, rock shore, dawata, kekirivara, keena are some of the plant species found in this forest. Many types of orchids can also be seen in Gongala.
Many species of mammals, including elephants and tigers, live in Gongala forests. Uguduwa, Gona, Walura, Diaballa, Olumua, Miminna, Kalavedda, Kabellewa, Mugatia are some of those mammals. A rich bird population can be seen here, including many bird species endemic to Sri Lanka. This reserve is the only habitat of many rare animal species endemic to our country, such as Ardalan’s Horned Lizard, Karunaratne’s Horned Lizard, Eranga Viraj’s Tudulla, Rakwana Maha Kalaehuna etc.
Travel while saving the environment
At present, a large number of people visit the top of Gongala mountain on holidays as well as on weekends. Most of them are young people. Some of them come without understanding about the environment. Environmentalists have observed that a serious crisis situation has emerged due to these reasons. It can be observed that a number of highly sensitive places on the top of the hill have been cleared for the construction of camps for the visiting personnel. It is also seen that the trees have been cut down. As a result of removing and exposing the layers of soil and branches on the stone pillars, they are being washed away.
Burning bonfires, throwing polythene, plastic and other waste all over the place is also a serious problem. The Sinharaja Environment Friends organization says that the existence of plant and animal species is at risk due to the arrival of a large number of people at the same time, the creation of a large number of trails in the forest, noise, lighting of fires at night and noise.
The removal of wood, cutting of Vallapatta, cane cutting, clearing, spread of invasive plants that came through tea plantations into the forest, saffron cultivation, massive mound cutting for road construction, unauthorized construction and other factors have caused the destruction of the natural environment here.
A request to hand over Gongala Kanda to Sinharaja
Gongala Kanda is a forest belonging to the Unassigned Ratnapura District adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage Sinharaja Forest. Environmentalists point out that although the Cabinet approved the addition of the reserve to Sinharaja in 2004, it was not implemented. Gongala Kanda forest is the largest part of the forests belonging to Ratnapura district which is not assigned to Sinharaja and is 1512.4 hectares.