Muthurajawela Wetlands

Literally translated to the ‘Swamp of Royal Treasure’, the Muthurajawela Wetlands does not disappoint, as the marshy land is a haven for a great many species of flora and fauna, especially in the form of aquatic birds. Due to its vast biodiversity that empowers the unique ecosystem, the marsh land is considered to be one of the 12 priority wetlands in Sri Lanka. Coupled with the fact that the wetlands are relatively unknown to many a traveller, the Muthurajawela Wetlands is an idyllic setting for the wildlife junkie to explore.

Best Known For

  • Teeming with an abundance of wildlife surrounded by lush greenery and mangroves, the Muthurajawela Wetlands serve to be an exemplary sanctuary of biodiversity that cultivates some of the more unique ecosystems of the country, making it perfect for the nature lover to delve into.
  • What makes it all the more enticing is the boat excursions that begin from the famed Hamilton Canal, allowing you to witness all the natural splendour it has to offer, making it perfect for the wildlife junkie to click away at the many chirping birds, the elusive crocodiles and, if you are lucky, the globally threatened Gray Slender Loris.

Interesting Facts

  • It was in 1996 that the wetlands of Muthurajawela was designated a wetland sanctuary by the government of the country, under the Flora and Fauna Protection Act, in recognition of its unique and vast biodiversity. Furthermore, making it one of the 12 priority wetlands of Sri Lanka.
  • However, even before its designation by the government, the wetlands were a haven for wildlife and was kept that way by the kings of old deliberately.
  • Legend has it that the kings of Sri Lanka hid treasures within the swamp so as to safeguard their wealth from any form of thievery. Thus, the reason as to why it is named ‘Muthurajawela’, the ‘Swamp of Royal Treasure’.
  • Others claim, however, that the reason for its name is due to the abundant flora and fauna that thrive in the area, accentuating the kingdoms of ancient Sri Lanka. Thus claiming the entire wetlands itself to be a ‘Royal Treasure’ in itself.
  • The formation of the wetlands are believed to hark back 7,000 years ago, further justifying Sri Lanka’ wealth of natural bliss.
  • Presently, the marsh land is home to a variety of endemic and rare wildlife, including some of the more common ones.
  • According to the Wildlife Department, the sanctuary is home to 40 species of fish, 14 species of reptiles, 102 species of birds and 22 species of mammals and 14 species of amphibians.
  • Moreover, the wetlands are also known to be a breeding ground for a great many species of invertebrates, namely, 48 species of vibrantly coloured butterflies.
  • However, it is the 100 or more bird species that has made the sanctuary a popular one, as the species that thrive include a great many rare, migratory and endemic birds. Such species being the Little and Indian Cormorant, Cattle, Little, Intermediate & Large Egrets, Purple Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Little Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black Bittern, Yellow Bittern, Chestnut Bittern and the Black-headed Ibis to name but a few of the prominent ones.
  • Moreover, the dwelling of the rare monkey-like, Gray Slender Loris, which has now become a globally threatened species, due to the destruction of their habitat, have made many a wildlife junkie to flock to the wetland sanctuary and witness the mammal.
  • Partaking in a boat excursion organised by the Muthurajawela Visitor Centre will also allow you to delve into the sanctuary’s 194 species of flora, many of them endemic too. Therefore, making for an all-round experience of the country’s natural wonders.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The marsh in Sri Lanka is open daily from 7:00am to 6:00pm, however, its best experienced during the morning and late afternoon, as it is possible to see and hear the many aquatic birds and other migratory species going about their days.
  • The wetlands are open throughout the year, however, the months from September to April prove to be the perfect period in which it is possible to view the many migratory species of birds that take refuge in the sanctuary, due to favourable weather conditions.
  • Exploring the wetlands would cost LKR 2,000 and can only be explored in boats provided by the Muthurajawela Visitor Centre.
  • It is highly recommended that you call and reserve a slot for a boat excursion beforehand, as it avoids all the hassle of queuing and waiting for your turn.
  • It is best to be clad in safari clothing, along with other essentials like water and snacks as well.
  • Please adhere to the rules and instructions set forth by the tour guide and the authorities, as it is a major biodiversity hotspot of Sri Lanka.
  • Please refrain from bringing any polythene or pollutants as well, since it can destroy the unique ecosystem of the wetland.
  • As always do not forget your camera and binoculars, since the wetland provides a perfect opportunity for the birder to click away at some rare, endemic species, along with the other flora and fauna.

In conclusion, the Muthurajawela Wetlands is a kaleidoscopic wonder and an eclectic mixture of lush greenery and mangrove ecosystems that allow for exquisite wildlife to take refuge in, accentuating Sri Lanka’s status as the Paradise Island and making it a haven for the wildlife enthusiast.

Title image by: Nara O' Neil


September - April


Boat Rides
LKR 1,200
Per Person

Tickets At


Nature and Outdoors

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