Updated: Feb 10, 2019
After a 5 hour drive from Colombo, I arrived in Mannar on a beautiful December morning. After a disappointing drive through Wilpattu National Park, the country that opened up in front of me was so different to ordinary Sri Lanka. Drive through the Kalaru jungle strip bordering Wilpattu opens ones mind to the experience that lies ahead in Mannar. (For alternative root and to learn about access to Mannar, read my post Mannar - what you need to know)
The muddy and bumpy dirt road through Wilpattu only opens at 6 AM daily and closes off at 6 PM. Beyond that, the road eases out unique dry zone habitat. In some places, one can see the famous Mannar basin and an occasional colonial fort or building. The last stretch through Vankali bird sanctuary reminds you why you have come all this way and improves your appetite for more.
One of the main spectacles to see when in Mannar are the Flamingos. The majestic Greater Flamingos are a regular visitor to Mannar during the right time of the year. Usually, starting from December, thousands of Flamingos flock to Mannar salt flats and start there wonderful synchronized march. If
This season (late 2017) however, the rains have not arrived as expected and most parts of the wetland has dried out. The migration of water birds have also been very low key. Although I came across many species of ducks, according to local sources, it has been remarkably low this season. Still it does not take away the breathtaking beauty and the diversity of bird species in Mannar.
There are many other lakes and lagoons spread allover the island. Although most of them were almost dried out, large flocks of terns and ducks can be observed closer to the water front. Additionally, the grass fields of dried up lakes provide sanctuary to many different types of plovers, sandpipers...etc. By accident I even came across a small flock of Grey Francolin's also near one of the lakes.
The slat flats also attract flocks of water birds including the famous Flamingos. Although there was a flock of them in the lagoon, they were too far away in the distance for me to even clearly see this time.
Evening sunset in Mannar is so beautiful as the sun sets over the lagoons. Nights are cool, clear and peaceful this time of the year where one can see stars in all their glory.
There are many places to visit during day time when the light is too harsh. Along with historical buildings and interesting architecture, Mannar has some unique places to keep you going. 'Kiri' beach is also very beautiful with its tranquil, wave-less shoreline but its not wise to jump in due to under currents.
The road to Talaimannar beach is interesting. There are areas filled with hundreds of Palm trees and gives the feeling that your in a different country.
Although made dirty by the fisherman, the Thalaimannar beach was home to a large flock of terns who willed the skyline when I got too close to comfort.
When in Mannar, you will surely come across the famous Donkeys and Pony's. They add character to a unique landscape.
After 2 days in paradise, I have taken photographs of more than 25+ species which I didn't have photographs before this trip. As the sun set the 2nd day, I headed back to Colombo determined to make another trip soon as I have barely seen all of what Mannar has to offer.
Its a place that makes you feel as if you have gone to another country.