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The Marine Life of Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka is a place where some of the biggest gatherings of sea creatures happen. What brings the oceanic giants and other creatures, which has seduced travelers around the world for centuries, to the magical shores of Sri Lanka?

Along with a mountain range in the heart bounded by a fertile coastal plain and strange weather patterns, Sri Lanka stands as the cross road for spectacular migrating marine life. Further the sea near the coast is found to be extremely fertile which lures number of schools of fish and sea birds and water birds.

The secret for fertile water lies 100 km away from the shores. Sri Lanka is an island powered by rain. In Sri Lanka warm monsoon winds bring moisture from the sea. As they hit the central highland, they rise, then they cool and finally the monsoon begins. Sri Lanka has a staggering number of lakes.The central mountain range of Sri Lanka gives birth to mammoth lakes. They wash down the mountains while they collect leaves and debris. They work their way through impenetrable jungles collecting nutrients from the earth. On rout these rivers wash rich plains.Some of the plains are wildlife habitats where animals find life; the animals fertile the rivers further. The lakes finally mix with the sea in brackish swamps (the mangroves). The swamps are a transitional, and a no man’s land between the sea and the coasts. It is those rivers are the reason for the richness in the sea around the Sri Lanka.

Sperm Whales
Just off the shores of Sri Lanka, some of the biggest gatherings of the world’s largest predator alive happen. Sperm Whales are constantly on the move in the sea around Sri Lanka. After hours in the deep, they come to the surface of the sea to breath and fertile it, before diving down 2 km into the sea. The life of Sperm Whales in the deep sea hasn’t been recorded, since the pressure in those parts of the sea is so much that it can even crush a human. As they move deep they shut down some of the organs to serve energy. Another feature of Sperm Whales is that they produce the biggest sound that any creature alive can produce to stun prey while they dive down the sea.

Lagoon Marine Life
One set of ecosystems that has its own unique features around the coasts of Sri Lanka is the lagoons where mangroves can be found. Mangroves are vital nurseries for young fish. The roots of mangroves provide shelter and protection for small fish from predators. Archer fish is one distinctive species of fish that lives in the lagoons of Sri Lanka. They have eyes with one half looking into the water and the other half looking the world above water. They shoot water from the mouth to drop insects from trees and can judge the reflection and distance precisely to hit the prey almost every time.

Spinner Dolphins
Even though the population has declined due to hunting, large schools of the ocean’s greatest acrobats, Spinner Dolphins are easily spotable in the sea around Sri Lanka. Spinners in Sri Lanka help fishermen in search of Tuna as they are often found swimming around schools of Tuna with young pups clinging on to the side of the mother. Spinner Dolphins live up to their name. They rotate spectacularly and leave meters out of the water. Why they spin is a mystery. Some argue it is a way of communicating while others say it is to remove parasites from their skin. Perhaps they do it because they simply can.

Water Birds – Cormorant
One prominent feature in the ecosystem around the shores of Sri Lanka is the presence of waterbirds. Cormorant is one of them. In the lagoons they work in groups driving the school together in search of fish. A behavior that cormorants pass from one generation to the next generation is the habit of breaking the bones of the catch before consuming. This makes it easier to swallow the catch. However, they have to be quick. Otherwise they lose the catch in fight. Like most water birds they don’t have water repellent feathers which make them excellent divers. But this means that they need to hang their wing to dry.

Water Birds – Sea Eagle
Sea eagle is another distinctive species live in the coasts of Sri Lanka and they are the largest bird in the island too. Sea eagles rely on the sea to find food and are excellent hunters. After catching a prey, they render that invisible to protect it from rival birds such as crows. Another creature that they don’t like the presence of is monkeys and the feeling is mutual.As the monsoon season ends sea eagles find a partner to make a family to lay eggs.After hatching eggs, the mother feeds the chicks frequently, however as the babies get older the mother leaves longer and longer gaps in between bringing meals to entice them into the air.

Coral Reefs
Spectacular coral reefs and shipwrecks have made excellent habitats for shoals of reef fish such as Yellow Striped Fusilierand Damselfish around the shores of Sri Lanka. Damselfish is the gardener in this ecosystem. Damselfish garden their own algae, help algaethat they like to grow,and even weed the crops. In corals reefs different species of fish live in close proximity to each other which has given rise to strange relationships – Blue-streak Wrasse by wiggling her tale and behaving strangely let the other fish know that they accept clients for grooming. They feed themselves by doing this while grooming the clients. Without this strange relationship some fish (the clients) can’t get rid of dead skin and parasites. When dusk arrives the time of predators comes. Marble Ray,Honeycomb Moray, and Lionfish are some of the predatory species of fish in this ecosystem. Marble Ray deploysan 80 volt current to stunt prey. Honeycomb Moray uses his sense of smell to alert the presence of them. As the shadows are forming,squadrons of Lion Fish with venomous spiky fin rays move out in formation in search of small fish. They rely on their lighting speed, instead of their venom, to strike preys.

Blue Whales
Further, the presence of deep water so close to land and fertility of water attract the largest animal ever existed, the Blue Whale to the shores of Sri Lanka. This is one of the only places on earth where Blue Whales can be found so close to shore, all year around. Their tongue can weigh more than an elephant and consume over a ton of food every day. These creatures voyage the ocean around the world. But in Sri Lanka uncharacteristically they hardly go far; they seem to like Sri Lanka. In addition, Blue Whales in Sri Lanka, for some reason, have a unique sound. The other Blue Whales who migrate world’s oceans don’t produce these sounds. This may be the only place on earth where Blue Whales have made permanent homes. Are the Blues in Sri Lanka distinctively different from the rest? Or is itsimply a tribute to the richness of these waters?

The existence of mighty marine mammals has been studied by scientists only during the last couple of decades. To sustain the marine life in Sri Lanka, island’s coast must remain fertile and productive. However, Sri Lanka’s forests are shrinking fast which might threaten its marine life. Ancient Sri Lanka sculptured Sri Lanka in a way that benefited nature. Can modern Sri Lanka learn to do the same?

Ambalama

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In our tour of history, amongst all the other complex establishments you find these interesting little hut like creations just by the ancient roads. Let us find what kind of importance they possess in the history of Sri Lanka.

‘Ambalama’, a simple structure built as a resting place for travelers, roots of which runs in to the era of ancient Kings are usually built under the patronage of local or the regional head. Since there were no other means of transportation especially for general public those days, they used to walk a lot even for their day to day activities. Inherently you get exhausted when walked for quite a distance and it was ‘Ambalama’ where people stepped-in, to have their meals and have a good rest. Continue reading

Gem Mining

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This pearl of the Indian Ocean, is renowned for its rare gems found especially in Rathnapura area. To start with our Gem tour, let us find some details about the gem mining and the lives of those miners deep down the mines.

Gem mining is quite a hectic task and in Sri Lanka most of its mechanisms and techniques are still in the most basic form. This means the life of those miners are not as beautiful as the gems you wear proudly in your rings and necklaces. Having such a basic process means that it involves lot of customs and beliefs in each of the steps from selecting a suitable land to finding a precious stone from the lode. Continue reading