Flights of Fancy: Bird Watching in Jaffna

A glorious island with many treasures to offer, Sri Lanka is a country of many delights. This Pearl of the Indian Ocean is not just strategically located for travelers journeying across continents, but also provides a home away from home to migrating birds. Their entry point from the West is Jaffna, offering the peninsula as a safe haven away from the cold climates of their original homes, for several months of the year.

It is no secret that the Jaffna Peninsula and the Gulf of Mannar on the northwest coast are abound with birds classified under the Indian Avi-Faunal Zone, hardly ever seen in other parts of the country.  The coastal areas of Jaffna dotted with wetlands, is the catalyst for this phenomenon, attracting waders among many other bird species, both migrant and resident.

If you are an avid bird watcher, then the period between August and April is the time to visit the island, and a stay in Jaffna should definitely be on your itinerary. And don’t worry too much about accommodation; Jaffna now boasts of a lovely boutique hotel known as ‘The Thinnai’ where warm hospitality is the hallmark of service. The venue allows for a comfortable stay and you can even sign up for some bird watching expeditions with the hotel’s naturalist who will also accompany you to Chundikkulam, the only declared wild life sanctuary in the North, and a well-known bird habitat.

One must not miss out on the chance to travel down the Kayts Causeway as well, which links the mainland to the Karaitivu island, and is flanked by the Jaffna lagoon and the Indian Ocean. Bird enthusiasts will be thrilled to find Lesser Sand Plovers, Little Stints, Black-tailed Godwits, Mash Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plovers and more, feeding along the sides of the road.

During the migratory period of August to April, thousands of birds can also be found at the lagoon, and this is a true feast for the eyes that allows for glimpses of The Greater Flamingo, considered a great treat for the passionate bird watcher. Adding to the scenic riot of color are Northern Pintails, Eurasian Widgeons, Northern Shovellors, Garganey birds and the Lesser Whistling Ducks, drawn by the promise of a hearty meal in the lagoon.

Travelers, local and foreign, love to make the journey to Jaffna, which is approximately 296.5 Km from the Capital Colombo to indulge in the many sights that Jaffna has to offer. Bird Watching is just one of them, and it is an expedition that will certainly not disappoint. If you make the wise decision of staying at The Thinnai, talk to the staff about their tailor made bird watching tours, which will make your holiday that much better. What’s more, your stay will be enjoyable and relaxing too. So why not kill two birds with one stone, so to speak?

 

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