The area contains the largest single extent of wet “montane patina” grasslands and montane dwarf-forests in Sri Lanka . Horton Plains is regarded to be one of the most important water catchment areas in the country as the lower part of the grassland is important for collection and storage of the headwaters of a number of important rivers such as the Mahaweli, Walawe and Kelani. Slow flowing streams, waterlogged swamps and waterfalls are the prominent wetland types. The area is rich in biodiversity with high endemicity. Horton Plains National Park (HPNP) is also a popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka.
Location: Central province Sri lanka
Nearest city: Ohiya and Nuwara eliya
Area: 3,160 ha
Altitude: 1,200 – 2,300 m
Established: 1969 Nature reserve 1988 National Park
Governing Body: Department of Wild life conservation
Temperature: 15 C°
Annual Rainfall: 2500 – 5000mm
Best time of year to visit: November to March
Optimum duration of stay: 1 to 3 nights
One day excursion: From Nuwara Eliya
Most convenient accommodation option: Nuwara Eliya
World heritage site: Yes Central Highlands of Sri lanka UNESCO world heritage site
History of Horton Plains
The great plains of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka was discovered by the planter Thomas Farr in the early 19th century. In 1834 it was named Horton Plains in honor of then Governor of Ceylon (1831-1837) Sir Robert Wilmot Horton. In the year 1969, Horton Plains was declared a nature reserve. In 1988, the reserve was elevated to the status of a National Park.
But as per the recent research carried out by Dr. T.R. Premathilaka botanical archeologist from National Archeologist Department Sri lanka, discovered pollen of Barley and Oats which was carbon dated, age 13,000 to 17,500 years old after a excavation done inside Horton plains and now believe that there were domestic agriculture among stone age people in sri lanka 17,500 years ago. that’s mean Srilankan civilization was there even before the history is written. Archeologists are assuming that there are more old history of Srilankan to be resolved and Sri lanka has more history than the written history of 2,600 years.
The HPNP is located on the southern plateau of the central hills. It is dominated by Mount Totupolakanda (2,357m) to the north and by Mount Kirigalpotta (2,389m) to the west, which are Sri Lanka ’s third and second highest peaks respectively. The Precambrian rocks found in this area belong to a Highland series and consist mainly of granite rocks. The soil is of the red-yellow podsolic group while a thick black layer of decayed and decaying leaf and plant matter covers the surface layer. The mean annual rainfall is over 2000 mm, while high humidity and frequent cloud cover limits the amount of sunlight reaching the plants. The temperature can vary from highs of up to 270C during the day to less than 50C during the night. Strong winds are common during the southwest monsoon period and can sometimes reach gale force strengths.
The vegetation cover can be divided into two distinct regions of which 2000 ha consists of wet patana and the balance 1160 ha is covered with sub-tropical montane evergreen forests. Seven hundred and forty four plant species distributed among 20 families have been recorded. The grasslands are plagioclimax communities characterized by frequent fire and grazing. The grasslands are dominated by Arundinella villosa and Chrysopogon zeylanicus. Wet or water logged swamps and slow flowing streams can be found between knolls and depressions. Submerged aquatic macrophytes like Aponogeton jacobsonii the sedge Isolopis fluitans and a bladderwort Utricularia spp. are found in the slow flowing streams of Horton Plains. The bamboo Arundinaria densifolia exists along most of the stream banks. In waterlogged depressions and swampy areas Juncus primatocarpus, Garnotia mutica, Eriocaulon spp. and Exacum trinervium are common species. Twenty four species of mammals, 87 species of birds, 9 species of reptiles and 8 species of amphibians have been recorded.
Only two exotic fish species inhabit the streams; Cyprinus carpio and Oncorhynchus mykiss. The streams harbour many species of endemic crustaceans, including Caridina singhalensis, and Perbrinkia spp. Endemic amphibians associated with the streams include Polypedates eques, P. longinasus, Limnonectes greenii, Lankanectes corrugata, and Microhyla zeylanica. Among the birds, the endemic Myophonus blighi and Gallus lafayetti visits the edges of streams and ponds, while the raptors Circus spp.. visits the wetlands during the migratory season. A large herd of Cervus unicolor occurs in the park, while Prionailurus viverrinus and Lutra lutra visit the wetlands for feeding on aquatic organisms.
Notable plant species in the park includes endemic trees such as Calophyllum walkeri, Rhododendron zeylanicum, shrubs such as Rhodomyrtus parviflora, Gaultheria fragrantissima, herbs such as Exacum trinervium and E. walkeri, Drosera indica, and Giant ferns.
Horton Plains is a popular tourist destination, with World’s End being the key attraction. The park is accessed by the Nuwara Eliya-Ambewela-Pattipola and Haputale–Boralanda roads, and there are railway stations at Ohiya and Ambewela.
World’s End is a sheer precipice with an 870 m (2,854 ft) drop. It is situated at the southern boundary of the park. Another cliff known as the Lesser World’s End of 270 m (886 ft) is located not far from World’s End.
The Horton Plains plateau comes to a sudden end at World’s End, a stunning escarpment that plunges 880m. The walk here is 4km, but the trail then loops back to Baker’s Falls (2km) and continues back to the entrance (another 3.5km). The 9.5km round trip takes a leisurely three hours. Unless you get there early, the view from World’s End is often obscured by mist, particularly during the rainy season from April to September.
All you can expect to see from World’s End after around 9am is a swirling white wall. The early morning (between 6am and 10am) is the best time to visit, before the clouds roll in. That’s when you’ll spy toy-town, tea-plantation villages in the valley below, and an unencumbered view south towards the coast.
Try to avoid doing this walk on Sundays and public holidays, when it can get crowded.
It is forbidden to leave the paths, which can be slippery and tough to negotiate in places. There are no safety rails around World’s End and there have been a couple of accidents where people have fallen to their deaths. If you have young children with you keep a very firm grip on them as you approach the cliff edge.
Baker’s Falls, a waterfall formed by Belihul Oya, a tributary of the Walawe River is named after Sir Samuel Baker, a hunter and explorer who attempted to establish a European agricultural settlement at Nuwara Eliya. The waterfall is 20 metres (66 ft) high. Slab Rock Falls is another well-known waterfall in the plains. The waterfall can be reached by walking on one of the main trails; the trail is a bit steep at the end but the difficulty level is medium to easy.