The Udawattekele Forest Reserve is the historic royal park that crawls across the uppermost spine of the Kandyan plateau. It spans 257 acres and was once known as “Uda Wasala Watte” which means “the gardens above the palace.”
Senkada and Rajasinghe
Ancient records state that there was once a brahmin called Senkada who dwelled in the caves in Udawattekele and that was how Kandy got one of its older names; Senkadagala. The cave was visible on a walk through the forest reserve until 2012 when it collapsed in a landslide. The gardens were used as a pleasure garden by the kings of Kandy and were forbidden to the public.
During the colonial era, the British used some of the lands to construct a garrison and pathways that today are used and disused trails through the reserve. On the south-eastern side stands an abandoned British garrison now overgrown. It was attacked by Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe’s forces in 1803 and the British troops manning the garrison were massacred.
The Fall of the Kingdom
After the Fall of the Kandyan Kingdom, the forest was subject to human activity including clearing and logging. Its condition deteriorated until it was declared a forest reserve in 1856 and made a sanctuary in1938.
Important Part of the Plateau
The Kandy lake is fed from springs that originate in Udawattekele. It also carries out air purification thanks to its elevation and placement above the city. There are many a hotel in Kandy that are in close proximity to make it to the sanctuary in under a couple of minutes. The reserve is only 10 minutes’ drive from Kandy town so you can easily get to it from a hotel in Kandy that is comfortable and spacious like Kings Pavilion.
The forest is home to endemic trees such as Madatiya, Tel Kekuna and Ankenda. There is a dense spread of flora thus restricting sunlight from reaching the underground layer. Some of the species of creeper are over 200 to 300 years old.