Bambarella is a beautiful rural village bordering the Dumbara Forest Reserve (popularly known as the Knuckles Range). It can be reached via Kandy by following the route through Wattegama, Panwila and Huluganga to Bambarella. The area is famous for its cascades, because of the sudden differences in elevation in the region, and because many streams found in the region fall into the river Huluganga. Huluganga is one of the major branches of the Mahawali (at 335 km, it is the longest river in Sri Lanka), which feeds the famous Victoria Reservoir and several other large reservoirs. The best time to visit these waterfalls is from May to August, as it is the season when this area receives a considerable amount of rainfall.
Because Bambarella is situated at a fairly high elevation, most of the waterfalls will not have large volumes of water cascading down throughout the year. So it is better to visit them during the rainy season, or better still just after the rainy season ends. The environs of Bambarella always treat visitors to some breathtaking landscapes unique to Knuckles mountain range.
The Huluganga Ella is the first waterfall that one would come across on the way from Wattegama to Bambarella. It is the largest waterfall in the area, fed from the river Huluganga itself. Situated right in the middle of Huluganga town, one could easily pass by without noticing the huge waterfall because it is situated right under the bridge crossing the river Huluganga. A little further from the Huluganga bridge, you will come across a newly constructed deck for viewing the Huluganga Ella Waterfall. Even if you have seen this waterfall before this deck was built, the view from the new deck will give you an entirely fresh experience. This waterfall is said to be 75m in height and one of the tallest waterfalls found in the Knuckles region.
Passing the small Huluganga town about 5.5km towards Bambarella, you will come across the entrance to the Lebonan Tea Estate. You could take the tarred road leading into the Lebonan Estate to see the lesser-known Lebonan Estate Waterfall. When you’ve travelled about 200m along this road, you will come across a narrow bridge over a stream, which incidentally can only be crossed by a very small vehicle such as a Tuk-Tuk. A car or a larger vehicle cannot go further, hence you’d need to park before the bridge and walk towards the estate’s line houses situated about 300 meters uphill. The stream on the right hand side of the road creates the waterfall; so keeping an eye on the stream will help to locate it easily. It is probably advisable to ask someone in the line houses for directions to the waterfall, as the footpath leading to it starts right behind these line houses. The Lebonan Estate Waterfall is around 8m in height and cascades in two parts. Curiously, the lower part of the waterfall resembles the famous Baker’s Falls in Horton Plains.
One has to travel further towards Bambarella on the main road to see the other two waterfalls in the area, known as Saree Ella and Jodu Ella. When you arrive at the Bambarella street junction, take the road leading towards the school, to see Saree Ella falls. A vehicle with a fair bit of ground clearance can make it along this route for another 1km to reach the waterfall. There is an abandoned wooden building close to the waterfall that seems to be a summer hut created by an estate owner. It is the best landmark to locate the falls. This waterfall got the name Saree Ella because of its resemblance to a Pallu or Throw of a Saree. The waterfall is around 25m in height and is a breathtaking sight when in full flow.
Following the main road and crossing the estate line houses, one can reach the second waterfall in the area, known as Jodu Ella. There is a footpath through the tea plantation leading to the waterfall, after passing those line houses we spoke of earlier. The footpath leads right into the middle of the waterfall; there is no clear path to reach the base. However, the full waterfall can be seen from the main road. The Jodu Ella waterfall got its name because it drops as two separate streams (joduwa in sinhala) from the mountaintop. The source of the waterfall is the river Moragaha, which starts from the Knuckles Mountain Rage. This waterfall is documented as being 45m in height. On the way to the Lebonan Estate Waterfall, one can see the Jodu Ella falls with its many small cascading flows, alongside the estates of Gomara.
Taking the left turn from Huluganga town towards Alakola Estate and driving down the scenic road through the estate, one can reach Thaliya Watunu Ella falls. One must stop the vehicle at the bend just after the beautiful shaded road through Alakola Estate to see the waterfall. It is seen at a fair distance. There is a footpath leading towards a nicer view, and it seems that one can follow that footpath further to reach the base of the waterfall. This waterfall is also created from the Huluganga stream, but due to a diversion of the water for a hydropower plant, this waterfall cannot be seen in full flow throughout the year, unlike the Huluganga Ella Falls. This waterfall is 50m in height.
Even though there are many other waterfalls found in the area, they are not so popular among visitors because of the rough terrain and hence difficulty in reaching them. Those falls that can be reached will provide the spectator with an unforgettable experience. Apart from these awesome cascades a visitor can also enjoy scenic beauty of the misty Knuckles mountain range, inquire into the simple lifestyle of people living in these isolated villages, and marvel at the wildlife.
It is a good idea to be prepared for leach attack, especially when it’s raining. Taking some strong salt solution with you would help…
Story | Danushka Senadheera
Photography | Danushka Senadheera