The Mangrove

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Just a couple of hours drive away from Colombo and nestled in a thicket of mangroves besides the Duvemodara Oya in Kosgoda is a serene bungalow that was soon to become my favourite spot for de-stress. Plying on the Southern Highway up to Welipanna exit point, taking a right turn and traveling some 25kms till the road joins the Galle Road I was able to reach Kosgoda passing picturesque scenery. Thereafter traveling south bound pass the Turtle Hatchery on the sea side and coming alongside the railway tracks we were soon running across a bridge that was a clear sign of approaching the said location. We crossed the rail lines to take a side lane to the left which lead us to the retreat.

The Mangrove otherwise known as Kos is hidden from the beaten path and set away from the popular sea frontal hotels. The bungalow takes on a traditional look of a local villa, but boasts of tasteful selection of colours and decorations giving it a warmer ambience than originally designed. The place was introduced by a friend of mine who loves Yellow Ochre as much as I do. The bungalow is bathed in Yellow Ochre making it appear rather vibrant against the emerald setting of trees and foliage. She referred it as a lovely place next to the lagoon and close enough to hear the ocean break on the beach. Once you’ve reach Kos you have a choice of kayaking or taking the boat.

The view across the placid waters was calming as the skies turn melon red. A fierce ball of fire dip along the horizon. Time stopped still in the twilight moment. A Colombo bound commuter train sped across the bridge and it shuddered. I kept on rowing underneath. A splendid array of colours fell on the lake surface. Water birds like cormorants, herons and kingfishers skimmed and dived playfully acknowledging the close of day. Monitor lizards kept a watchful eye from the banks of the lake should atleast one be slow in reaction, perhaps it’s a lucky day.

Before dusk I shoved the kayak into the water and hauled myself into the center of its pit. I decided to venture further down the lake where it was spread like the palm of a hand into several fingers. These narrow alleys although lacking in depth had interesting features to light up the imagination of those who cared to explore. Manuring into one of them carefully ducking under a canopy of vines I drove into a most remarkable mangrove forest. It was dark because of the thick foliage. The light seeped in through the curtain of vine in mesmerizing strands. A cacophony of bird calls was heard from the belly of the forest. Where birds of different feather were found amidst a debate trying to negotiate their nesting grounds. From the severity of their calling it seemed for some birds their territories had shifted. They didn’t seem to be happy about it. Swimming alongside the boat was a six foot monitor lizard, with a sleek head held above the water, the rest of the body camouflaged, a wiggly stroke waving in perfect tune to the rippling of water.

The mangrove or mangal is a distinct saline shrubland found along the coastal belt. They are salt tolerant trees also called halophytes. They are protected because of the important role played in balancing eco-systems.

In the thicket of the mangrove a fine tune was sung by a brilliantly coloured bird who made a fleeting appearance. Excitement rose within me of the prospect of discovering a new bird. As I paddled gently further looking for this elusive beauty, it was spotted perched on the upper branch of a tree. It’s beak was a dead- give-away for its identity. It indeed was a Kingfisher. In fact it was a rare orange breasted Kingfisher. When I reached a clearing it was finally possible to turn the kayak. Not knowing the art of doing this I twist-turned intuitively, bumping the pointed front several times in the thicket and using the paddle as a pivoting point, finally managed to get the boat in the right direction.

I rowed back in silence towards the bungalow after experiencing a wonderful sun-down. Night was fast on its heels, the pink skies now residing, a sliver of slivery moon shone above. A single dog gazing at the moon howls an eerie tone, its silhouette visible even from a distance. I shook off the chilling feeling – no I had no reason to be frightened. I loved nature no matter what time of day it was.

The Mangrove by the side of a placid lake is a wonderful haven on earth – a peaceful place to recoup. Not far from the busy city or the touristy southern hot spots. It is close to the Turtle Hatchery where sea turtles are said to be nurtured in a far-fetching conservation drive. A fifteen minutes’ walk in the morning brought us across the Galle Road to the sea side where we were the only people to enjoy the beach.

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