Gem of Sri Lanka.
Ampara is the main town of the Ampara district in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province. The small coastal villages and towns of the district are a favorite with surfers who come from every corner of the globe to ride Ampara’s famous waves. Although a small city, Ampara makes the perfect base for discovering the district’s rich animal life at the local animal sanctuaries and the famous Gal Oya National Park.
The countryside surrounding Ampara is a vision of rice paddy fields, palm trees, and scenic lakes. Although there are four animal sanctuaries to visit, the Gal Oya National Park offers visitors some of the best animal safaris in Sri Lanka. There are several safari operators at Gal Oya National Park who offer a unique opportunity to take a safari by boat. Your guide will take you across the large reservoir where you can watch the herds of elephants swimming from island to island across the waters. In addition to the herds of elephants, Gal Oya National Park is home to Toque Macaque monkeys, water buffaloes, Sloth Bears, crocodiles, and much more.
Fun Fact: Did you know that experts believe that elephants first came to Sri Lanka by swimming all the way from Southern India?
Located only 13 kilometers from Ampara is the sacred Buddhist shrine of Digavapi (Deegavapi Raja Maha Viharaya). This ancient archeological site dates back to the 3rd Century and is considered one of the 16 places that is blessed by Buddha’s presence. Buddhists believe that when Buddha came to Sri Lanka for the third time, he stopped to meditate at Digavapi. The site has long been a source of tensions between the Buddhists and Muslims who dominate the area. Although the Digavapi is located in a secluded location, it is well worth the trek from Ampara which is the closest town to the site.
Ampara was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami, with the Ampara district accounting for 50% of the total deaths in Sri Lanka. Many NGOs are still working in the area to rebuild the damaged infrastructure almost 10 years later. The people of Ampara have proven to be resilient and strong and tourists are finally beginning to trickle into the town once again as they rediscover this gem of Sri Lanka.
Written by Jessica Galbraith