Sri Lanka is an island rich in natural beauty. Thousands of foreigners visit this country per year to witness this beauty from their naked eyes. Hence, there are conserved sanctuaries, green forests, rain forests, and islands within the country in the means of protecting the gifted beauty. All over the country, there are dozens of parks and forests that add value to the attractions of the country while acting a significant role. Among these places, there are two islands that have gained fame under the title of “Marine National Parks”. Pigeon Island National Park is particularly in front of these two due to the unique location and the formation of the location.
History of Pigeon Island National Park
Pigeon Island National Park is not some man-made park area or fenced land, but an island a little away from the Eastern coast of Sri Lanka. However, in 1963, the Department of Wildlife Conservation distinguished and declared it as a sanctuary considering the natural resources of the area. Since then it has gained both local and tourist attractions with hundreds of visitors per year. The sole purpose of declaring it as a sanctuary and giving significance is to conserve the endemic and unique resources along with its geographical location.
Wide Spreading this generous purpose, in 2003 it was re-designated as a national park extending from a sanctuary in a way to increase the importance and conservation. Not only the land and its resources, but the name itself has historical importance that goes back to the colonial era. In fact, the island is specifically named the pigeon island deriving from the colonizer rock pigeon.
This was one of the shooting locations in that area due to its unusual formation. Further, this goes into historical records as one of the protected areas from the Indian Ocean Tsunami that took place in 2004. Thus, not just the nature, but the historical references are woven around the island add more value to the Pigeon Island National Park.
Physical Characteristics of the Park
The specialty of this national park is the remaining coral reefs. Therefore, there is a separate area in the park where one can find coral reefs. It is one of the two parts of the park. Those two parts are specifically two islands. One is the large pigeon island whereas the other is the small pigeon island. The large pigeon island stands for the coral reefs. It is a spread reef of 200 meters long and 100 meters wide. This is an old reef which comes from with a long history and its highest point is about 44.8 meters above sea level. This is one of the places in Sri Lanka where one can find the highest coverage of coral. Moreover, the small pigeon island is famous for its small rocky islets. It consists of hundreds of them lying throughout the area which increases the beauty of the location.
Many visitors include this island into their traveling bucket lists due to the natural formation of one side with coral reefs and the other with rocky islets. In addition, the sea, beach, and lush green make the place an ideal getaway location, attracting more and more visitors to the national park every year. It is not only nature that impresses people, but the following entertainment activities.
Thus, the Pigeon Island National Park consists of a very iconic and scenic environment with such a unique set of physical characteristics.
The Importance of the Pigeon Island National Park
Out of all the national parks in Sri Lanka, the Pigeon Island National Park comes in the front in line when considering the importance. The availability of rare species of fauna and flora makes this place a significant one to visit. Let’s have a look into some of these fauna and flora species.
Fauna in the Park
This is an island that consists of a rich marine ecosystem where rare coral reefs can be discovered. These reefs are the main fauna variety of the park along with its green-filled environment of varieties of floral species. There are a number of coral species including the following.
They are all dominating rocky islets making the islets their home. Moreover, they are quite hard. In addition, there are following soft coral species in the park.
Most of the coral reef varieties and coral reef fish, numerically 100 and 300 varieties respectively, in Trincomalee sea areas are located in the park vicinity. Hence, this park is the home of mainly the reef creatures and the fish varieties whose habitats are reefs.
Apart from the most famous coral creatures, this national park is famous for the presence of unique marine creatures. Some of them are sharks and turtles. When it comes to sharks, the parking area consists of both young and adult blacktip reef sharks. They are visible around the shallow coral reef areas. The turtles are the regular visitors of sea turtles among these widespread reefs in the park. Following are such turtle varieties.
- Hawksbill turtle
- Green turtle
- Olive ridley
In addition, one can witness many underwater creatures, mainly the following fish varieties during their visit to the Pigeon Island National Park.
Another most important fauna species that can be seen within the vicinity of the park is the rock pigeon who has made the spot its breeding ground. Apart from all these popular explorations, being home to hundreds of fish species makes this place more sensational.
Flora in the Park
Not only fauna, but the Pigeon Island National Park is also rich with rare and endemic floral species. Lush and greenery amidst the blue ocean make it more eye-catchy and splendid. The coastal area consists of shady trees here and there for the convenience of visitors. The island is wide to have a lot of floral species, but a hilly land with few items.
Location of Pigeon Island National Park
Pigeon Island national park belongs to the Eastern province of the country, specifically for the district of Trincomalee. This is one of the few islands in Trincomalee. Moreover, the park is situated approximately 1 km away from the Nilaweli coast, which is one of the famous beaches in Sri Lanka. Just a 15 min ride from the coast to the island, will definitely offer you an added experience of having this visit. The Ocean, island, boat ride, and marine features of this location make it a worthy combination to witness due to the incredible scenic beauty it offers.
How to Visit Pigeon Island National Park?
There are mainly three ways to reach the national park. You can choose either the bus, train, taxi or self-driving based on your preference. Except for trains, all other three modes reach through the same path.
You have to reach Trincomalee first and lead towards Nilaveli beach as the first step. Then you have to rent out a boat to reach the island from the mainland which costs around 1000 – 1200 Sri Lankan rupees. Better to reach the island within the time span of 8 am to 5 pm considering all the environmental and other conditions related to the park. After entering the park, there will be an entrance fee and separate fees for different water sports including guidance. Once you are in the park, you will enjoy the day to its fullest with all the features in it.
Best Time to Visit Pigeon Island National Park
The Pigeon Island National Park is in one of the driest zones of the country. Even though it is a coastal area, the warmth and the temperature are very high around there. Sometimes the temperature is unbearable and drains all the energy of human beings. Hence, if one is willing to visit the park, it is better to choose a rainy or an after a rainy period, if the trip needs to be smooth, calm, and pleasant.
Usually, the annual temperature holds around 27.0 °C, which is considered a high temperature within the country. But during the North-eastern monsoon period, the island receives 1000 – 1700 millimeters of rainfall every year, cooling down the ever-warming environment. Most of the time this rainfall comes in between the months of October and March. Thus, considering all these environmental factors, the best time to visit Pigeon Island National Park is from September to April targeting the lowest temperature levels.
The other factor that you should consider is the sea level and the wind conditions. If the speed of the wind is high and the sea is rough, the journey from the mainland to the island will be harsh. Too much rain also affects the same condition, since this is a journey based on sea and sea environment. Therefore, having a proper idea about the weather forecast and the temperature level will be more beneficial than anything when it comes to visiting pigeon islands. Moreover, the summer and winter seasons are the best periods to visit the park. Summer will offer you calm and beautiful weather for many more water engagements while the winter offers you a less crowded, deserted environment for more explorations. Also according to the beliefs of the locals, the best month to visit the pigeon island is in June.
Conservation and Threats
This nature-made incredible pigeon island has so many resources to be threatened by nature itself and human beings. Most of the time, it is the fishery that threatens the creatures and corals in the national park. For economical purposes, people are fishing and collecting ornamental fish and marine items. It directly threatens the live coral reefs in the park.
In the same way, water sports such as scuba diving also cause considerable damage to the reefs. Mainly, the tourist attraction and the visiting capacity have been a major cause of reef degradation and loss of biodiversity. All these effects in losing the fish diversity as well. In addition to all these, it has already encountered hazardous damages due to the civil war that took place in the past three decades that cannot be renovated.
Thus, as a visitor to the Pigeon Island National Park, it is our responsibility to do whatever we can do to conserve it for a few more generations to witness the rare beauty.
The Bottom Line
Above all, the Pigeon Island National Park is one of the significant attractions on this splendid island. In fact, a visit to it is sure to offer you a wonderful experience. Hence, if you are planning on a trip to spend some time with nature, Pigeon Island National Park is certainly the perfect addition to your bucket list. Visit it and experience its delight yourself. Happy and Safe Traveling!