Known for its thrilling boat ride experiences, the Madu Ganga is a small yet stunning watercourse in the Balpitiya town in the Galle district of Sri Lanka. It dances across the wet zone of the country opening up into Madu Lagoon, (Madu Lake), which, positioned around the coastline, is a large natural water body that forms a lavish network of lagoons, off-shoots, and islets. With diverse biodiversity, the Madu Ganga river covers 150 acres of land and has a collection of mangrove forests. Considered as one of the last wetlands in the country to have a pristine mangrove wealth, the Madu Ganga wetland is a world heritage site protected by the Ramsar Convention. Fishing and the cinnamon industry are the major economic means of the population of the region.
The wow-factors of Madu Ganga are found everywhere from its origin near Uragasmanhandiya to the point where it drains into the Indian Ocean. The river itself is rich in biodiversity. The Madu Lagoon to which the river flows on its way to the estuary is home to a plethora of unique attractions that are explored with a boat ride across the Madu Ganga. It is Lanka's largest natural lake and measures 5 km from north to south, covering an area of almost 10 square kilometers.
The soggy wetlands now have 25 islets across the river and lagoon, with only 15 of them having a considerable size. History says there had been 64 of them and drowned over time. All of them are filled with shrubs and woods and some of them are inhabited. There is a nice Buddhist temple with a fig tree and image houses located on one of the inhabited islands (Koth Duwa). The Cinnamon island is the main attraction where visitors can witness the processing of cinnamon. Ma Doowa is the largest island in the lake with a diameter of one Kilometer. It has a bridge sprawling 330 meters across the lake, connecting the island with Balapitiya. Even the smallest island, Satha Paha Duwa, has a shrine dedicated to Kataragama. The thick mangrove vegetation and the land are fantastic birding territories.
Taking a speedboat ride down the beautiful stretch of the Madu River and the body of the lake is the featured activity at the Madu Ganga river. This would be a wonderful experience of 1 to 2 hours to get to know the diverse wetland ecosystem and biodiversity of the region. The watercourse shall lead you past mangrove forests and small islands. These bird-watching rides shall be accompanied by local fishermen or professional birdies. You can see sometimes crocodiles, water snakes, wild boars, and tree snakes in their own living style.
Another interesting thing to experience here is the open-air fish massage, which is more natural in Sri Lanka for the treatment in natural habitats of the fishes, unlike in artificial basins. Nets tied between poles section off a large space so that fishes stay inside, but plenty of places to swim around. Guests are seated on piers and getting a foot massage from the doctor fishes.
Madu Ganga River is located in a small town, Balpitiya, in the Galle district which lies in the south of the country. The main road A2 crosses the Madu Ganga river mouth at less than 20 Kilometers from Bentota and around 25 Kilometers from Hikkaduwa. Only less than one-hour car ride shall take you to get to here from either origin.
Madu Ganga river and Madu Lagoon together with smaller Randombe lake forms the Madu Ganga wetland area that covers a total of 61 hectares of land. The region with the help of its mangrove forests and vegetated banks gives birth to a worth-researching coastal wetland ecosystem of high ecological and biological importance. Bio-diversity is all the more important as one of the last remaining tracts of pristine mangrove forests in the country. 14 of the 24 species of mangroves are seen here. There are 303 species of plants out of 95 families with 19 species being endemic. 248 species of vertebrates also accounts for its animal wealth. There are over 111 bird species, 31 types of reptiles, over 50 kinds of butterflies, and 25 kinds of mollusks. The wild boars are seen here mostly.