Monday, August 12, 2013

Travel Mondays: Is this the most stunning waterfall in Sri Lanka?

Dunhinda Falls is often regarded as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Sri Lanka for its natural beauty. It derives it's name from the mist or vapor that comes off the spray of the waterfall. "Dun" in sinhala means smoke or mist, and "Hinda" in sinhala means evaporate.

It is located five kilometres from Badulla town, along the Badulla-Mahiyangana road. It is 210 feet or 64 metres high. The source of the waterfall is the river known as Badulu Oya which goes through the Badulla town. The Dunhinda Falls has the characteristics of both a plunge and punch bowl type waterfall. Plunge refers when the water drops over the waterfall it loses contact with the bedrock. Punch bowl refers to how the water coming off the waterfall widens as it drops from top to bottom.

Getting to Dunhinda Falls is pretty straightforward as it is easily accessible to visitors. You can't miss the entrance as it's perched on a nice bend in the road and surrounded by little stalls or shops, a small parking area (tickets cost ~ Rs 40 to park your car or van) and a lovely view of the mountains and surrounding area.

We visited on a quiet Sunday afternoon in July. In fact, it was well-past mid-afternoon when we arrived there. The good thing about arriving so late in the afternoon was the fact there were less people starting the trek at that time, especially for a Sunday; and we could easily enjoy the sunset on our trek back from the waterfall. However, bear in mind, we also had to bear with the fear of potentially having to trek back in the dark if we wanted to linger at the waterfall, due to our later arrival.

A few things to consider...

Firstly, it's about 1.2 kilometer trek from the entrance to the actual waterfall. You will note from the photos below that it is a bit of trek, scramble, climb and walk down some makeshift steps, metal bridges and rocky paths. So, be prepared and wear suitable footwear. For locals, going barefoot is quite the norm, whilst other travelers might prefer to wear hiking boots or something with more grip. In my case, I was wearing flip-flops as the soles of my runners had suddenly decided to fail me. I didn't encounter any problems wearing flip-flops, though I did remove them and go barefoot when climbing over some rocks and steep areas.

Secondly, my tip if you visit Dunhinda Falls is to arrive mid-morning with a picnic lunch (or buy snacks from the local vendors all along the path down to the waterfall) and enjoy a few hours at the waterfall. You can even enjoy a swim if you're up for it. Watch out for troops of monkeys if you're eating your picnic lunch as they are tricky and won't hesitate to take your food.

The trek down to Dunhinda Falls

Once you pass the entrance you will be greeted by numerous little stalls selling trinkets, souvenirs and refreshments. After passing through this area you basically start your trek. There is a sign for toilets just past this covered area that lead upwards. This is the only area for toilets that I observed.

As you walk further on you can glimpse the Kuda Dunhinda or small lower Dunhinda waterfall. I took this shot from an observation point at the end of the path.

Surprisingly, after passing another couple of makeshift stalls selling a variety of snacks and souvenirs, you come to a ticket office (*groan*)

Tickets are Rs 20 for locals (and those with residence visas) and Rs 200 for foreigners.

After this, it's basically walk, climb, trek, scramble... all the way down to the waterfall.

Take your time and walk carefully. I saw one guy twist his ankle on a rock, and another girl land awkwardly on uneven steps. Both looked to be in pain and discomfort.

I tried to take my time while enjoying the incredible views, but due to our later arrival I was a bit nervous about the trek back. Even though it's only a one kilometer trek down, it didn't seem all that quick given the rocky pathways. If you are intending to arrive in the mid to late afternoon, bring a torch just in case. I usually carry a torch with me when I go for a trek, so I felt a little prepared if we found ourselves trekking back in the dark.

Anyway, soon you get your first glimpse of Dunhinda Falls...

And then you really start to get closer... but there's still more to go!

Just a few more steps....

When you reach the bottom of the immediate steps there are a few more stalls selling refreshments and knick-knacks. If you take the immediate right, there is a path that will take you down to the actual waterfall where you then can climb the rocks to get to the water to enjoy a dip, or swim so you are directly under the spray of the waterfall. Magical!

And then, you've reached your destination. And what a phenomenal sight it is!

After taking in our fill, we made the trek back. There were a few birds chirping and flying around us, which was delightful. This one caught my eye and I took a quick shot.

The sun was slowly setting and we stopped a few times on the trek back up to enjoy the spectacular scenery, and to rest our weary legs.

In my opinion, if you could visit only one waterfall in Sri Lanka, this one would be it! It's an enjoyable trek as well as a stunning location. Highly recommended!

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