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Sunday, 5 July 2009

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Venturing to Batticaloa is a delightful experience because you feel you’ve stepped into another world when you take the trip on the longest bridge in Sri Lanka, the Kallady Lady Manning Bridge. Passing from Kallady to Arasay, the bridge overlooks the Kallady lagoon that reveals plenty of flora and fauna in sheer splendour.

On a beautiful morning just as the sun rises, make sure you ask one of the fishermen from the lagoon to take you on a ride. Gentle ripples along the waves of the Kallady lagoon is breathtaking as the fisherfolk who act as tour guides enlighten us on the wealth of wildlife that makes this precious paradise one of the wonders in Sri Lanka.

Suddenly, we see jumping fish that pop in and out of the water’s surface quickly and in groups as if they are trying to escape us. The fishermen who took us on their fishing boats said that there were indeed crocodiles lurking along the shores of the lagoon waiting for their prey. Looking at our worried faces, they assured us, “Don’t worry they are rather friendly, just as long as you don’t trouble them.”

Batticaloa is truly a hidden gem, with a rather different beauty to the rest of Sri Lanka and the trip is well worthwhile. Batticaloa with its interesting people, friendly faces live in harmony.

The people are also very talented and hearing them sing is beautiful. Says drama expert Vanni, “Hearing the sound of singing fish is a wonderful experience and it reveals the fun aspect to Batticaloa”. So much so that the music of the singing fish on a full moon day was recorded by a priest named Father Lang who broadcast the delightful melodies in the 1960s over the SLBC (Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation).

Our fishing guide Rajan said, “We wait until it is well into the night and then keep quiet. After some time, we light the kerosene lantern and the prawns are attracted to it. Holding the fishing nets properly, we catch the prawns and then we have a great nightly feast fit for a king.”

The Batticaloa Lagoon is a huge estuarine lagoon that is fed by a number of small rivers. It is linked to the sea by two narrow channels, one at Batticaloa and the other at Periyakallar. During the dry season these channels are blocked by sand bars.

The lagoon is surrounded magnificently by several villages and the area is vital for cultivating rice in jigsaw-shaped paddy fields, creamy coconut and other cash crops. This bountiful land that has now tasted the successes of peace is desirable for its fine freshwater fish where prawn and shrimp farming is done.

The lagoon has extensive mangrove swamps and some sea grass beds that attract a wide variety of water and land birds. Many of them are herons and comarants who dry their feathers on the little rocks of the lagoon.The Kallady Lady Manning bridge is a magical place and a journey there is bound to take your breath away!

Pix: Manikya Kodihuwakku

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