Anawilundawa is a bird sanctuary, listed as one of the three RAMSAR wetlands in Sri Lanka. It is situated between Chilaw and Puttalam near the west coast of the island. Holiday makers starting a round tour by travelling from Colombo or Negombo to Wilpattu or Anuradhapura often take the main road A3 to Puttalam. Anawilundawa is on the way. But it is highly recommendable for birdlovers to start in the very early mornig, even before sunrise, in order to observe the birdlife of the Anawilundawa wetlands during morning hours. Driving distance from Negombo is 65 km, driving time slightly more than one hour. Anawilundawa is a quite popular weekend destination for bird lovers from Colombo.
The Anawilundawa bird sanctuary, a wetland of 1,400 hectares, is made up of 9 interconnected tanks. The lakes were originally part of an ancient man-made irrigation system from the Polonnaruwa period. They are part of the irrigation scheme developped by the later Polonnaruwa-King Parakramabahu the Great, when he was the local ruler in the western part of the island, residing in Panduvasuwara, which is located in 50 km distance from Anawilundawa.
The six larger tanks are called Pinkattiya, Maradansola, Anawilundawa, Mayyawa, Surawila and Vellawali. They are not more than 4 m deep. The entire system of lakes is watered by floods of the Deduru Oya. The forested wetlands include mangrove swamps as well as freshwater swamps. In the course of the centuries, these tanks have created a biosphere which is ideal for breeding as well as for migratory birds.
Besides abundant birdlife, Anawilundawa harbours a few species of threatened fish, amphibians and reptiles, too. It is said to support almost 40% of the vertebrate species found in the island and 50% of its freshwater fish species, three of them are endemic.
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