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Sam Popham’s Arboretum situated in Dambulla on the Dambulla –Kandalama Road is Sri Lanka’s only dry zone Arboretum where an amazing spectrum of Trees, Birds, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Mammals can be observed in their natural setting. Sam Popham an Englishman with an unparalleled love for trees, created the arboretum in 1963 on seven and a half acres of scrub jungle. In 1989 Sam Popham decided to donate his good work to the Institute of Fundamental Studies (IFS) Kandy to be used for conservation, research and education, which in turn have purchased and additional 27 acres of shrub jungle, which has now been developed as an extension of the original Arboretum.
The Arboretum typical of a semi-evergreen Monsoon Dry Forest consists of Ebony, Palu, Margosa, Weera, Milla, Tamarind, Velan and Ceylon Iron Wood amongst others.
Just walking along the twisting footpaths that go over wooden bridges built over small streams and the endless soothing greenery, accompanied by bird sounds and the smell of the good earth all around, totally immersed in the beauty of nature, is an experience that is just out of this world. The wilderness with its shady trees and spectacular bird life consisting of Jungle Magpie Robins, Jungle Fowl, the Red vented and Black capped Bulbuls, Black headed Orioles, Crimson backed Woodpeckers, Brown headed Barbets, Black headed Orioles, Paradise Flycatchers, flower peckers, sun birds, tailor birds, Parakeets, Eagles and plenty more. This natural treasure trove is also home to spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Porcupine, Mouse Deer, Black Naped Hare, Rock Squirrels, and the rare (endemic) Slender Loris.
The highlight of visiting the Arboretum is its ‘Night Safari’ or ‘Night Walk’ through the wilderness on the trail of the rare slender Loris. So if you are a passionate nature lover, then a visit to this manmade jungle is something you should never want to miss.