Bentota: Site Details
Beach and Bawa
Sites of interest in and around Bentota include:
- Brief Garden
- Mask Carving and Dancing
- River Boat Trip
Tropical Garden of Eden
The paradisiacal garden of Brief was the lifetime's work of its creator, the celebrated landscape artist, sculptor and bon vivant, Bevis Bawa - the elder brother of Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka's most celebrated contemporary architect. Bevis Bawa started clearing the surrounding rubber plantation in 1929, and over the next six decades he went on to create a verdant, romantic folly of inviting alcoves, nooks and bowers and garden sculpture that turned him into Sri Lanka's own Capability Brown. Entering though a thick bamboo hedge via a statue-capped gate, you discover the Japanese garden, wide lawns, a pond and a hilltop lookout, several walled gardens and many other hidden surprises. Most visitors find themselves staying here longer than they intended.
Country Estate of Sri Lanka's Prodigal Architect
Lunuganga was the country home of the renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Started in 1947, the garden led Bawa, a lawyer called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1940, to decide to become an architect. As he went on to become Sri Lanka’s and one of Asia’s most prolific and influential architects, the garden at the Lunuganga estate remained his first muse and experimental laboratory for new ideas. He continued to change and experiment with its spaces and structures throughout his life until his final illness in 1998. Left to the Lunuganga Trust on his demise in 2003, the gardens are now open to the public and the buildings on the estate are run as a country house hotel.
Mask Carving and Dancing
Where Art and Tradition Collide
Ambalangoda is about 25 km south of Bentota (27 km north of Galle) and the town is the centre for a still-thriving form of south-west coast folk art - mask carving and dancing. The two are inextricably linked, and every effort should be made to see a performance in the Ambalangoda area if you possibly can as this is where this traditional theatre is still practised in its purest form.
A visit to Ambalangoda can be best enjoyed via a 3-hour tour from either Bentota or Galle.
Lagoons and Backwaters of the Madu Ganga
The Madu Ganga is one of the island's seven great rivers and it flows into the Indian Ocean at Balapitiya just south of Bentota. The river is shallow and calm as it flows into the ocean, and a riverboat safari will take you on a leisurely tour of riverside villages and through tropical jungle. Upstream the river forms an inland lagoon, an aquatic maze dotted with small islands, including one housing the Buddhist Kothduwa temple, and fringed with mangrove swamps. This forest on the water is a permanent home of herons, cormorants, eagles and kingfishers, as well as some predators such as crocodiles and water monitors.
Together with the smaller Randombe Lake, to which it is connected by two narrow channels, the lagoon forms the Madu Ganga Wetland, which was declared a Ramsar site (wetlands of international importance) in 2003. Its estuary and the many mangrove islets on it constitute a complex coastal wetland ecosystem. The area has great biodiversity, being home to 303 species of plants and 248 species of vertebrates, and it is ostensibly one of the last remaining tracts of pristine mangrove forests in Sri Lanka. The inhabitants of the islets produce cinnamon and cinnamon oil.