Lahugala which is about 20 minutes away is home to the Lahugala National Park and one of Sri Lanka’s most interesting ruins, the Magul Maha Vihara. The Lahugala National Park is a small national park in Sri Lanka significant as a vital habitat for the Sri Lankan Elephant. Photographers and biologists are captivated by this place as there exists plenty of opportunity to observe the elephants in their natural surroundings engaging in mock fights, feeding and mating. The dry season brings together large numbers of elephants with the figures increasing as the temperature increases. At times the Kitulana tanks (found inside the Lahugala National Park) is privy to an unexpected overland migration from the Mahawewa in the form of the ‘Climbing Perch’, fish species.
In close proximity to the Park is Magul Maha Vihare, a jungle ruin and the only remains of what may have been a glorious ancient complex. Believed to date back to the 2nd century BC, the Magul Maha Vihare is supposed to have been built by King Kavantissa upon his marriage to the princess Viharamahadevi. In Sinhalese the term ‘magul’ is the word used for marriage and the remains of the original wedding structure upon which the king married his queen is believed to be in this complex. This ancient domain contains a monks’ residence, a crumbling dagoba with four entrances flanked by seated stone lions, and a vatadage. The vatadage is in the shape of a fence but is made up of plain slabs with no other adornment. The entire Vihare Complex probably covered an area of 10,000 acres many centuries ago and it had a palace, moonstone, monastery, stupas and a pond as well.
3km North of Arugam Bay is Pottuvil, one of the larger towns on the east coast and location to another ancient site of significance, a dagaba in ruins known as the Mudu Maha Vihara. On the west of the dagaba are pillar structure remains along with the torso of a standing Buddha and 2 Bodhisattva figures which are in better condition. The beach behind the Vihara encompasses large sand dunes, is wide and largely uninhabited and while its privacy is great it may not be ideal for a swim. Interesting is local folklore which believes that the princess Viharamahadevi was washed ashore at the Mudu Maha Vihare after her father cast her adrift on the high seas to appease the gods and a very angry sea. Modern historians believe this incident maybe a reference to the first tsunami in Sri Lanka’s recorded history.
30km south of Arugambay, along the Panama road from Okanda, is the Kudumbigala Monastry. Rough and dry terrain starts to give way to dense jungle highlighting the fact that you have entered territory east of Yala. The monastery is on top of a huge rock and is an extensive complex of caves and buildings which remain virtually untouched by the modern age.
Further south and south-east of Arugam Bay is Yala East or the Kumana National Park, a beautiful wilderness and important place for bird nesting and breeding in Sri Lanka. Wildlife safari enthusiasts should definitely head in the direction of Kumana. There are even a fortunate few who have sighted Sri Lanka’s rare black necked stork. While the Park is not as popular as the main Yala National Park it contains its fair share of wildlife. Sloth bear, leopard, elephants, wild buffaloes, deer and saltwater crocodiles prowl the eastern Yala jungles and provide interested spectators with a fair share of excitement.
Arugam Bay encompasses everything a traveler in search of an adventure would want to experience. Simplicity, seclusion, natural beauty, warm skies and seas along with great company, mouth-watering food and enough of excursions and activities to keep you on your toes. Escape the routine of daily life and embark on an unpredictable and exciting east coast escapade.