Dambulla Popham’s Arboretum (දඹුල්ල පොප්හැම්ගේ වෘක්ෂෝද්‍යානය)

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Hidden away in Dambulla, Pophams Arboretum is a sanctuary where an amazing spectrum of Trees, Birds, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Mammals can be observed in their natural habitat. It was established by Sam Popham in 1963 and handed over to the Institute of Fundamental Studies in Kandy in 1989 for conservation, research and education. In 2005, the Arboretum was developed as a visitor and research centre under the management of Ruk-Rakaganno, a national NGO. However, it went into disuse and it was again renovated and opened to the public in 2023.

In 1963, Sam Popham purchased a seven and a half acre scrub jungle in Dambulla. Popham facilitated the growth of indigenous tree saplings on the land by clearing away the ‘weedy’ shrubs surrounding them. As a result, the initial scrub jungle transformed into a dense woodland with a thick canopy.

Once the arboretum was donated to the Institute of Fundamental Studies (IFS), to be used for conservation, research and education, which in turn purchased an additional 27 acres of shrub jungle, which was developed as an extension of the original Arboretum.

Flora In Popham’s Arboretum

The Arboretum representing a semi-evergreen Monsoon Dry Forest typically includes species such as Ebony, Palu, Margosa, Weera, Milla, Tamarind, Velan, and Ceylon Iron Wood, among others. Several valuable trees and shrubs with medicinal value are also found here. Some of them are: Neem, Bo-mee, Ankenda, Na and Ratmal. The arboretum is home to about 100 species of timber trees and about 70 species of medicinal plants. Altogether there are over 350 plant species belonging to 83 families with herbs, climbers and parasites. This arboretum encompasses a very high tree density with a closed canopy cover while offering a very cool microclimate.

Fauna in Popham’s Arboretum

The Arboretum is a bustling habitat for numerous animals and birds. Within its bounds, a diverse array of bird species thrives, including endemic jungle fowl, grey hornbill, brown-capped babbler, blue-faced malkoha, blue-tailed bee-eater, and paradise flycatcher. Unique animals such as the slender loris and pangolin also find sanctuary here. Notably, the Popham Arboretum boasts a rich variety of butterflies and dragonflies, with 25 species of mammals, including bats, 83 species of birds, including migrants, 77 species of butterflies, and 12 species of dragonflies documented to inhabit the arboretum. Moreover, the arboretum is a favoured spot for high-end nature-based tourists interested in Gecko Watching.

Day Safari at Popham’s Arboretum

Visitors have the opportunity to explore all the nature trails within the arboretum at their own pace, with or without a guide, during daytime hours. Four distinct trails – the Green Trail, Blue Trail, Pink Trail, and Yellow Trail – have been established for daytime excursions. These trails are clearly marked and well-maintained, featuring colour-coded bands and numbered arrows for easy self-navigation throughout the arboretum. Daytime walks offer an ideal opportunity for observing birds and butterflies, admiring forest trees and mushrooms, and immersing oneself in the restorative practice of forest bathing. The day walks are accessible daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, inviting visitors to enjoy the arboretum’s natural splendour throughout the daylight hours.

Night Safari at Popham’s Arboretum

Night safaris mainly focus on Grey Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerianus) and Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) watching. Walks are arranged with a tour guide and are open from 7.00 pm to 10.00 pm.

Camping and Lodging

The campsite offers accommodation for a maximum of 25 people, ensuring an intimate and immersive experience with nature. For convenience, two washrooms equipped with toilets and bathrooms are provided for visitors’ use. Campers have the option to rent tents on-site or bring their own for camping. Additionally, barbecue facilities are available, allowing campers to enjoy outdoor cooking amidst the serene surroundings of the campsite.

Overnight accommodations are provided in three rooms, each with its own ensuite facilities for added comfort and convenience. The extra-large room comfortably accommodates up to 5 guests, offering ample space for a spacious stay. Additionally, the large room is suitable for accommodating up to 3 guests, while the small room provides cosy accommodation for 2 guests. With a range of room sizes available, guests can select the option that best suits their needs for a restful overnight stay at the arboretum.

Also See

Map of  Popham’s Arboretum

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Driving Directions to Popham’s Arboretum

Route from Dambulla to Popham’s Arboretum
Through : Kurunegala – Dambulla – Habarana – Polonnaruwa – Aralaganwila
Distance : 5 km
Travel time : 10 minutes
Driving directions : see on Google map

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