RumassalaExplore the Natural Wonders of a Mythical Landscape
Many who wander through the simple fishing hamlet of Galle are intrigued by the remnants of colonial influence and architecture sufficiently showcased within the Galle Fort. However, man-made structures are not the only feature that make Galle a captivating destination. Natural bounty and the mystique of long-ago legends have drawn many visitors to this fascinating city over the years.
One such area connected to a fabled tale is the Rumassala Hill, situated just five kilometres from the Galle Fort. An elevated area that can be seen from the Fort very clearly, Rumassala attracts the attention of the curious traveller, not just for its unusual topography but also for its mystical origin tales.
Believed to have been created by a fallen fragment of the holy Sanjeevi mountain, which was transported across ancient Sri Lanka by the demi-god Hanuman, Rumassala boasts of a large number of rare plant species. Most of these plants are unique to the hill and don’t grown anywhere else in the surrounding area, further prompting the belief that it is indeed a portion of the Sanjeevi mountain which is fabled to have contained thousands of healing herbs.
Take a leap of faith by following the mystical trail, hiking through the ascending dirt roads of the hill, a somewhat arduous task, given the harsh sun and humidity. Rumassala is a haven for endemic flora and fauna, allowing you to witness an exotic display of biodiversity whilst taking cover under the canopy of bountiful trees that thrive in the area. You could maybe even go in search of the rare herb ‘Kalu Nika’, which is believed by the locals to have magical healing properties. Be enthralled at the site of the endemic playful purple faced leaf monkeys up in the trees, catch a glimpse of the critically endangered Ceylon Banded Awl butterfly, and gaze at the majestic white-bellied sea eagles soaring in the distance.
Hiking further up the road you will move deeper into the mythical sanctuary of Rumassala. Enjoy the beautiful views of the southern coast, which prompted the Portuguese colonizers to name the area ‘Buono Vista’ – pleasant view.
Continue your ascent to arrive at a cemetery with headstones inscribed with the names of brave seamen and British civil servants who lost their lives at sea or in the subsequent wars which were fought to retain rule of the strategically important Port of Galle. The headstones and their epitaphs provide an interesting insight into society of old.
Rumassala was a strategic point for trading activity during the colonial era. A natural jetty was utilized by passing ships to restock on fresh water before continuing on their journeys. The forgotten jetty is now used by locals and visitors to dive into the inviting tropical waters of the Indian Ocean.
Although demanding, the Rumassala hike certainly does have a rewarding conclusion. The summit provides stunning views of the ocean, as well as unhindered views of the old Galle fortress and the luscious surroundings of the hill. Take a well-earned break within the tranquil confines of the Japanese Peace Pagoda, designed to express the peaceful virtues of Buddhism.
Surrounded by myth, history and spirituality, the Rumassala Hill also grants access to Jungle Beach, an isolated stretch of beach that merges the lush foliage of the tropics with sun and sand. Follow the rustic path that breaks away from the dirt road and hike down to the beach for a dip in the inviting tranquil blue waters. A lone kiosk sells the delectable and thirst-quenching thambili (king coconut water), which is a staple hydration beverage in the country.
If you still feel adventurous, you can explore the diverse marine life that inhabit the waters surrounding the Rumassala Hill. A short boat ride out into the ocean provides the perfect spot for snorkelling. Witness an ecosystem that is as interesting as its terrestrial counterpart. Watch the schools of fish swim by, see crabs scuttling along the sea floor in search of food, and if you are lucky, catch a glimpse of a sea turtle gently paddling along the reef.
A small trek back will lead you to the path which connects to the road back into the city. You can continue to hike along this path, or even hop into a tuk-tuk. What once seemed to be a mere primitive dirt road at the start of the journey, ends up being a path into a wonderful kaleidoscope of nature, history and folklore. The Rumassala Hill offers visitors a variety of experiences, making it one of the must-visit spots in the city of Galle.