Meet the Monkeys of PolonnaruwaBack
Eulogized by Disney’s Monkey Kingdom movie, the lost city of Polonnaruwa is home to a vast monkey population living among the impressively preserved ruins. Described by the film as “a secret land of magic few humans have ever seen,” this ancient archaeological site is the best place in the country to get up close and personal with Sri Lanka’s three diurnal primates: the purple-faced leaf monkey, the toque macaque, and the grey langur. In many countries, primates are increasingly difficult to see and observe due to declining habitats. However, here in the heart of Sri Lanka’s dry zone, under the protection of the Smithsonian Primate Research Center, Polonnaruwa’s primate population has flourished. Conducting conservation and scientific research in the area for almost half a century, the center offers a chance for visitors to engage and connect with Sri Lankan primates in a bid to educate visitors on the desperate need to continue to protect these fascinating creatures.
Meet at the entrance to Polonnaruwa at 6.30am sharp where you will meet your host, a researcher from the Smithsonian Primate Research Center. From here you will get a brief introduction to Sri Lankan primates whilst your guide buys your entrance tickets to the site. Once the tickets have been purchased, you will walk into the first section of the site. Ancient and awe-inspiring, Polonnaruwa was once the ruling city of the country during the 8th century and the complex houses hundreds of archaeological structures that are best viewed in the soft sunlight and moderate temperatures of the early morning. Walking around the site, you’ll be surprised at how many monkeys have made their homes within the ruins. Your host will guide you around a small area of the complex, where you will be able to stand just meters away from large groups of toque macaques and grey langurs (the purple-faced leaf eaters are visible but stay high up in the trees and so are more difficult to observe at close length). The monkeys’ unerring resemblance to humans, their social behavior patterns and their obvious intelligence makes them fascinating to observe. Your host will take you on a walk to follow the monkeys on foot and learn about monkey behaviors and the various challenges of monkey conservation. When you finish you have the option to continue to explore Polonnaruwa by yourself. We recommend this, however bare in mind that temperatures tend to increase pretty quickly and by 11am you may find it too hot to explore.