Belihuloya, is a village in the Ratnapura District- Sabaragamuwa Province in central Sri Lanka, linking both dry and wet zone. Looking from the popularity perspective, it is well known for the famous Belihuloya River and the Belihuloya Rest House, which is a government supervised lodge for visitors. Though it has been popular among the local travel crowd, one could say that it is a new pitch to explore for the international travellers. One reason for this is the difficulty to reach the village. Rough roads and no direct transport mode add up to it. The second reason could be the lack of options when it comes to decent accommodation, and the lack of connectivity (mobile networks/internet facilities). Today it attracts great numbers of both local and foreign tourists and provides a soul soothing holiday experience to all.
Today’s episode is about our journey to the Pahantudawa Falls; a magnificent creation, but less known of. The waterfall is located in Ihala Galagama a sub village inside Belihuloya with the height of about 15 feet. It is wrapped up with myths and legends around it which keeps its mystic glory up. Our team consisted of four, all geared up for a daring adventure. We had heard a lot about this hidden beauty and were counting our fingers till the day we finally witnessed it. The name “Pahantudawa” is formed after the two Sinhalese words “Pahan” which means “Lamp” and “Tuda” which means “Point/Edge”. After quite a bit of research and references; finally we managed to hit the road to Pahantudawa Falls!
Road to the mysterious falls
The road to the location from Ihala Galagama village is motor-able for 2 kms roughly, after which it turns into a tough walk. We crossed two streams that had no proper bridges, so that we were left with no option but to get into the water. The rainy season was thankfully over as it was around September, where otherwise it is highly not advisable for this kind of event. The villagers we met on the way told us that the overflow of the streams and the Belihuloya River keeps away the villagers from its banks, let alone tourists.
Sampath was our guide to Pahantudawa, a local who was well connected with foreign travellers and spoke 5 different languages. He said that he only recommends Pahantudawa Falls for solo travellers or couples who are professional swimmers or hikers as it is not at all safe for families including children. He had enough suspense in store for us! After crossing the streams we came to a muddy path, with a few tea bushes on either side. There were small junctions which had paths that led to a few houses, probably of the people who had cottage industries. Transport looked like a vital problem in an area as hilly as Belihuloya, which also had two or three public buses operating for a day and that too after some 30 minute walk. The walk became a slight climb which slowed down our pace and through more bushes and thorns. Travellers must be concerned to carry first aid as the area is prone to leeches and outfits that cover up well really helps. Thick long grass, taller than us welcomed us into the mysterious entrance to the waterfall, which we sensed as the air turned dense and foggy.
A breath taking canyon!
Finally we came to a gorge looking formation which took our breath away. It was two steep rocky walls on either side between which the water that cascade down the waterfall flows. I had never seen such a natural set up in any part of my Sri Lanka tours till then. We had to walk in a line as the rocky wall was not so wide in space for us to walk in groups. Strict advice from Sampath came our way that we are not to stare down or peep into the water flow below us (about 12-15 feet) as the path is slippery and definitely deathly. The rocky wall led us to the waterfall. After a 15 minute walk, the wall came to an end sloping down to a flat surface, but more rocks. Finally we came to a pool; well actually multiple miniature pools I’d say. The natural formation was mesmeric, as it looked like a continuous rocky path being eroded during all these years due to the water flow and heavy rains. This has created small ponds that led to the main glamour of the destination; the Pahantudawa falls.
Legends and myths
As the name says it all, the waterfall definitely takes the shape of a lamp of which the tip brings down a veil of water that fills in the miniature pools on its way. To look into this lamp-shaped pond we had to climb up to a few more rocks, slippery and steep. The villagers say that the depth of this natural basin cannot be estimated and that it has a secret passageway underneath it that connects all the waterfalls in Sri Lanka in one loop. Folklore says that three balls of yarn were still not enough to measure the depth of the Pahantudawa Falls’ depth. By the look of it, the sight was terrific, scary and amusing. As not many people have heard of it, the atmosphere was peaceful and the fresh water was truly soul-soothing. Bathing at the waterfall is prohibited for the safety of the travellers, whereas they may try the small pools down the mountain.
We spent quite some time at the feet of Pahantudawa Falls with our eyes glued to its beauty and grandeur. It was a memorable journey and a worthwhile one for sure. We at The Travellore recommend this location to all adventure travellers out there, with the proper precautions for safety concerned!2