Lying between the towns of Thanamalwila and Kataragama in the deep south of the island is a large wilderness area which is an extension of the Yala National Park that is seldom visited. Lunugamvehera is accessed from the Thanamalwila entrance which inter-connects with Galge on the Buttala-Sella Kataragama Road which is only about a 45 minute drive from the Kataragama town. One of the main highlights is the picturesque Weheregala Reservoir, where a dam was constructed to block the Menik Ganga, where the excess water was diverted to the Lunugamvehera Reservoir in addition to the water which comes in here fgrom the Kirinda Oya. The iconic Weheragala dam is also featured on the 5,000 Rupee note. From the bund at Weheragala, one can get unparalleled views across the reservoir of a forest of submerged trees with the mountains in the backdrop. These dead trees provide ideal perches for fish hunting raptors such as White-bellied Sea Eagles, Grey-headed Fishing Eagles and Brahminy Kites. Earlier this year, a few lucky visitors had sightings of a pair of Osprey, which are very rare winter migrants and seldom encountered.
The open plains near the reservoir attract some of the largest concentrations of Spotted Deer seen in Sri Lanka which number in their hundreds. The Deer move away from the forest and gather in these open plains in the night and early mornings where predators such as Leopards are more visible and can be detected. Small herds of elephants are also encountered predominantly in the Lunugamvehera side, but they remain skittish and are weary to the presence of vehicles.
Moving away from Weheragala you cross a small bridge over the Menik Ganga to access Galge, also known as Yala Block V. While having patches of grassland and some scrub, the forest is covered with large trees such as Weera, Palu, Ehela and Ranawara and at first light is a sight to behold. Grey Hornbill, Malabar-pied Hornbill and skittish Blue-faced Malkohas can be seen in the tree tops feeding on berries and insects. Water birds such as Whistling Teal, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Stork-billed and Pied Kingfishers can be seen in the main waterhole along with Mugger Crocodiles. The wildlife especially the herds of elephants from the surrounding areas tend to congregate in the dry season which spans from around June through to September. Leopards and Sloth Bears are also resident in these jungles and while sightings are difficult to obtain are occasionally seen.
Another hidden gem is the Weheregala stupa, which is believed to be among the ruins of an ancient Magama civilization. The stupa is on a rocky outcrop where one ca get a panoramic view of the Yala jungles and is one of the few sites where visitors are permitted to walk to. Unlike the larger and more popular national parks which are increasingly getting overcrowded on a regular basis, visiting Galge or Lunugamvehera very much feels like getting off the beaten track and entering a pristine wilderness area where one is able to reconnect with nature.