Mahaweli River Expedition

Amazing Journey by kayaks and/or canoes

Mahaweli River Expedition

per person

The 335km long Mahaweli is Sri Lanka’s longest river. This wilderness adventure, journeyed by kayaks and/or canoes, is a 50km, 3 night, and 4-day paddling trip through the untainted Wasgamuwa National Park, located in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. It begins 20km downstream from the town of Mahiyanganaya and ends near to Manampitiya. The park is home to large herds of wild elephants and rich and diverse birdlife. It’s quite likely that you will spot some crocs sunning themselves on the banks of the river on certain stretches, so the trip is not for the faint-hearted! All your equipment, food, and drink, as well as all safety equipment, will be provided.

The expedition is hosted by a team of experienced Borderlands river guides. This is generally a flat water expedition however there are a couple of Class I and II rapids to navigate which will add to the excitement. No prior experience is necessary, but participants must have a reasonable level of fitness and be willing to pitch in with camp set up, as well as cooking and cleaning and packing up camp each morning. Borderlands is the pioneering adventure company in Sri Lanka and has been running this expedition for the past 21 years. This trip will offer participants a chance to develop many skills, such as river reading, whitewater paddling, wilderness camping, and safety. The journey is one of the most unique experiences you can have in Sri Lanka. The trip starts about 30 minutes downstream from Mahiyanganaya at the Japanese Friendship Bridge at midday.

4 Days
6+ Age
  • Included
    Mahaweli River Expedition
    Experienced river guides who are trained in certified in CPR and First Aid
    First Aid Kit
    International Standard Safety Equipment
    Optional Support Gear
    All other necessary equipment
The first day is a training day at the Borderlands Adventure Centre in Kitulgala.  This will give the team a chance to meet and develop the necessary skills necessary for taking on this jungle river.  We will be fitting you up with your boat choice which can range from an open canoe, sit on top kayaks, inflatable kayaks, and options to ride as an active passenger on our Cataraft.   We will paddle some white water as the team develops skills such as; white water paddling, river safety, and camp craft.   We will return to the longhouse for a video session that evening a Borderlands dinner while chilling in our Long House. The drive from Borderlands to Mahiyanganaya is around 5 hours.  We plan to depart Borderlands in the early morning around 5 AM.
A light breakfast at the Borderlands and we depart with the team for a 5 hour drive to the river put in.  After we arrive we have a packed lunch and pack the rafts and canoes for the river journey.  We will paddle around 4 hours to our first camp just inside the national park. We leave behind the sadly exploited section of the Mahaweli with its severely damaged river banks due to excessive sand mining.  The transformation of the river from sand mining pit to wilderness jungle is a massive and welcomed change.  After 4 hours we reach the edge of the park, our first rapids, and a campsite on jungle sand beaches untouched by the sand miners. We set up camp on the edge of Wasgamuwa National Park, on a deserted river beach. We have plenty of snack breaks, and we can make time for a game of cricket or Frisbee on the beach before darkness falls. We gather all our own wood for the evening campfire, which is kept going throughout the night as protection against possible elephant forays!  The sound of the jungle at night, a BBQ dinner, and a plan for a early morning departure as the river safari begins.
An early start as we enter Wasgamuwa NP, which spans the left bank of the river today, with the buffer zone river right. It’s a full day paddling through the park, silent apart from the calls of birds, including raptors, hornbills and peacocks, monkeys and the buzzing of insects. With luck we’ll catch a glimpse of sunning crocodiles and thirsty elephants. It’s rare to see people and the solitude is priceless.  We will have a number of rapids to manage.  We again set our sights on a deserted river beach camp which is in view of an elephant corridor , a jungle route for elephants crossing the river.  In the past we have found elephant bones and witnessed bulls sparing as herds of up to 100 elephants have crossed the river within site of our camp. Dinner under the stars, a chance to share stories, relive the day’s adventure and fall into a deep slumber.  Fires are kept burning all night and guides take turns keeping watch over the camp,  its simply a breathtaking location.
The last day’s paddle is usually a slow departure –  We are often awaken to the sound of elephants making there way back across the river at dawn.  An early morning canoe safari is  the best way to watch this parade of wild elephants making this crossing.  The river widens as we leave Wasgamuwa behind, This section is an excellent area to view crocodiles on the beaches sunning themselves after a long night in the cool waters.   The topography levels out and the dense jungle gives way to farmland. The sand mining again picks up until we see nothing but lines of boats along the river banks mining the river sand which is used to fuel the transformation of a developing nation.  We reach our final destination by lunch time. All the gear is loaded and cleaned and we make our way back to Colombo or for some your next adventure.  We are now in the heart of the cultural triangle,  The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa  is only 8 KMs away.  The city has been declared a World Heritage Site and dates back over 1000 years. Polonnaruwa is the second largest city in the Northern Centre Province but it is known as one of the cleanest and more beautiful cities in the country. The green environment, amazing ancient constructions, Parakrama  Samudra (a huge lake built in 1200), and attractive tourist hotels and hospitable people, attract tourists.