Is the Sinharaja Rainforest Safe for Children?
Traveling with your family can be both fun and stressful at the same time, especially when young children are involved. Sri Lanka is a wonderful family-friendly holiday destination, with plenty of exciting activities and cultural sights for everyone’s enjoyment, but some of these can be age-restricted. If you have been thinking of hiking through the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, you may be wondering if your little ones can join you.
Will a hike through Sinharaja be safe for your kids? In general, yes. Is it advisable to take them along? That depends.
Here are some things that you should consider before you book your trek.
Age and Physicality
There are a variety of tour operators that can guide your trek through the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, offering packages that range from a short 2-hour walk to a full day’s hike. Some of them take the guesswork out of the operation and specify a minimum age for participants – where one tour will insist that only children aged 10 and above may join, others will allow children as young as 4 years old to come along. You should pick a tour operator that can guide your entire family through the forest, but only you will know best if your child will be able to keep up. Bear in mind that, should your child decide halfway that he or she no longer wishes to continue, there is no easy exit – you may have to physically carry your little one the rest of the way through, along with your own backpack.
There is also the question of whether or not your child can swim. Your hike may take you to some stunning waterfalls, where you can either relax on the shore and take in the view, or dive into the lovely, cool water. Just make sure that your children do not attempt anything too dangerous, and the entire family will have plenty of amazing memories to take home.
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is one of Sri Lanka’s last virgin rainforests, hosting many rare trees and a plethora of amazing wildlife. Elephants, leopards and monkeys are known to roam through this reserve, as well as several endemic bird species, reptiles and amphibians. Your tour operator will ensure that you are guided safely through the forest, and will stop to point out the wildlife you encounter along the way. This can include dangerous snakes such as the green pit viper and hump-nosed vipers. If your child is prone to ignoring safety warnings (such as to keep a safe distance away from any snakes that you come across) in favour of satisfying his or her own curiosity, it might be best to consider a different activity altogether.
You will also have to keep an eye out for leeches, especially in the wetter areas. You can buy leech socks from the forest shop (or bring your own). Remind your kids to come to you if they happen to find a leech on their bodies – leeches should never be directly pulled off. Instead, some table salt, alcohol, or mosquito repellent should coax them to let go.
Food and Water
Make sure that each of your family members carry a small bottle of water with them, especially if you are opting for one of the longer hikes. There won’t be any readily available sources of drinking water during your walk, so come prepared, and remind your kids to periodically sip on some water to keep hydrated. You should also pack some food and snacks for the trip, although most of the longer tours will have a packed lunch ready for you. Check your itinerary or call up your tour guide beforehand so that you do not have to gamble on whether or not you and your kids might go hungry for a few hours.
Overall, a trek through the Sinharaja Forest Reserve can be a safe and fun excursion for all members of the family, provided that you plan ahead. There is plenty to explore and discover, and you may find that the trip becomes one of the highlights of your holiday on the island.