Mannar Bird Sanctuary
Spanning an area of more than 4,800 hectares, the Mannar Bird Sanctuary (also known as the Vankalai Lagoon or Vankalai Sanctuary) is home to a vast array of migratory birds. The area was declared a sanctuary by the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 2008, and provides a variety of different ecosystems (mangroves, salt marshes, lagoons, waterholes, grasslands and more) for the birds to peacefully live in. In 2010, the sanctuary was declared a Ramsar Site, marking it as a wetland site of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The area is known to provide exceptional feeding and living habitats for its large waterbird population, hosting more than 20,000 waterbirds during the migratory season.
Several very rare birds can be spotted here, including the spot-billed duck, the comb duck, the long-toed stint, peregrine falcons and the very rare Eastern Black-tailed Godwit. Visitors may also spot flamingos at the site. Nearly 150 different species of birds are reported to have been spotted at the sanctuary, and the site’s marine ecosystem is said to support more than 60 species including fish, turtles, dugongs and crocodiles. When the thousands of birds that migrate to Sri Lanka arrive, their first stop is the Mannar region – particularly the bird sanctuary. Vankalai Lagoon is also their last staging point before they leave the country at the end of the season.