Whilst staying in Sri Lanka’s historic city of Galle, we enjoyed an excursion to the Maduganga Lake. From Galle, we took the scenic coastal road northwards until Bilapitiya, where we turned off onto a narrow track where eventually we found the home of Buddhi Boat Safari.
Our motorboat, driven by Captain Chuti, seated nine but we had it to ourselves. Fortunately by this time it was 4pm and the sun was much cooler, so we didn’t need the canopy raised which gave us unrestricted views. Our guide was a keen ornithologist and pointed out several sightings before we got to the mouth of the lagoon which led into the sea. Here we turned around and continued going inland, under two very low bridges where we had to duck.
The area is covered with mangroves, and we crouched as we negotiated natural mangrove arches and took the obligatory photo. We passed fishing areas for prawns and eventually stopped at Cinnamon Isle where we clambered off and headed to a small house built from local materials where we met the family.
A young girl demonstrated the production of cinnamon sticks by shaving off the outer casing of the branch before rubbing it with a copper tool to make it easier to remove the bark (copper is essential to prevent oxidisation). A narrow strip was removed with a very sharp knife, which allowed the remaining bark to be stripped off in one piece. Small pieces were wrapped in the curls of cinnamon which were left to dry on sisal strings under the roof for seven days. It was fascinating to watch, and every time I use a piece of cinnamon I will be reminded of this experience. As the process cannot be mechanised, it is why cinnamon is relatively expensive.
We were then shown how coconut tree leaves were plaited to make coverings for the roof and how coconut hair was matted to make rope, which was surprisingly strong.
Back in the boat we passed a small island with a temple on it and then another bridge which links two islands for pedestrians, motor cyclists and cyclists (one island was said to have 300 inhabitants and another a hotel which seemed slightly bizarre).
On our way back, we passed an island shop selling coconuts, before being welcomed back on shore with a cooling orange juice.