Monkey Camp, as it is casually called by locals and guests, this place is a monkey research station at Polonnaruwa, once the capital of the Sri Lankan royals.
The formal name of this facility is the Smithsonian Primate Research Station. The facility mainly functions as a headquarters for monkey research in Sri Lanka.
They are actively studying monkeys that is in Polonnaruwa, especially the ancient city. The research center has a lodge that takes in guests. They accommodate you in some nice rooms and you can sleep amongst monkeys. No, not really.
The property is on the Eastern banks of Parakrama Samudraya, the giant water body that existed since ancient times. The backyard of the Monkey Camp opens into this lake. The forest area near by has helped the monkey population thrive.
People Responsible for Monkey Camp
Dr. Wolfgang Dittus is the Founder and Director of the Smithsonian Research Institute. He is a German born, Canada educated zoologist, who has done a lot of research about the macaque monkeys.
Some of the projects he has done is monitoring their social behavior, maintaining migration documents and also the researching their genealogy.
He and his friends know which two monkeys are related to each other. Over the years he has written a lot of papers. Many documentaries have featured him and his work in Sri Lanka.
The Monkey Camp is the brainchild of Vatsala Dittus, Dr. Dittus’s wife. The Monkey Camp is a lodging that is inside the premises. Vatsala looks after the administration and interacts with the guests at the property.
Sunil Rathnayake is the manager of the property who manages and maintains it. He is helped by Veeran and Mr. Ukkubanda, the caretakers.
Ukkubanda can make the best food in Sri Lanka. He does not believe it when you compliment his food.
Getting to Monkey Camp
The economical and fun option is the bus. From Anuradhapura, I took the mini Chinese made bus to Dambulla and then took another bus to reach Polonnuaruwa in the evening.
At the bus stop, I took the Tank Bund Road by tuk tuk to reach the property. The property is reachable by taxi from anywhere.
There are lot of buses from Colombo and Kandy. The way to reach by train from Colombo is to take a train to Kandy and then take a bus to Polonnaruwa.
What can you do at the Monkey Camp?
1. Book a Stay at the Monkey Camp
The property has about sixteen cozy rooms. In the morning and sometimes during the night, you can hear monkeys. There are lot of animal research centers around the world.
However, this is one of the few that lets in guests and gives a tour of the facility that has monkeys and monitor lizards.
2. They have a monkey tour
This tour is in a combination with the tour of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa has a big monkey population, mostly of the langurs. However, the members of this facility forgot to tell me that the monkey tour and the ancient city tour can be combined.
3. Night tour
They have a night tour of the facility that helps you spot Loris monkeys. The property is not lit at night because it does not attract Loris monkeys that usually require darkness.
You spot it with the help of infrared light. When the light shines on the monkeys eyes, you can see a red pair of eyes looking down at you.
4. Help with research
Get involved, donate to the institute or work with them. If you would like to learn about monkeys in Sri Lanka, what better place than the Smithsonian.
5. Watch their documentary
Watch Disney’s Monkey Kingdom, a documentary that Dr. Dittus created. Well, Dr. Dittus is friends with Jane Goodall, a British primatologist.
6. Eat delicious food
Another reason for you stay here is the food. Mr. Ukkubanda who has stayed here for more than thirty years can make Idiyappam (String Hoppers) with Egg and Potato curry.
He can also make some brilliant chicken curry and parippu (lentil curry).