The Madhu River of Balapitiya which originates near Polathupalatha at Uragasmanhandiya and flows into the ocean at the Balapitiya Delta is a marvelous creation of natural scenic beauty. The picturesqueness of Madhu River is further enhanced by the collection of islands which are by it. Its beauty is famed not only locally but also the world over. And Madhu River was declared as third remaining wetland in Sri Lanka by Ramsar convention in 25th February 2004 and was declared as Game sanctuary in 2006. With the end of the war in the North the number of local and foreign tourists visiting Madhu River to enjoy its scenic beauty is increasing daily.
Many tourists entering the Southern Province through the Bentota Bridge never fail to take a Boat ride in Madhu River. The wetlands of Madhu River extends to 915 hectares of which an area of 770 hectares is under water. According to the residents in the area there had been 64 islands fed by its and today the number has dwindled to 25, Kothduwa, Maduwa, Galmanduwa, Naiduwa, Katuduwa, Medaduwa and Satha Pahaduwa are some of them. All these islands, except three or four are inhabited.
The largest of these islands is Maduwa which is 38 hectares in extent in which about 300 families are habitant. The smallest of these islands is Satha Pahaduwa, so named because of its shape resembling a five cents coin.
A wooden bridge 300 meters long is constructed across Madhu River for access is by Catamaran or Boat. Even motorcycle and trishaws travel over it.
Kothduwa where consists the famous ancient temple which was sheltered for secret tooth relic before it was taken to Kandy. In the history it says during the English ruling secret tooth relic was hidden in Kothduwa temple.
here are main four streams which enhance the Madhu River estuary by namely Magala, Lenagala, Unagaswala, and Seenigoda which mostly originates in Karandeniya. Though it is called River yet it is more merely a Lagoon as the sea water and marine lives migrates. Pathamulla islets is the only islet in Sri Lanka connected with Railway line. Pathamulla islet is the only islet which consists the very rare endemic specie of “Rathamilla” which only can be seen in South Asia.
Mangroves of Madhu River are very much unique as its’ provides the thick Mangrove vegetation prevalent northern and northwestern banks and the Lagoon mouth as well the majority of the islets. This wetland consists ten major wetlands vegetation types totaling 302 species of plants belongs to 95 families and out of these 19 are endemics and 08 are nationally threatened.
Madhu River consists of 70 species of fish belongs to 41 families and among them two species are endemic, 02 are nationally and one is exotic. Some fish were observed in the upper most reaches where the water salinity is lower like Striped Rasbora, Giant Danio, and Walking Catfish. One third of species are brackish water Fish – Pony Fish, Mud Skipper and Milk Fish.
Madhu River represented 43% of Sri Lanka native birds of which 06 are endemics and 07 are nationally threatened. And 10% consists of winter migrants. Mixture of vegetation creates ideal ecotone for birds. Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Teals, Kingfishers usually seen as its feed on aquatic organisms.
Mammals of Madhu River consists of 24 species belongs to 16 families representing 26% if island mammals. Among them 02 are endemic and 06 are nationally threatened. Hog Deer, Purple faced leaf Monkey, Golden palm Civet, Slender Loris, Fishing Cat and Jackal.