What is Monkey Camp?
Monkey Camp, as it is casually called by locals and guests is a monkey research station at Polonnaruwa, once the capital of 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. They are actively studying monkeys that is in Polonnaruwa, especially the ancient city. There is a lodge that takes in guests. So, you sleep amongst monkeys.
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.
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. He has monitored social behavior, maintains migration documents, and also genoelogy. 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. Ms. 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 complement his food.
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 there?
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, 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 that the monkey tour, and the ancient city tour can be combined.
3. 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. Get involved, donate to the institute, or work with them. If you would like to learn about monkeys, what better place than the Smithsonian.
5. Watch Disney’s Monkey Kingdom, a documentary that Dr. Dittus created. Well, did I say, Dr. Dittus is friends with Jane Goodall, a British primatologist.
6. Another reason for you stay here is for 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).