The ferns rustled and looking through the slits between the leafy canopy that
veiled the paddy field pathway and the open landscape jungle, I saw Jetwing Kaduruketha’s
head security guard, Rajapaksa Mudiyanselage Kapu Gedara Jayathilaka looking back at me.
“Would you like to see a tree frog?” he asked me and just by my feet, clinging to the roots,
was a huge bulbous-eyed frog. I took a few pictures and was then, by the light of his torch,
shown some micro bats hanging out in the trees.
Being a night security guard on a agro nature tourism project requires a love of nocturnal living,
always being alert and prepared for the unexpected wild life that can turn up at
just about any hour, which in short also requires a military training and a tactical mind.
Only four days ago, a few feet from where I was standing, he saw the most extraordinary thing,
a first for Jetwing Kaduruketha. Three “Loku”, which means really big elephants,
swam across the river and crept stealthily into the Udawela paddy field.
The aroma of the fresh organic rice, just harvested had caused them to cross Kirindi Oya
in the dead of night. These clever elephants knew this would be a wonderful feast and reached
the border of the hotel, hoping not to be spotted, as it was 3am in the morning, a time when even
farmers go to sleep. They had indeed been working until midnight, and left a couple of farmers
behind, who luckily realised that there had been a breach of security on the border of
Ambalan Kumbura, known as the half way point, and quickly made a fire to chase them away,
using torch lights and lots of loud shouting noises. Seeing it was not easy for the farmers to
move these hungry elephants away from the wonderful harvest, the guard used his military
jungle experience by taking a piece of metal and repetitively hitting it on a stone.
The elephants do not like the sharp sound of it, anymore than humans like the sound of
scraping finger nails on a blackboard, which is something he learnt during the civil war,
dealing with wild elephants in Habarana and Thoppigal rock, which is known as Beran’s Cap.
The guard tells me as we look through his red torch light for frogs, that every night is different and
special, as the nocturnal world has its own vibration. “I have seen so many different animals,
including a huge variety of snake species like the vipers, and lots of colourful birds and dragon flies.
” His particular favourites are the slightly arrogant peacocks that strut around the grounds all day long,
looking for females to woo, and then, exhausted from all the mating rituals, rest in the trees at night
ready for more saucy dances in the paddy fields the next morning, which include waggling their
bottoms at high speed. The peahens, a tough bunch of chics to impress, are far more interested in
stealing the delicious fresh organic rice now served at all the Jetwing Hotels.
Rajapaksa is also fascinated by the huge variety of jungle lizards
and four varieties of frogs, to be found in the lotus pond by the paddy fields, or in the cool of the tree roots,
which are all perfect places for them to hang off.
Rajapaska says his hometown, Dehiathakandya does a lot of paddy cultivation as well, but sadly
uses chemicals. Although this gets them bigger harvests, the taste of the rice is really different.
Whereas in Kaduruketha it is always really fresh and tastes natural and you can see greater
numbers of fish, insects, and birds in the paddy fields’ waterways returning to live amongst this ancient
form of planting. He really wants to send the message out to the world that it is so important
to cultivate without chemicals and feed the family, neighbours and relatives in a healthy way, as he
has had so many friends die from kidney failure, cancers, skin diseases, and eye problems due to
increased usage of chemicals in Sri Lankan farming. People think only day to day and not long
term or about how problems like chemically grown food will be more costly in medicine and
hospital bills further down the line. At Jetwing Kaduruketha, Ishanda the resident naturalist explained,
on my morning walk, “We changed from chemicals to organic farming very fast and, after less than a year
of researching 19 varieties of traditional paddy seed, we now sow and grow three varieties across 25 acres,
using only Neem and Giriziriya ‘Lunchi’ mixed into the soil to give nitrogen.”