The gorgeous Amaloh by Jetwing team in Matara know how to cater for everyone’s interests and in particular big families and groups. While my sons went off on a magical adventure-kayaking trip to Old Island Temple, opposite the Amaloh by Jetwing, I was whisked away to an exciting jungle safari that includes waterfalls and going to a humble snake doctor’s mud house where three generations of Sri Lankan snake experts have lived since 1915.
Indrajith Balasuriya, a third generation Snake Doctor since the age of 12, proudly shows me his great grandfather’s photograph and father’s museum, which are either side of his Ayurveda certificate, validating his ability as a healer. He not only heals humans, bitten by snakes in houses, rubbish or on car bonnets, with a range of surprisingly fragrant herbal potions from his medicine room but also the snakes themselves that get hurt in the conflict. After a few weeks of treatment, he releases them into the Sinharaja rain forest reserve or in the case of the larger snakes, Yala National Park.
In his lone mud house at the top of a hill, Indrajith, houses on and off over a year up to 150 rescued snakes, which often include any of a range of snakes including harmless green tree snakes and the five most venomous snakes: Indian Cobra, Russell’s Viper, Common Krait, Saw-scaled Viper and the Boa Constrictor Python. However, he has been bitten over 34 times in the process and one can see that he is deeply respectful of them.
If the snake is deadly within thirty minutes of being bitten, you will go into cardiac arrest, making Indrajith a very important person to know and have in your neighbourhood, so I put his number in my phone. There are 294 species of snake in the world of which 96 are Sri Lankan, which made me appreciate talking to him the true importance of these animals to the islands rich ecosystem.
Indrajith provides free anti-venom to workers in the surrounding fields and to do this he tells us that he gets up early in the morning when it is cool, to pick anything from ten to six hundred and fifty plants used to create the anti venom bottled concoctions.
The owner handles the snakes like they are long lost friends and, while letting us look at them, he explains the behavior and toxicity as well as diet of all of the snakes that he rescues. Normally, snakes like to avoid humans, even the small deer eating python, the biggest snake on the island, which grows up to 14 feet and kills by squeezing its victim to death does not like eating us. So if you walk loudly through the bush or the jungle most snakes will simply slither away back into the undergrowth than confront us humans.
Whatever their size or colour, the Amaloh by Jetwing tour reminds me it is important to conserve snakes since they are an important part of our ecosystems, keeping rats and other vermin at bay in the paddy fields, amongst other things.