Sri Lanka may seem like a small island rather than it’s own country, but this place has much more to offer than one could possibly imagine. From the surfing beach scene, national parks, the Hill Country, ancient cities, and isolated north, there is more to do and see in this country than one trip will allow. Much more calmer than neighboring India, Sri Lanka is peaceful and serene (although this was not always so). Turbulent times have followed many Sri Lankans, and now that the country is relatively peaceful, new areas that were previously restricted are open to the public. A country with so much outdoor adventure and cultural significance, Sri Lanka should be on everyone’s radar! Luckily it hasn’t happened yet, so now is the best time to go!
Before leaving for Sri Lanka a friend had highly recommended visiting the ‘snake farm’ near Midigama. Without having a concrete idea of what that meant, we decided to go and find out what it was. We got lost on our scooters and kept stopping to ask locals how to get there (mostly making snake gestures with our hands as many people we asked didn’t speak English). Eventually a tuk-tuk motioned for us to follow him and we took a random dirt path up into the hills.
When we got to the top of the hill there was a single house that looked like a local family lived there. ‘No way is this the right place’ we thought. Then a man came out of the house and assured us in broken English that this was in fact the snake farm. As we entered the house there were boxes with mesh tops that were ‘locked’ by means of twigs. Inside each box was a snake.
We found out that the man was a third generation Ayurvedic practitioner who captures snakes found in the local villages. Often times the snakes are found by peasant farmers who call the practitioner to remove them. Once captured, he produces holistic anti-venoms as a long time alternative to western medicine. He keeps these remedies and treats farmers that are too poor to go to the hospital, which is often too far away. After two to three weeks he releases the snakes in a national park nearby.
Sadly this long-standing local tradition and practice is dying out. This man we visited is one of the last Ayurvedic practitioners in Sri Lanka. With modern science having such strong a strong presence throughout the world, the need of a ‘medicine man’ is declining. In order to earn a profit, this man will bring the snakes out of the boxes to show you each type he has and give you information about the species. The poisonous snakes come out on sticks while the less dangerous are hand-held!
His wife and daughter were also present as they all lived on the other side of the house, with the snakes in an adjacent room! Everyone was so friendly and answered any questions we had. Visiting the snake farm is a great way to get off the beaten path and support a local family that helps the community and doesn’t expect much in return. He did advise us that the neighbors would sometimes get upset when some of the snakes escaped out of their boxes and into the yard!