Mannar Unbound: A journey through history and nature

From well-known Sri Lankan wildlife enthusiasts Dr. Thilak Jayaratne, Dr. Janaka Gallangoda, Nadika Hapuarachchi, and Tamara Fernando, comes a book that explores the lesser-known beauty that is Mannar.

When recalling places of scenic beauty within our country, Mannar isn’t usually a place that comes to mind. With a history spanning over centuries, this region is of significant archaeological and environmental importance. Since ancient times it has been a renowned port city, referred to as Mahathiththa at the time.

Mannar is also the connecting point of the mythical Rama’s Bridge (Adam’s Bridge) beginning all the way in India. Passed through the hands of the Portuguese, Dutch, and the British, the region experienced change at the hands of the colonists. A part of the of the dry zone of Sri Lanka, this district’s unique landscape is made up of salt marshes, sand dunes, thick jungles, tanks, and a myriad of other unique ecosystems, and as such is home to many of Sri Lanka’s endemic flora and fauna, while also providing habitat to many migrant seabirds.

Mannar Unbound is a photographic documentation of wildlife and archaeological ruins of Mannar. The book is the result of over five years of fieldwork stretching across various seasons during which places were visited and then revisited in order to get the perfect shot.

It is a labour of love from Dr. Thilak Jayaratne, Dr. Janaka Gallangoda, Nadika Hapuarachchi, and Tamara Fernando, who all share a common love for photography, history, and the environment.

Dr. Jayaratne, Dr. Gallangoda, and Hapuarachchi are already published authors who have made an immense contribution to the documentation of wildlife in Sri Lanka. The book follows in the steps of Asoka Yapa and Gamini Ratnawira’s “Mammals of Sri Lanka” to be one of the most important works to be published in the last decade, on the environment of the country.

What differentiates this book from being just another addition to the coffee table are the four different elements that have gone into its compilation. It consists of photographs of architectural ruins from the colonial times, avian photography, underwater photography, and photographs of the diverse landscape of Mannar.

All the sections are accompanied by a commentary that includes anecdotes, maps, and texts that give you a deeper understanding into the subjects covered by the book. Colourful portrayals of the rare seabirds and migrant birds decorate the pages, along with vibrant sunsets and sparkling beaches. Underwater photography captures a variety of creatures from turtles and sharks to the kaleidoscopic coral reefs of the Indian Ocean. Perhaps the most coveted photograph is that of the dugong, an endangered sea creature – one of the rarest mammals in the world.

Moreover, the book is a plea for awareness for the rich ecosystems of Mannar that are suffering from human interference.

The publication of Mannar Unbound was possible thanks to the partnership of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka and Softlogic Life, both of which are committed to preserving and conserving the rich heritage and wildlife of our country.

The launch took place on 7 December at 5.30 p.m. at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery, and was followed by an exhibition of the photographs which was open till 9 December.

The book is available for sale priced at Rs. 9,000For more information contact Janaka on 0777 393 161, Nadika on 0777 889 885, or Tharanga on 0117 806 433, or you can send an e-mail to

By Vashni Benjamin
Photos Krishan Kariyawasam