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Leeches and other nasties

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Leeches and other nasties


We're off to Sri Lanka in couple of weeks with Red Dot Tours and we're just wondering how much of a problem leeches are going to be and whether its worth buying leech socks to take with us. We're staying at Kandalama, Chaaya Citadel in Kandy and going to Victoria Golf Club, then onto Tea Trails (via Kitulgala for some white water rafting) then down to Galle, followed by 2 nights at Bentota before heading back to the airport! Do you think that leeches are going to be a problem in any of these places? I'm thinking that Kitulgala will be the worst?

Thanks - any advice would be much appreciated!


Colombo, Sri Lanka
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for Sri Lanka
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1. Re: Leeches and other nasties

Hi Helen,

Spot on. They usually inhabit regions between altitude 500 and 1500 m but only in the green areas, not so much the city jungle for obvious reasons. At Citadel even in the lawns we never had them, unlike near some higher-situated Kandy area hotels. Victoria Golf club could be at some risk though, esp. the hilly parts of the course. Tea Trails also is at some risk as Hatton is low enough for them, stay on the paved paths to avoid them as much as possible. Kitulgala could be worst, again avoid the muddy/grass areas...

All the best,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

PS And if bitten: either salt or a burning lucifer or just a small wooden stick to push them away, be careful NOT to harm/kill them as then the front end remains stuck in your body leading to maximal harm to yourself...

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2. Re: Leeches and other nasties


Yes Kitulgala is the place you have to worry about. Leech socks can be purchased locally too. As Erik mentioned some repellent will do the job. Ex : citronella oil can be purchased locally.


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3. Re: Leeches and other nasties


I've been to Kitulgala a few times.

When there I stay in The Adventure base camp wiich is surrounded by jungle and right on the river.

I've wandered through the surrounding jungle, done the rafting run several times on the river, jumped out of the raft and body surfed the last 1/2 mile and also swum many times in the river next to the camp.

I've never seen a leech there. Maybe I was lucky but I've also not seen anyone else with any leeches.

Lots of places in Sri Lanka I;'ve trekked in forests, through paddy fields and the only place I actually picked up a leech in Sri Lanka was at the top of a mountain in the Knuckles Range.

When I'm trekking in rough country side, I take one of the 35mm, plastic film cannisters with me, full of salt. They are convenient size and water proof. I know there areb plenty of leeches around in some places so I'mk prepared to sprinkle my salt on them to make them drop off but so far it hasn't been a problem.

The actual bite and the little crittur feeding isn't any problem. Most of the time you don't know you've had one til it drops off and you see the blood. The bites do bleed for quite a long time but I don't mind that as the blood cleans out the bite.


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4. Re: Leeches and other nasties

Yes, I have had quite a few leech issues in Sri Lanka but the first thing I would say is that, unless you are particularly squeamish, it is not a big deal. They do not hurt and often you do not realise you have been attacked until you see the blood. The worse thing is the fact that the bites bleed for some time - rather embarrassing at the hotel when you wake up to find the sheets covered in blood stains!

I've never had a problem in Kandy, except at Hunas Falls but places with lots of undergrowth in the rain will produce them. On my last trip to Tea Trails, a couple went out for a walk in the rain and came back having been attacked extensively.

Personally, I do not find leech socks much help, they still get in and lots of covering up just conceals them. My guide in Sinharaja wore flip flops and came out unscathed, whereas I looked like something from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

My advice is to take salt, soap, cigarettes and get on with it. Take lots of photos covered in blood and you will dine out on the tales for months afterwards!


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5. Re: Leeches and other nasties

Thanks for the replies - we'll go prepared with some salt!

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6. Re: Leeches and other nasties

If you are worried about leeches try not to brush against vegetation when walking in wet areas near waterfalls etc, rainforest and tea/ rice plantations. As mentioned, salt is great to knock them off and soap is also quite good. Locals who are conscious of them soap their legs before entering the leech environment. Leeches move surprisingly fast so maybe don't wait for them to make a hit ! The favourite spot they have got me with several times is between the toes. If they get attached and you don't have salt etc, they will simply drop off when gorged. Unfortunately you will then bleed really well. I find a dollop of Dettol/Savlon cream then a bandaid makes me at least feel fine and maybe slows the flow. I second the advice given - don't try to pull them off as the head will become embedded in your skin and cause problems.

I don't not go where I want in fear of them. They are harmless really - just in need of a feed !

7. Re: Leeches and other nasties

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