Sri Lanka lies in the center of
the Indian Ocean and thus has climatic and cultural links with three
continents. Monsoon winds, driving against Sri Lanka's peaks, support lush
vegetation on the southern half of the island, but the northern half is a
dry zone. The winds affect human culture as well, having brought wave after
wave of immigrants and merchants following the southerly trade routes.
Outsiders found a wide range of ecological niches on the coast, on the
plains, or in the mountains, and they built a remarkably variegated
civilization. Merchants long have sought Sri Lanka as the source of pearls,
jewels, spices, and tea. Visitors for centuries have marvelled at the beauty
and great diversity of the island.