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With nearly 1600 km of of palm fringed Coastline baked to perfection surrounding the country Sri Lanka is the ideal destination for beach bums worldwide. May it be windsurfing, kayaking, yachting, water skiing, scuba diving or jut lazing around for the perfect tan, Sri Lanka offers it all. The two weather systems of the monsoon winds makes Sri Lanka’s beach holiday a year round prospect. The north east winds make the south western coast sunny and the sea calm from November to March. The South West winds make the East Coast waters quiet with the constant sun shine happily in agreement.
The best of the Southern beaches include Tangalla, Beruwala, Mirissa, Bentota and Unawatuna with varying options including chic boutique hotels, glowing coral reefs, gentle sandbar sand undiscovered corners of paradise.
Beruwala is the first of the beaches to be met when travelling from Colombo. Famed for its tranquil bay with the palm shaded beach Beruwala offers excellent water sport facilities.
Benthota, the next in line is known for golden beaches dotted with luxury resorts and gentle seas, even during the rough seas. Tangalla is the rising star among the southern beaches is known for calm blue waters bordered with palm covered beaches. It is the dividing line between the tropical coves that dominate much of the south-west coast and the long, wave-lashed beaches that are found in the south-east corner of the island.
Mirissa is the beach resort for the lethargic, designed to be indulged at a slower pace watching the world pass by. It is also the best place for an ocean safari in search of blue whales and dolphins. Nights can be longer in Unawatuna, the most popular beach town in South. Many head to Unawatuna on Fridays for nonstop partying throughout the weekend yet this had not spoilt the tranquil charm in most parts. Snorkelling at the Buena Vista Reef is a thrill of a life time while boat rides to the jungle patched islands for glimpse of bird life is ideal for bird lovers.
Although Sri Lanka’s southern beaches has been long discovered by the world traveller the east coast is yet to be fully discovered. The most known among the Eastern beaches is the Arugam Bay, the high church of surfing enthusiasts’ in the region. Wildlife parks streaming with elephants, miles of lonely wide beaches and excellent views are the options available for non-surfers. Once a mere rumour, Uppuveli beach is open to the sun seekers after a three decade long civil war. The beach is quickly gaining fame as the best swimming and snorkelling location competing with the nearby Nilaveli beach and the coral gardens of the pigeon island.
On the Western corner of the country to the north of Colombo is the Negambo lagoon. Its beaches, an old favourite with local and foreign visitors and lagoon famed for lobster harvesting. The collection of resort hotels offering options of water sports competes with the urge of just sit and watches the fishing boats disappear in the horizon. Further north from Negombo is the Kalpitiya, sandwiched between the sea and the lagoon the beach is ideal for the lazing around yet the sea off Kalpitiya is the best location in the country to watch Blue whales, sperm whales and pilot whales and spinner dolphins, other species including Risso’s Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin and Striped Dolphin.
Wrecks, Whales and Reefs
Route: Airport, Negombo, Hikkaduwa, Mirissa, Airport
Highlights: Negombocity tour, whale and dolphin watching at Kalpitiya, diving at Marawila and third reef, Dutch canal cruise, Colombo city tour, diving the ship wrecks; the conch and Earl of Shaftesbury and the black coral at Hikkaduwa, Dutch fort of Galle, whale and dolphin watching in Mirissa.
Highlights: Negombo city tour
Recover from the jet lag with a stroll around the Negombo town, the little Rome of Sri Lanka. Negambo’s history dates back as far as the thirteenth Century as a port town used by the Moors and Sri Lankans to trade cinnamon and other spices, the city was later used as a trade town by Portuguese, Dutch and British. The remnants of colonial powers including the Dutch Fort and an intricate canal system that runs 100km from Colombo in the South to Puttalam in the north and many churches still rule the landscape of Negombo.
Highlights: A two hour ride from Negombo leads to the Kalpitiya Dutch bay, where Whales and Dolphins are found in abundance.Large pods of Spinner Dolphins could be found within a just one hour boat ride from Kalpitiya harbour while Sperm whales and blue whales are found in large pods near the Bar reef between the Months of April to November. Spend the rest of the day exploring the country’s largest coral reef, situated off the Dutch Bay.
Day Three: Marawila-Negombo
Highlights: Spend the morning diving and exploring around the wreck of a Royal Air Force fighter bomber, which despite crashing over fifty years ago is in great form. It is common to sight large moray eels, as well as marine life.
Leave the evening dive for the third reef. A twenty meter dive, where there is no sigh of civilization just calm waters and coral reefs. It is a favourite site to spot different species of rays including marble rays while divers are greeted by pods of dolphins playing away.
Day Four: Negombo-Colombo
Highlights: Spend the morning cruising along the colonial Dutch canals and head for Colombo for a might of shopping, partying or a quiet fine dining experience.
Day Five: Colombo-Hikkaduwa
Highlights: A one and half hour drive along the Turquoise Indian Ocean brings you to Hikkaduwa and another series of exciting dives. Spent the afternoon exploring the oceans with an evening dive to Hikkaduwa’s exciting wreck diving sites.
The conch-One of the first oil tankers of the Shell Company which sank in 1903 after hitting the Akarta rock. Diving depth: 14.22 m. Travel time by boat: 20 minutes.
Wrecks of Ship Earl of Shaftsbury - This four mastered British ship wreck sank back in 1893 and are home to stingrays, schools of snappers, barracudas, lion fish and blow fish. Diving depth: 15 m. Travel time by boat: 15 minutes.
Other diving sites of Hikkaduwa include,
Seenigamagala Rock- A site covered with beautiful and uniquely formed corals and a habitat of barracudas, moray eels and rays. Diving depth: 12-22 m. travel time by boat: 10 minutes
Kiralagala – A beautiful rock complex filled with exotic fish. The precipitous rock wall is covered with hard and soft corals creating a marine town filled with domino damsels, angel fish, basslets, butterfly fish and the deeper oceans filled with Trevally, fusiliers and triggerfish. Diving depth: 40 m. Travel time by boat: 25 minutes
Diyamba Gala or Deep rock- A multilevel rock complex consists of underground caves. Diving depth-22 m. Travel time by boat: 20 minutes.
Off coral gardens – A coral formation with coral caves and valleys, home to moray eels, puffer fish and blow fish. Diving depth: 13 m. Travel time by boat: 10 minutes.
Black coral point –A deep dive site covered with black corals and abundant of macro marine creatures. Diving depth: 30 m. Travel time by boat: 10 minutes.
Goda gala- The multi-level rock complex spreading over a large area is home to variety of sea creatures including Moray Eels, Hawk fish, small Crabson Acropora Coral, Antheas and other reef fish.
Sunil Gala – Another multi-level rock formation with varying depths from 4-18 meters. A challenging dive due to the relentless surge caused by its proximity to the shore, the site offers reef fish like Angelfish, Boxfish & Surgeonfish. Diving depth: 18 m. Travel time by boat: 20 minuets
Day six: Hikkaduwa-Galle-Mirissa
Highlights: Begin the day with dives at decided locations. Start for Mirissa after lunch with a stop at the Dutch Galle Fort and Galle maritime museum.
Day seven: Mirissa
Highlights: Heads to the middle of the ocean with the day break in search of gentle giants of the ocean. Blue whales, Bryde´s whales, Sperm whales, Fin whales, bottle nose dolphins, common dolphins and spinner dolphins grace the waters of Southern Seas from Weligama to Mirissa and can be found within just eight to ten nautical miles from Mirissa harbor.
Day eight: Mirissa-Colombo-BIA