2020 Sep 23
Being surrounded by the Indian Ocean has brought a lot of opportunity and awareness to Sri Lanka. People are generally drawn in by the allure of sandy golden shores and crisp blue waves that lap and form around the island, not to mention its abundance of wildlife, flora & fauna.
The outdoor appeal in Sri Lanka is truly diverse with an array of opportunities available for the adventurer – from surfing to diving, snorkelling and much more – all within a relatively small landmass, making Sri Lanka a true island paradise no matter what your reason for visiting may be.
Experience the Joy of Surfing
What better way to spend a day than by battling the waves of the Indian Ocean and then settling by the ocean for a hearty Sri Lankan dinner and beer, all while watching a gleaming sunset over the horizon with the sound of the ocean in your ears.
Sri Lanka has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the premier locations globally for surfers of all calibres. Among the plethora of options that travellers may pick from, such as Bonavista Bay and the North Jetty, one town that is synonymous with surfing is the town of Arugambay.
When visiting Arugambay, the surfing communities tend to pick between 3 spots, namely, Elephant Rock, Baby Point and Whisky Point. Each surf point offers stunning beaches with the waves giving space for varying levels of surfing skills.
If you by any chance find yourself in the town of Mirissa, then you are in good hands again. Surfers in this town wake up at the crack of dawn to ensure they catch the best waves the morning sea has to offer. Fringed with palm trees and golden sands, Mirissa is the perfect mellow beach that welcomes surfers of all skill levels.
Another great location to visit would be the sleepy town of Weligama. It is an ideal starting point if you are a newcomer to the realm of surfing. With a nice smattering of café’s, hostels and surfing schools it would be an ideal place to visit if you are still trying to learn the basics.
The best seasons
With the major surfing spots found on the Eastern and Southern coasts of the island nation, they essentially are in season from April to October in the East, and from November to April in the South, making it an ideal calendar for all surfing enthusiasts. This shift is mainly due to the onslaught of torrential monsoon rains that rotate from coast to coast, but some towns such as Weligama are blessed to have amazing weather all year round!
If you are a new entrant to the surfing world, it never hurts to get a few helpful tips under your belt before starting so that you alleviate the nerves and confusion that typically arises when trying to catch your first few waves.
When it is your turn, commit to your wave! Doing so, will earn the respect of your surfing compatriots and show that you are willing to learn and are not afraid of making a mistake.
Another great way to build yourself into becoming a part of this great community is to always show respect to your elders. Surfers typically defer to the judgement of more skilled surfers, and this will only enhance your reputation as an individual who is interested in being a strong part of the surfing community.
And it goes without saying, ensure your surfing gear is in good condition!
As a community-driven sport, there is always going to be some form of etiquette that needs to be followed. Adhering to such etiquettes is a good way to speed up your integration into the community but also, equally importantly, ensure you do not jeopardize your health and well-being!
For example, it is frowned upon to jockey for position in a line-up, it is much better to simply wait for your turn before grabbing a wave. Coming in out of turn and taking on waves others are hoping to ride is an easy way to lose your place on the beach.
Don’t get into water bodies you are not familiar with especially if you are a novice surfer. It’s always best to know a bit about the area before you hop in.
If the weather seems unfavourable or dangerous, again, stay away from the water.
The Thrill of White-Water Rafting
There is no greater thrill than beating down the rugged rivers of Sri Lanka while manning the helm of a fluorescent yellow raft with a simple paddle to navigate past the white raging waters. This is what draws people to white water rafting and makes it a true one-of-a-kind experience!
Very much like surfing, Sri Lanka has ardent fans of white-water rafting, thrill-seekers looking for a rush nervously flocking together in the hopes of ticking off a box on a bucket list.
One of the most popular locations for rafting on the island is a little village called Kitulgala that provides people from all levels of expertise the ability to experience this water sport.
However, there exist several alternatives that currently undertake white water rafting tours.
Locations such as the Sithawaka River off Avissawella or the Kotmale River in Nuwara Eliya all offer white water rafting opportunities – but it should be noted that some tracks will be placed at a difficulty level of Grade 3 to Grade 5, which means that there will need to be some level of expertise to avoid any hazards that may occur.
The best seasons
The best time to go on your white-water rafting adventure will most certainly be during the period between May to December.
It is during this time that the water levels are of a relatively safe level to go rafting in, and all the adventure operators on-site will most certainly advise participants on whether it is unsafe based on the amount of rainfall experienced recently.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to ensure that you are wearing your life jacket at all times; this is something people may argue against based on their ability to swim, however when tackling the vast rapids in the river it is not a favourable risk to take on.
The second most important thing to do is to give the river guides your utmost attention as their entire function is to provide you with the best experience possible!
Some of the key things to avoid whether you are on your first white water rafting experience or your tenth journey, are to not stand up at any point when you are in a moving current as it will dramatically increase your chances of falling over into the water.
Another key point is to ensure that you never go rafting alone! For obvious reasons, having another pair of hands with you will be extremely beneficial to simply navigate through rapids but also, in case of emergency, you can give yourself the best chance of safety.
The Wonder of Diving
Sri Lanka is blessed in many ways. Many travellers will speak about the wonderfully hospitable people or perhaps the beautiful landscapes that vary based on where in the country you are. Being in the biggest ocean of them all, the nation finds itself in the lucky position to have easy access into the wonders that lie beneath the land
There are several popular sites that divers frequent; some are renowned for their visibility and abundant marine life, a few for the presence of exquisite coral reefs and others for the ghostly remnants of ships and aeroplanes from a bygone era.
If you are a lover of macro and underwater photography, it may be a great delight to visit the Bull Dog Reef in Kalpitiya. Filled with some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the Kalpitiya region, you can find yourself face to face with the rare crocodile fish or the white-eared moray.
Another stunning location that is visited eagerly by many is the Gorgonian Gardens in Colombo. However, the caveat is that you need to be a proficient diver to make your way down to the treasure that lies below, battling the strong current. Once you make it 35-feet under the ocean you will find yourself amidst an underwater forest that may convince you that you are on another planet altogether.
Last but not least, the Taprobane North Wreck is a must-visit, to hover about the wreckage of a steamer from the First World War is a breathtaking experience!
The best seasons
As with much of the country, you will always have to coordinate your dives based on the monsoons that hit the nation each year. However, given that the water temperatures are relatively good through the year, it is possible to go diving in the Western Coast of the country from October to May while diving in the Eastern Coast could be done from May to October.
Which is somewhat ideal as you will inevitably get to dive all year round and see what Sri Lanka has to offer.
The main task is the acquiring of a PADI license to get you into the water safely and securely.
Another key factor to ensure you do well is to maintain your physical condition even when you are not diving so that you do not overstretch your boundaries and find yourself unable to cope with the physical and mental pressures of the deep oceans.
A key point to ensure you never do is to enter the water under the influence of any substances. For example, diving under the influence of alcohol could very easily compromise your decision making and risk assessment ability which could quite easily place you in harm’s way.
There are plenty of times in life when it is important to step outside your comfort zones but diving is not one such arena. It is vital that you stay within your capacity and never enter into experiences you are unprepared for. Such risk-taking behaviour is not only a danger to yourself but also has the chance to endanger the livelihoods of those around you if you are diving with a group.
Don’t get into waters you are not sure of, always consult a professional or guide.
Glide on water with Kite Surfing
If you have never been kitesurfing, it should be said that this is an experience to behold. Not only do you find yourself sliding across the surface of the water but in an instant, you may experience the blood rushing through your face as you fly up into the air to be momentarily suspended in perfect animation.
The Kalpitiya Lagoon is an extremely popular kite surfing location, in the Southern region of the island near Puttalam. The only warning is to ensure that you have some water shoes on so you can protect your feet against the copious number of sharp shells that line the ground!
Ippantivu Island is another beautiful location that is quite unknown to the wider public which simply enhances its authenticity and beauty.
This too is located near Puttalam. However, you will need to venture into the middle of the Puttalam lagoon by boat before you can begin to kitesurf.
Another popular location is Vella Island, which is located right in front of the Wilpattu National Park. This island is stunning with flat waters and a gorgeous sandbar making it an extremely idyllic experience, giving it a reputation, rightly so, as the best kitesurfing location in Sri Lanka.
The best seasons
Sri Lanka has a brilliant reputation when it comes to kitesurfing primarily because from May until October as well as from December to March you can expect to have an exciting interplay of winds between 18 and 30 knots, completed with stunningly flat water.
Despite being a simple rule, it is crucial to always respect the right-of-way rules to ensure any collisions are avoided. Additionally, simply wear some protective polarised sunglasses so that you minimise the risk of developing snow blindness, sunburn on the cornea and cataracts!
When kitesurfing, avoid grabbing onto the kite-line directly with your hands to avoid any injuries, and simply rely on the bar and its features.
If you are a beginner, do not begin your session from the shore or anywhere close to dry sand. Simply begin by venturing out into waist-high water.
Give snorkelling a whirl!
Maybe you are not quite ready to strap on a heavy air tank and plunge into the depths of the ocean. If that is the case, then the best measure for you is to simply strap on your snorkel and waddle into a water body of a manageable depth. You can still be blown away by our water’s marine diversity.
One of the best places and the closest from Colombo is the city of Hikkaduwa. Located about 98KM from Colombo, this city is the home to a resplendent array of coral and iridescent schools of fish. You will have access to plenty of guided tours that will provide you with all the necessary guidance and equipment as well.
Your next stop for a wonderful snorkelling experience is likely to be the small resort town of Pasikuda in the district of Batticaloa. With long stretches of deserted beaches and clear azure oceans, they tug on your heart and invite you to dwell a little deeper into the ocean!
To cap things off, if you are looking to get away from the towns and cities that have a high volume of tourists, then the sleepy fishing village of Kirinda may be the perfect place for you to visit. Not only does it have amazing reefs to see but is also home to the wrecks of a historical gunship from the 1700s that can only be seen between March and April.
The best seasons
The time frame where snorkelling is possible is quite flexible, especially if you stay away from the deeper areas of the ocean, but generally speaking, the best time to snorkel is during the months from November to April in the South and West Coast, and April and September for the East Coast of the island.
These tips are quite self-explanatory and may seem like it is common sense but they bear repeating as once these basics are understood and made habitual, they will be a part of your toolkit forever.
One of the first things to do is to consistently practice, take the time to ensure that you are in some form of shallow water, perhaps in a pool, and you are familiarising yourself with the gear and techniques involved.
The piece of information to keep in mind is to always make sure you have a high-quality set of equipment with proper waterproof sealing for the best possible snorkelling experience.
If you have gone snorkelling before you may be able to understand the need for this next tip, which is to not tilt your head. There is nothing more infuriating than letting the snorkel breach the water and having a blast of water enter your mouth. So, it is best to simply practice keeping your body and head in line and avoid this altogether.
Another thing to avoid is to ensure that you do not tire yourself out by breathing too fast. It may be instinctual, as a beginner, to simply try to compensate for the fact that you are submerged in water by increasing your rate of breathing, but try to ignore that feeling and simply breathe normally as it will allow you to spend a lot more time in the water.
Throw in a line for some deep-sea fishing
There is something quite special about being on an island in the middle of the biggest ocean in the world! The Indian Ocean that surrounds us has historically provided us with our livelihoods for centuries and now we have a perfect opportunity to head out in the deep seas and do some sports fishing!
When it comes to deep sea fishing there is no better place to be in than Sri Lanka. So, if you are here, then the first place you should consider visiting is the ocean off the coast of Bentota.
Offering some of the best sources of deep-sea fish in the world, this place is a true paradise. You will find numerous deep-sea fishing tours that will take you out into the rich waters.
Another fan-favourite of professional gamer fisherman is the city of Trincomalee off the North-Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka. Here you can find an abundance of Seer Fish, Barramundi, Trevally and Sharks, making it quite the enticing prospect. With the assistance of a guide who is well-versed in the seas you are sure to have a productive day out in the ocean.
Additionally, you may also explore your options by visiting fishing villages in Mirissa, Negombo and Hikkaduwa!
The best seasons
Given that the conditions of the deeper oceans tend to vary, the only consistent period of good weather is during the months from August to May on the Western and South-Eastern Coasts of the island during which time all the sports fishing enthusiasts flock to the waters in their small catamarans and boats with the hopes of bagging the biggest and tastiest fish they can get their lines on.
Remember that fish are typically more likely to bite on lures that look fresh and are bright in colour – so make sure that you are cleaning and drying all the used lures and avoid spending unnecessarily the next time you visit the store.
It is also immensely helpful to do some research on the types of fish that may be found in the region you will be fishing in. Whether it is tuna or barramundi, simply having the awareness of which species exist there will allow you to make some intuitive judgements based on their expected behaviours and tell-tale signs; that could be the tipping point into your next big haul.
And of course, venture into the ocean with the guide of someone who knows the body!
When hoping to catch big fish, the live bait is the key to the puzzle, therefore, do not underestimate the live bait and ensure that this bait is kept in a well-aerated and temperature-controlled cool water so that the bait is in prime condition to attract the prized catches.
While it is easily overlooked, do remember to keep your equipment in good condition. For example, instead of putting the reel back in as soon as you are done fishing, take a few hours to let the reel soak and wash in some fresh water, so that all the saltwater and debris that has inevitably made its way into the reel has time to be washed off. This way you can ensure the longevity of your equipment.