Although less spectacular than snorkeling venues of the nearby Maldives, Sri Lanka still offers some very good snorkeling opportunities featuring coral reefs, gorgeous tropical fish and fascinating shipwrecks dating to various events in the Island’s colonial past.
On the south-west coast, the villages of Hikkaduwa and Weligama provide the most accessible snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities. Snorkeling enthusiasts can also find many smaller opportunities at other villages along the coast. At Hikkaduwa, there is a large reef easily accessible from the center part of Hikkaduwa town and many glass-bottom boats offer tours over part of the reef. There is a reputable diving school in the town and several shops for renting snorkel equipment. PADI certified diving instructors are available throughout the season for scuba training and certification.
There is a sandy beach at Weligama – also known as “Sandy Village”. It is 30 km south-east from Galle, almost as far as the southern-most port of Matara and it’s a good base for snorkeling and diving on the adjacent reefs. The port of Mirissa is nearby, which is the most popular embarkation point for whale watching.
Even further to the south-east is the reef at the village of Kirinda – which may be combined with a trip to Yala National Park. The village itself boasts a superb beach and an interesting Buddhist shrine on the rocks. From this base is diving access to the famous Great-Basses wreck and the Great and Little Basses reefs (south-east of Kirinda). A lighthouse was constructed on the reef in 1860 to protect passing ships from being wrecked. In his book The Treasure of the Reef – Arthur C Clarke describes the abundant reefs at this location.
On the north-west coast of Sri Lanka is the famous “Bar Reef” near Kalpitiya (measuring 5 km long and almost 2 km wide) and accessible from the town of Puttalam. The reef displays abundant sea life including reef sharks (harmless), Manta Rays, and sea turtles. The south-west monsoon –from April to November – stirs up the water in this area – but the water is calmer and clearer from December to March. The diving sites are accessible by a typical motor launch provided by the local villagers. Serious divers can refer to Nautical Map 1586 (Pamban to Cape Cormorin) for more information about dive sites in the area.
On the far northeast coast of Sri Lanka is Trincomalee (also known as ‘Trinco’) which offers the country’s prettiest white sand beaches at ‘Uppuveli’ and ‘Nilaveli’. Snorkeling around the famous Pigeon Island just off Nilaveli beach is probably the best in the country. The waters off the Sri Lankan east coast are deeper and clearer and the coral reefs have teeming fish life and the best visibility.
There are two monsoon seasons in Sri Lanka. As a result, the West Coast waters are most calm from November to April – when the winds are from the north-east. The East Coast waters are generally best from April to September – when the monsoon winds and waves are hitting the opposite side of the Islands. All underwater tours and activities from the Hotel are arranged through well-trained and experienced UDI and PADI instructors to ensure your safety and enjoyment.