After a few days wandering the streets of Colombo and Galle we wanted to see what most tourists come to Sri Lanka for, the beaches. Southern Sri Lanka has a coastline full of spectacular breathtaking beaches. It’s hard to pick a favourite as they’re all so beautiful and each has something different to offer. We stopped at a few small villages and towns along the way to experience their culture, food and of course their beach.
Driving south from Colombo it seemed to be one continuous sandy beach stretching for miles. We stopped at the ritzy beach town of Bentota which is eighty kilometers south of Colombo. Its long, wide, clean beach of fine, white sand is the perfect place to relax for a few days. The waves were fun to play in as they crashed hard in the shallow water. They are quite strong though, so we got tossed around a few times by their force.
There are a lot of high-end hotels and restaurants in the tourist area, but just a few streets away, was a small typical Sri Lankan village with mom and pop shops and humble homes.
We enjoyed walking the length of the beach both during the day and at night where we had beautiful sunsets. There are quite a few odd looking wooden fishing boats pulled up on the beach. The boats are very long and skinny with an even skinnier outrigger. They don’t look like they’re very stable but appear to be regularly used by the local fishermen.
Bentota River is a medium sized river that runs into the ocean. Before it reaches to coast it mixes with the salt water and forms a small lake. The water is calm and is teeming with wildlife making it perfect for a boat safari. Mangrove trees line the river’s edges and have created narrow channels and open lagoons. Going through these mangrove forests was the best and most unusual part of the boat ride. The mangrove roots left just enough room for our boat to pass and gave the channels an eerie atmosphere. Mangrove trees grow in brackish water and the soil in these areas is usually very low in oxygen. Mangrove trees have above ground roots that take oxygen from the air giving the trees their strange appearance.
From the boat we saw baby crocodiles, monitor lizards, kingfishers, eagles and many colourful birds. The water in the lake is salt water, but the crocodiles are fresh water crocs, so the mostly live on the low mangrove branches and spend little time in the water. Thankfully we weren’t in a skinny fishing boat for the safari.
The Buddhist festival, Perahera was being celebrated when we were in Bentota. Villagers from all around came to watch or take part in the lively parade. The streets were filled with excited spectators. The parade had dancers in colourful, traditional costumes, musicians playing local songs and at least 20 elephants decorated in lights and bright costumes. Although we’d rather not see elephants used for this purpose, they did seem to be well taken care of by their owners and added a very different element to the parade. We were very lucky to see such a colourful local festival.
A few kilometers away, the beach town of Hikkaduwa is on a stretch of long, white-sand similar to Bentota, but with even stronger waves and a powerful undertow. We were thrown around even more than in Bentota when we tried to body surf. There were a few people surfing on the large waves, but instead of surfing we chose to go diving. The strong surf and shallow rocks called for skilled maneuvering to get our dive boat out into the ocean.
There isn’t a coral reef in this part of the ocean, so the dive sites are near large submerged boulders where we were able to see quite a few fish including an octopus changing colour from black to grey; moray eels; lion fish; the funny looking cuttlefish; lobster and many colourful small fish. In one area the strong current carried so much food that we were surrounded by thousands of fish. They were able to stay in one spot while the current brought their food to them. We had to hold on to the boat’s anchor line so we could watch them and not get swept away by the flow.
Further down the coast is the beach town of Midigama. It is famous for its surf and for good reason. The constant powerful waves rolling in made perfect conditions for surfing. We watched from shore as a few very good, and many not so good, surfers tackled the large waves. There are two small idyllic beaches in town and a quick walk either way were equally beautiful beaches. The town is little more than a few guesthouses and inexpensive beach side restaurants, but its slow, beach-vibe is infectious.
Coming up next: Searching for Stilt Fishermen and Whales in Sri Lanka
To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.
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