Before the Southern expressway, going down south was a drive along the Galle road. Once you leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city, you can enjoy a calm drive along the coast through some of the famous fishing villages in Sri Lanka. During some part of the drive, you are sure to roll down your windows to let in the refreshing sea breeze. Intoxicated by the salty air, you find it hard to resist pulling over to the side of the road and running off to the beach.
The most popular coastal destination that you come across en route to Galle is the seaside resort town of Hikkaduwa. The entire stretch is littered with hotels, luxury resorts, restaurants and bars. The Hikkaduwa season, which falls between November and April, brings large crowds of tourists from all parts of the world. The peak of the season is between January and March during which time almost all hotels and rest houses will be booked, beaches will be crowded and it may be very difficult to get into some of the popular restaurants.
For someone searching for quite time on the beach, the best time of day would be early in the morning, i.e. before the crowds set in. You don’t have to wake up super early during your holiday, but the beach will be mostly empty, between 6:45 AM to 8:00 AM. Trust me when I say, a long walk on the beach is exactly what you need to recharge your batteries and refresh yourself from your hectic routine. Just imagine a lovely beach just after sunrise (of course you can’t see the sunrise from the west coast), the blue ocean as far as the eye can see, treading across the soft sand as the waves lick your feet, fresh salty air filling your lungs and the symphony of ocean sounds playing a symphony for your ears. If you’re not eager to wake up in the morning, head down to the beach during the evening. Unfortunately the beach won’t be as peaceful, but on a good day, you can bear witness to a beautiful sunset.
Hikkaduwa is a surfing hot spot. Surfers who come to Sri Lanka from all parts of the world, make it a point to ride the waves in Hikkaduwa. The waves here may not be as big as the ones in Hawaii or Bondi beach in Australia, but you’d be surprised to see the amount of surfers in the water during surf season. If you’re a “barney” like me, you can easily find a Surf School located near the sections of the beach known for good waves. Along with surfing lessons you can rent yourself a board and hit the water! It’ll take you some time to get the hang of it, but once you do, it’s an amazing experience!!
Renowned as Sri Lanka’s first marine sanctuary, Hikkaduwa is home to a beautiful coral reef teeming with a variety of colorful species of fish and sea turtles. There are three ways to see the corals. The first option is to rent a glass-bottom boat that will ferry you onto the waters above the reef where will give you a birds-eye view of the coral habitat below. Option number two, is to rent snorkels from a wooden booth on the beach. Snorkeling is a fun and relaxing way to view the coral habitat. This way you can observe coral and marine life without scaring them away! The third and final option is to go Scuba diving where you can get an up close and personal view of the coral habitat. Scuba diving requires some time and effort on your part, because you need to follow a training course and get yourself certified before you are allowed to dive in the sea. The diving school provides a host of training courses for expert and novice divers along with the facility to rent equipment. There are a few historic shipwrecks near Hikkaduwa, which is an added motivation factor for you to get a diving certificate!
The beaches of Sri Lanka are the nesting grounds for five species of marine turtles; the Green Turtle, the Leatherback, the Hawksbill, the Loggerhead and the Olive Ridley. The Wildlife Protection Society established the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery with the objective of protecting Sri Lanka’s turtles from extinction. The Sea Turtle Hatchery and Rescue Center in Peraliya is a short drive away from central Hikkaduwa. A common characteristic in all hatcheries are the large tanks that contain the Turtles. In some tanks you will find large turtles how have been rescued from fishing nets or injured by boat propellers, while others are home to a litter of new born turtles. You will also see cardboard signs stuck into the sand in cordoned off sections of the sand. This is the hatchery; the cardboard signs contain information regarding the dates and number of eggs buried in each plot.
On December 26th 2004, Sri Lanka faced the worst natural disaster in recent recorded history. The tsunami caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake swallowed up a majority of the coastal areas causing roughly 30,000 casualties. The tsunami destroyed a crowded passenger train heading from Colombo to Galle at Peraliya. The Government has built a monument at this location to remembering those who lost their lives on that fateful day. Located a few meters away is the “Community tsunami education center and tsunami museum”, where you will find educational material related to tsunamis and photographs taken during and after the disaster. Some of the photographs are quite graphic and you are not allowed to take pictures inside this museum. The Tsunami Honganji Vihara is also situated in the near vicinity. This iconic Buddha statue, a replica of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddha statue destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, stands 30 meters tall, representing the height of the tsunami wave that hit this area. Facing the waves, the Buddha’s hands portrait the “Abhaya Mudra” or the Mudra of no-fear which represents protection, peace, benevolence and the dispelling of fear.
“Whenever an earthquake or tsunami takes thousands of innocent lives, a shocked world talks of little else.”
– Anne M. Mulcahy