Tangalle to Hikkaduwa: Sri Lanka south coast snorkeling report

Oops, in Sri Lanka I was doing a good job of writing these blog posts while the information was fresh in my mind. Now I’ve been back in Turkey about a month, but I still want to write about the end of this trip. I knew before I went to Sri Lanka that the snorkeling wasn’t very good, but I brought snorkeling gear with me and used it as an excuse to hang out at the beach a bit at the end of my bicycle tour. If you’re into surfing or kite surfing, that’s a better excuse to hang out on Sri Lanka’s beaches than snorkeling. Many locals say that the 2004 Christmas tsunami destroyed Sri Lanka’s coral reefs, but Aja, the friendly owner of the Green Turtle Snorkeling Center in Polhena, told me the reefs were in poor shape even before that disaster.

My first beach in Sri Lanka was Tangalle, and my first glimpse of the ocean was this, locals painfully and slowly hauling in fishing nets:

Pulling the fishing nets in.  It seemed like hard work.  They'd often try to get foreigners to help them.  When I arrived a man approached me and asked me to help, I just laughed and said, "no way".  I had been cycling all morning in the sun and just want by bryandkeith on flickr

A young man came over and tried to get me to help them. I laughed and told him I’d been riding all morning in the sun, and the only thing I wanted to do now was rest in the shade and drink a mango juice. It was a good call as an hour later they were still at it pulling in the net. The young man came back, this time trying to sell me marijuana.

My first snorkeling in Sri Lanka was at Paravi Wella Beach in Tangalle, busy over the New Year holiday:

This is where I was told to snorkel at Tangalle.  Visibility was poor, but I saw a honeycomb moray which was exciting. by bryandkeith on flickr

There was nothing to see. As usual in my notes I wrote more about dinner (“banana flower curry, del (breadfruit) curry, and fish curry”) than what I saw underwater (“it wasnÔÇÖt very good”). Here’s a photo from dinner:

del (breadfruit) curry, banana flower curry, fish curry by bryandkeith on flickr

The best thing I did in Tangalle was a morning walk along long Rekawa Beach.

IMG_20211229_062949 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20211229_062945 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20211228_125425 by bryandkeith on flickr

A one sentence summary of my snorkeling in Sri Lanka: don’t bother. In addition to Paravi Wella Beach in Tangalle, I snorkeled at Polhena (famous for turtles), Secret Beach at Mirissa, Jungle Beach and Rock Island at Unawatuna, and at the south end, north end (where I saw four turtles at once!), and middle of the 1km long Hikkaduwa Beach.

Mirissa’s Secret Beach isn’t so secret. There’s a restaurant:

IMG_20220101_075630 by bryandkeith on flickr

In the center of Hikkaduwa is a small protected (with ropes) swimming/snorkeling area. Just off shore from there are lots of fish but way too many glass bottom boat tours with fast, rude drivers. There’s a 2m section of live coral, the best I saw in Sri Lanka.

Here are some of the fish you can see there:

20220113_084152A by bryandkeith on flickr

Here is that very short section of decent coral:

20220113_085422A by bryandkeith on flickr

and the same coral with a turtle ­čÖé

20220113_100343A by bryandkeith on flickr

I took one of my favorite Sri Lanka snorkeling photos nearby:

20220113_085215A by bryandkeith on flickr

What a fish! Indeed I saw many nice fish. One of my goals when I got home was to do some fish identification, but somehow I haven’t had any time.

20220102_090448A by bryandkeith on flickr
Jungle Beach, Unawatuna

I’m pretty sure this is a squid:

20220102_090206A by bryandkeith on flickr

Bat fish?

20220107_092219A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220112_100752A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220112_101131A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220112_101449A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220113_083350A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220113_101420A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220113_102819A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220113_154606A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220114_095411A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220114_095256A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220113_100008A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220113_102408A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220114_102611A by bryandkeith on flickr

See? I have some work to do for that identification!

My most exciting sighting was this octopus that changed colors as it tried to hide from me behind a rock.

20220106_085656A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220106_090004A by bryandkeith on flickr

It seems like I saw turtles almost every time I got in the water.

20220113_100348A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220113_151240A by bryandkeith on flickr
20211231_080405A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220106_084933A by bryandkeith on flickr

I also saw two different moral eels, including this Honeycomb Moray:

20211230_081321A by bryandkeith on flickr

and a number of box fish:

20220102_085420A by bryandkeith on flickr
20220108_103144A by bryandkeith on flickr

These two danced for a while:

20220107_100547A by bryandkeith on flickr

before kissing.

20220107_100445A by bryandkeith on flickr

Too bad all the coral’s dead. ­čÖü

20220114_102139A by bryandkeith on flickr

The cycling from Tangalle to Unawatuna was what I’d come to expect in Sri Lanka. Some temples:

IMG_20211230_082135 by bryandkeith on flickr
Wewurukannala Raja Maha Viharaya
IMG_20211230_104230 by bryandkeith on flickr

though this one reminded me more of a Russian church than a Buddhist temple:

The building reminded me of a Russian church more than something to expect at a Buddhist temple. by bryandkeith on flickr
Devinuwara Sri Vishnu Maha Devalaya

pretty scenery:

IMG_20211230_095428 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20211230_112922 by bryandkeith on flickr
the southernmost point in Sri Lanka
IMG_20211230_182359 by bryandkeith on flickr

and excellent food.

IMG_20211230_130259 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20220101_092447 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20211230_073214 by bryandkeith on flickr
This entry was posted in Bicycle touring, Snorkeling, Sri Lanka and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Tangalle to Hikkaduwa: Sri Lanka south coast snorkeling report

  1. Jennifer & Derek Werner says:

    Nice underwater photos! d & j

  2. Mike Painter says:

    A nice variety of pictures!

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