When I first started diving, I headed to some of the best-known diving spots around the world. While many of these were breathtaking, I decided to branch out with time and visit some of the lesser-known destinations. This is how I came across the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.
Although I didn’t know very much about the nation when I first set off on my trip, I quickly fell in love with the diving here. So, let me take this chance to share what I experienced.
A Brief Peek
Sri Lanka is an island nation in South Asia, lying off the southern tip of India. One of the most astonishing things about the country is the variation in landscape and natural features found across its 25,322 square miles.
As a result, you will come across everything from gorgeous beaches to rolling hills. This is a dream destination for divers, in particular, because the country boasts 1000 miles of coastline encircling the island.
What You Need to Know About Diving in Sri Lanka
Since I have been diving for a while now, I was pleasantly surprised that Sri Lanka actually had quite a few sites of interest for more experienced divers. My personal favorites were the numerous wrecks scattered under water, around various points of the island. Diving around these wrecks was equal points breathtaking and spooky.
Now, if you don’t have a lot of diving experience under your belt, there is no need to worry. In fact, even if you haven’t dived a day in your life, most beachside resorts here will offer professional lessons and courses. So, with just a few days of practice, you will be on your to becoming a certified diver.
When Should You Visit?
There are a few factors to consider before you decide to visit this paradise island:
Sri Lanka doesn’t really have an ‘off’ season as such, even when it comes to diving. This is because different parts of the island experience different temperatures and climates throughout the year. So, if you are visiting the East Coast, the best time to do so would be from May to October. The diving months on the West Coast, however, are from October to May.
If you choose to visit these coasts during any other time of the year, be warned that it would be monsoon season. So expect lots of rain, high winds, and poor visibility when you dive. There may also be certain restrictions on diving during these periods as well.
The Marine Life
One of the reasons that I loved diving around the wrecks so much was the abundance of marine life in these spots. I got to see jellyfish, marbled rays, and scorpion fish at many of these sites. I also happened to come across several sea turtles in the shallows at some points on the island.
If you are interested in whale or dolphin watching, then you are certainly in luck. For your best chance of a glimpse, a good time to visit the country is between December and March. However, if you head to the East Coast, you may still be able to see whales between June and September.
Peak season typically follows the months with the best climate. During this time, the island will most likely experience an influx of tourists between October and May. For the most part, this won’t really affect your diving, even if the beaches are more crowded than usual. However, the cost of traveling and accommodation in Sri Lanka will be a great deal higher during this time. Also, you may not get as many price deals as in the off-peak season.
The Top Diving Destinations on the Island
The most beautiful (and popular) diving spots in Sri Lanka can be found on the South Coast. While not quite as impressive, the West Coast does have some rather lovely diving areas as well.
South Coast Destinations
- Unawatuna: this is perhaps the top diving spot on the South coast. In addition to its stunning, clear waters, the main attraction here is the Goda Gala Diyamba – a rocky underwater formation. Here you will see dozens of fish species including trevally, grouper, and more.
- Mirissa: the highlight of diving off the coast of Mirissa is being able to see dolphins, whales, and turtles, depending on the time of year that you visit. Even if you miss out on witnessing these majestic animals, you will still see plenty of other marine life. I should point out that this is a popular surfing spot. So, I did have to dodge a couple of surfers as I made my way out into the deeper waters.
- Hikkaduwa: Hikkaduwa was once home to some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Sadly, these were largely wiped out a few years ago. Don’t let that deter you from diving in this area, though, as it still has quite a lot to offer. For one thing, you can explore the well-known Conch shipwreck where marine life has actually proliferated over the years. My most exciting moment in Hikkaduwa came when I got to see the sea turtles!
- Colombo: I’m not going to lie – I was surprised to find that you could dive so close to this bustling city. However, there is plenty to see here, including the Barracuda Reef in Mount Lavinia and the Cargo wreck. For a truly spectacular sight, you should also check out the Gorgonian Gardens.
- Kalpitiya: you will be hard-pressed to find a more impressive stretch of coral reef around the island. Boasting around 3000 square feet, this is the largest reef sanctuary in Sri Lanka. It is home to close to 300 types of fish and over a 150 coral species.
Staying in Sri Lanka: Your Main Accommodation Tips
Last but not least, let’s tackle where you will stay during your trip. Considering the country’s thriving tourist industry, there is an abundance of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses to choose from. So, when I was planning my trip I had my pick of the lot. However, I did find that some spots lived up to the hype far better than others:
- Mirissa: if you want to stay close to the beach but still enjoy a little luxury, then the Number ONE Mirissa hotel is your best option. For something a bit cheaper but still within walking distance to the beach, consider the Morning Star. If you don’t mind a more budget-friendly option, the Handagedara Resort will be perfect.
- Unawatuna: for stunning views and ultimate comfort, the Thaproban Beach house and Thaproban Pavilion Resort and Spa are top-notch accommodations. For lodgings on the cheaper side, the Heaven by O hotel will fit right into your budget.
- Hikkaduwa: if you want to be just a stone’s throw away from the beach, the Aditya and At Ease hotel offers a great view and location. In case you are hoping for more private lodgings, Villa Tara and Manthally Cabanas provide individual villas.
- Colombo: there is no end to the number of hotels you can find in this part of the country. Still, if you want to be right on the beach, the Mount Lavinia Hotel is as close as it gets. If you don’t mind a little bit of traveling, the Fairview Hotel and Sapphire Hotel are good places to start. I did find that prices for accommodation were quite a bit higher than many of the more rural areas on the island.
- Kalpitiya: want to be as close to the reef as possible? Then the Palagama Beach Hotel and Bar Reef Resort is your best bet. Nonetheless, if you want to stay somewhere more interesting and trek to the beach, the Elements Beach & Nature Resort will be perfect.
In conclusion, my trip to Sri Lanka showed what a truly wonderful place it is to go diving. Regardless of whether you are just starting out or are a professional, this majestic island has something to offer everyone. Hopefully, all the information I have provided here will help you plan a holiday you won’t forget any time soon.