Being an island in the great expanse of the Indian Ocean does have its advantages. Commonly believed to be one of the most unspoilt seas of the world, this sea around the island is home to coral reefs, sea wrecks as well as a multitude of marine life. The best season to enjoy all of this is between November and April since it is then that the best visibility and ideal conditions without heavy currents prevail. Places such as Bentota, Hikkaduwa and Negombo are famous for its formations of coral and marine life as well as being centres of attraction for visitors who come over to the island. Snorkeling offers a more relaxed method of enjoying the wonders of marine life and places such as Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna are famous for this sport. Scuba diving gear can be rented out from dive operators as well as information about the best places to go for. They will also accommodate any other requests as well. Having your own snorkeling gear will be advantageous since it will allow for the chance of coming across an ideal place to explore.
South west and south coasts – November until April
South coast between Dondra and Kirinda – March to April (inter-monsoon)
East and south east coasts – March to October
Diving along many stretches of coast is currently prohibited due to security concerns and it is wise to check which stretches are still accessible on arrival. One of the best diving spots along the south west coast is at Hikkaduwa, 100 km from Colombo. Here its famous coral gardens offer a bounty of colourful and exotic marine life to see. There are superb reef dives, down to 60 feet around the maze like Hikkaduwa Gala (or rock) reef complex, known for the swim through caves. Vertical caverns in mineshaft rocks and multi-level dives, possibly down to 80 feet, with lots of reef dwellers also provide interesting dives. There are also several shipwrecks to be explored just offshore, including one or two that were sunk more than 100 years ago.You can also use Hikkaduwa as a base to visit good diving sites close by and excursions can be made to Akurala Point, Dodanduwa, Gintota, Medagala, Ralagala and other sites nearer Galle. Unawatuna, Tangalle and around Matara are also good spots.
There are several outfits that organise diving trips and some operators will arrange diving tours for you.
The oldest is Underwater Safaris at 25C Barnes Place, Colombo 7, established in 1960, (Tel: 694012, 699756 / e-Mail: [email protected]).Run by very experienced and highly qualified divers, Underwater Safaris also run internationally recognised diving courses including beginners, advanced, night and specialist courses for snorkelling and scuba diving.
The courses are mostly run from their diving school at the Coral Gardens Hotel in Hikkaduwa. You can also buy or rent good diving equipment from them. Other diving centres include the Poseidon Diving Station at Hikkaduwa (Tel: +94 92277294 , Fax: +94 92276607, email [email protected]nka.com website : http://www.divingsrilanka.com.) and ‘Let’s Dive’ Tauchschule at Medille, Tangalle (Tel: 077 902073). Check whether all safety procedures are being followed, including safety checks on all equipment before a dive and whether any courses offered lead to the international PADI certificate.
Many hotels offer diving as a facility or will use individual diving outfitters operating from their premises. There are some some operators who offer diving holidays, such as:
Accommodation in Diving Areas
See accomodation under Hikkaduwa, Galle, and Unawatuna.