Sri Lanka may not be known as a diving destination but does have some great dive sites that can gratify novice and trill seeker divers. With over 160 km of tropical beaches circled by the warm water of Indian Ocean, sea water temperature that is identical to the air temperature (about 27 C), a clear sea with an average underwater visibility between 15 m to over 40 m and stunning underwater scene; massive amount of tropical fish, superbly colourful coral reefs and intriguing wrecks and caves, truly an interesting deep to discover.
Sri Lanka diving is split into two basic seasons: Months of November to April are the best time to spend diving holiday in the south and west regions, during these months the northeast monsoon is blowing; while the May to September, southwest monsoon occurs, the east coast has as a calm sea therefore diving condition are best in the eastern and northern regions.
The diving centres in the country are run by skilled local and foreign professionals; they provide state of the art rental equipment, instruction courses, facilities and arrangement of diving tours as well as first aid assistance and rescue trainings.
Some of the fascinating diving locations in the country are:
Located about 30 km east of Galle, Weligima is known for its attractive sandy bay. Some of the nice dive sites in the area are: Yala Rock, a rocky area with huge rocks that reaches around 15 m high. It is 15 minutes boat ride from shore. The dive site reaches a maximum depth 24 m there are small caves that houses a huge variety of fish, some of the aquatic animals visible in the area are rays, turtles, napoleon and parrotfish as well as stunningly gorgeous nudibranchs; 10 minutes boat ride from the coast is a massive Coral Reef impressively extending over 700 m, its sea bed is very flat area, seen within the area are schools of anemones and others; Marissa point, is an ideal place for novice divers, there are a lot of small caves to explore and an excellent site to find cuttlefish, octopus as well as sleeping parrotfish; Prinz Heinrich Patch, 25 minutes boat ride from the shore, is an underwater hill that rises up to 7 m below the water surface. It is a good site for seeing resident rays, murrains and parrot fish. The water temperature in this dive site is the same as the air temperature which is usually 26-28 C.
Hikkaduwa is a great place to wind down, situated 100km south of Colombo, the area is known for its coral sanctuary and the propinquity of astonishing diving sites. The shallow conditions of the site make it a very good place for novice divers. The Black Coral Point is one of most celebrated dive site in the area for the vivid kaleidoscope of colours stands along the coral reefs. There are schools of angel fish and snappers, black corals. The depth of the water reaches from 20- 35 m; The Coral Garden Cave, a garden of corals within the stone cave, numerous numbers of fish and turtles can be seen in the area: Godagala, a deep drift dive site full of marine life such as moray eel, snappers, barracuda, and its depth ranges from 8 to 30 m; Hikkapadwa Gala, is covered with Hikkaduwa Coral Reef which is known as the most sophisticated and colourful coral bed. It can be reached within 15 minutes boat ride from the shore. Resident barracuda, snappers, blotched, lobsters, rays can be seen roaming around the area; SS Conch, a 3300 ton oil tanker that sank off Akurala rocks in 1903, most of the ship lies less than 15 m of water, there are lots of tame reef fish, snappers, sweetlips fish as well as some napoleon wrasse; Other wrecks that can be seen in the area are Wreck Ethophy, Wreck of Rangoon and Orestes, these dive sites can be reach 15 to 120 minutes from the shore and have a diving range of 15-35 m. Divers can encounter great numbers of tropical fish, naturally oriented corals and sea beds. These are dive sites within Hikkaduwa wherein divers can have a good penetration.
Negombo has a narrow strip of land between the lagoon and the sea there are also a number of canals that are waiting to be explored. Around 22 km off Negombo is the famed Third Reef, with a great visibility, about 25 m deep can clearly be determined. Teeming around the area are large shoals of fish, dolphins playing around the surface. Magnificent coral formations, school of reef fish as well as enormous amounts of invertebrate such as sea cucumbers, starfish that has a diameter of 16-18 in, and stone fish are some of the attractions in the area.
A paradise on its own located in the Puttalam district, the place is that surprisingly uncharted by tourism. Just an hour away from the shore is the largest coral reef in the country known as the Bar Reef. The reef serves as a home to a wide variety of tropical fish including manta rays, reef sharks as well as turtles. This dive site is an ideal location for starters with shallow water which average depth ranges from 2-8 m however maximum depth can reach 40 m up. Another interesting dive site in Kapitiya is the Ridge which location can be access from Turtle Point Lodge, its 2 km length and 30 m depth offers a fabulous showcase of marine life- rock cod, huge grouper, humphead wrasses, large underwater caves and stunning coral reefs. The Pearl Banks is also another great dive site in which one can actually see a pearl oysters, it take 3 hours boat ride off the shore from Turtle Point Lodge.
An ecotourism destination located on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka. With kilometers of dazzling white sand and pristine blue water, it is such an enticement to sun lovers and sea lovers. Pigeon Island is a world class diving site in Sri Lanka. A great location for novice divers, there are hard and soft corals surrounding the area, schools of small fishes, barracuda, giant trevally as well as occasional sharks are gathered around the area. It is the best diving spot of the country during summer in which its visibility is at its best during early morning.
Galle and Unawatuna
Galle and Unawatuna Bay are good alternatives for Hikkaduwa, here lies rock and coral reefs with some big boulders where divers can have a close encounter with triggerfish, pufferfish and other schools of small fish. There are also a number of wrecks within the dive site that have flourished into spectacular artificial reefs which serves as a home to large groupers, rudderfish, snapper, trevally, parrotfish, surgeonfish as well as angelfish.
Napoleon Reef and Galapiteala Reef in Unawatuna is a multi level dives with exceptional array of fish such as napoleon wrasses, moray eels, schools of small reef fish.
In Colombo lies some of the best diving site on the west coast. The main attractions here are wrecks, from commercial barges to aircrafts to oil tankers. The wrecks houses a wide diversity of marine life, the depth of the water reaches up to 30 m. Some of the famous wrecks in the area are Car Carrier Wreck, sank in 1983 resident batfish and groupers are swarming around the area, its hull is well encrusted with corals; The Barge, lies 30 m deep dive, schools of tropical fish teeming on the deck carpeted with stunning corals; Taj Wreck, is a badly broken harbour boat overgrown by corals which barracudas, rabbitfish and stingrays as its constant visitors. There is also number of colourful reef fish that teems around the site.
The Basses Reefs
About 10 km away from the south east of Sri Lanka lies the village of Kirinda, a great mystical place. A place covered with surprises and escapades with superb beach and interesting Buddhist Shrine on the rock. However the village is known not for these superb attractions but for its excellent dive sites. The two colossal, elongated, magnificent reef complexes that offer a world class conditions, the Great Basses and the Little Basses, running along the southeast coast of island just off Yala National Park. The two lighthouses serve as the landmark for the divers. The Great basses, with a fierce surge and strong currents will surely bring a trilling adventure for the experienced divers. The underwater scenery is such a wonderland in which one can see ancient ship wrecks, canyons, gullies, ridges, sandstone by prehistoric seismic action, limestone caves, black coral bushes, fan corals, sponges flourishing on current swept walls, and abundant reef fish. Sharks, tuna, grouper, barracuda as well as rays and trevally are found in the area.
However the beauty of this site is still closed for divers due to security reason and unpredictable weather condition only a small window of three weeks is open for divers each year. But once this area reopens, it is a must for divers to explore the area.
Lies along the coast of Batticoloa with a depth of 42-54 m, with undoubtedly limitless visibility, this wreck is considered to be one of the most exhilarating and trilling site to visit. A great diving experience for advanced divers however an extensive preparation and precautions is required. H.M.S. Hermes is an aircraft carrier built in 1918 by Armstrong—Whitworths and sunk by the Japanese in 1942. The site has a depth of 60 m with very strong current and very cold water. There are countless yellow back fusiliers; long fin bannerfish; large school of great barracuda; trevally; tuna; Panther torpedo rays; and sea snakes. The gorgonians and whip corals covers the petrified forest of iron.