Sri Lanka - Getting to know Sri Lanka's South Coast
Unquestionably the most popular of Sri Lanka's coastlines, the spice island's southern coast is nothing short of a beach lover's paradise. This is where you'll find the most comprehensive facilities and most sociable bars, and no shortage of accommodation, although there are still numerous peaceful spots where it's easy enough to find peace.
Sri Lanka's south coast beaches
- With perfect beach weather expected here between November and May, you can enjoy long hours of sunshine on the countless bays and beaches that run from Galle, in the west, along the south coast to Tangalle in the east, and beyond to the perimeter of Yala National Park. Along with Yala, Uda Walawe National Park lies within easy reach, while the hills and Tea Country rise protectively to the north.
- If that seems a little too crowded, try the idyllic coves of Nilwala, popular with surfers and swimmers alike, and Kudawella, with its natural blowhole spurting seawater high into the air throughout the day. Both are near Tangalle, whose Dondra Head is the southernmost point of Sri Lanka. The town boasts a half-moon cove, lined with over a mile of perfect white sand. Thanks to the promontory/cove combo, Tangalle often enjoys calm seas while surrounding towns are battening down the hatches to keep out the storm weather.
- Off the sand, you'll find an excellent variety of activities and highlights. Galle is a splendid fortified town whose winding old streets speak of centuries of Colonial influence, with Dutch, French and British architecture now put to good use as boutique hotels, charming cafes and intriguing shops.
- Within a short drive of Tangalle, the Bundala Bird Sanctuary protects a host of rare birdlife, with a strong chance of seeing elephants and crocodiles too. Yala and Uda Walawe are the region's largest national parks - Yala is famous for its thriving leopard population, while Uda Walawe boasts a population of around 500 elephants, and an elephant orphanage.
- There are also several turtle sanctuaries along the coast, although speak to your guide and pick carefully, as some of them are more concerned with tourist income than turtle welfare. Further inland, tea plantations provide a refreshing change from the sand and salt, with mile upon mile of lush green leaves and the chance to visit an active tea factory.
While Beruwela, Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Weligama, Mirissa, and Tangalle are amongst the more popular Sri Lanka beach resorts, development remains relatively controlled in comparison to other Asian cities.
This admittedly owes much to the devastation caused by the the 2004 tsunami that caused so much destruction along Sri Lanka's coastline, although many new ventures have sprung up as a result of the international assistance that flooded in after it.
The southern coast was amongst the worst hit, but - thanks to well placed aid and determined locally run projects - the region shows few of the scars you might imagine.
The port of Mirissa is a great example; its fishermen, their fleets destroyed, expected to face years of hand-outs, but many now enjoy new careers as whale-watching crew, instead. Mirissa's coast is famed as one of the world's best places to spot blue whales, sperm whales and dolphins. The boats, usually complete with on-board naturalist, depart from Mirissa harbour at around 5am.
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The stilt fishermen of Weligama Bay are one of Sri Lanka's most iconic sights, shown on a million websites and brochures around the world, while the more developed beaches of Una Watana ensure that every traveller and holiday maker is catered for, with a range of hotels and a vast selection of restaurants and beachside bars.