"Welcome to the land of sand!". Finest black tea, wild elephants, Buddhist temples or ayurveda massages. White sandy beaches with lush and green hill areas. You'll find it all in Sri Lanka. And: There is magnificent to surf there as well.
“Welcome to the land of sand!”. Finest black tea, wild elephants, Buddhist temples or ayurveda massages. White sandy beaches with lush and green hill areas. You’ll find it all in Sri Lanka. And: There is magnificent to surf there as well.
Unfortunately Sri Lanka aka Ceylon and its tourism suffer because of its civil war. Right now (February 2007) the political situation is rather sketchy, but it is still a piece of paradise! The west coast around the capital Colombo has loads of tourism. You’ll find packages with your local travel agency or just go there and organise everything yourself.
If you like it less touristy, more original and wilder and if you don’t mind simple life, then head for the east coast. The small fisher village Arugambay is quite close to the Tamil Tiger (a politico-military organization) area – but there hasn’t been real danger so far. The trip to get there is not an easy going! After arriving in Colombo, you need another 10 hours drive by car (for only 300 kilometres) through the hills. You could also make the journey in two steps, with a stopover in the culturally rich city of Kandy. Public transport (train and busses) are dirt-cheap and a (funny) adventure of its own.
Arugambay is now a real surfers’ destination. The small hostels and bungalow resorts are mostly run by or in collaboration with locals. A dirt road runs through the small and poor village; most of the accommodation lies next to the beach around the bay. The Stardust Beach Hotel is the oldest place and offers the highest standards. It was run by a Danish couple, who were the first white to come down here and try and start a business in the late seventies. Unfortunately, Mr. Godman died in the Tsunami. His wife is about to build up the destroyed place again – she’s a very kind lady, who looks after the locals and provides them with gastronomical knowledge. Go there for a nice cake or delicious meals. My favourite place is the Aloha Cabanas. It is run by a Swiss and his Srilankan friends since 2000. The location has simple and “exclusive” Cabanas, surf rental and lessons, very friendly staff and is suited perfectly (not to loud, not too far away from the point). You may just book 2 or 3 nights ahead and look around for what you want, when you’re down there.
The main attraction is the incredible waves of Arugambays Point! If the swell is good, I’ll surf a wave of over 700 meters length; sitting in 28° C warm water, facing the bay full of colourful fishing boats and palm trees. The east coast is at its best in the dry period from May to September. After that you better stay at the west coast. If the swell gets big, there are a couple of spots north and south, which start running. Take a tuk-tuk (bargain for the price!) and explore the wild neighbourhood. Potuvil-Point, Crocodile-Rock or Okanda are the best known.
If the surf is flat or if you need a break you might explore the southern areas towards the National Park, take a trip to Kandy or Nuwara Elya (the hill country), go and look for wild elephants in the bushes, or just hang out in the hammock and wait for the evening to come. A very special event is the party around July’s / August’s full moon. It is the highest holiday of Buddhist Sri Lankans and wherever you find a temple, there is a 10 days party with dancing, eating and religious ceremonies. The most known is the “Perahera” in Kandy with fire-dancers, drummers and elephant parades.
Hungry? Don’t worry about food! You’ll find it everywhere (the locals love to eat some small bits every now and then) and it is just delicious! Don’t miss the hot but awesome curry, fresh fish of course, tropic fruits and the famous Ceylon black tea. Don’t hesitate to visit the small local restaurants; they have the best food and are the cheapest. Try and eat with your hand like the locals do (only the right one – the left hand is dirty!), you’ll be a good laughter, but it’s convenient anyway.
Remember! You’re in a third world country with a totally different culture! Respect dress codes (especially women on the beach) and religious beliefs. There is a wild mix of Christians, Muslims and Buddhist in Arugambay. But no worries – we made good friends with all of them. If you manage to learn some tamil words, you’ll be their hero!
How to get there:
By car, Arugam Bay is approximately an 8 hour drive from Colombo. The southern road running below Uda Walawe National Park is usually quicker. Private vans can also be hired. Prices vary widely, but cost will be approximately $100 – $125 one way.
Public transportation is also available. Government busses leave Colombo twice daily for Pottuvil. The 5:00 am bus continues on to Panama , so passengers can alight directly at Arugam Bay . The 8:00 pm bus stops at Pottuvil, and a three wheeler can be hired to get to Arugam Bay . Bus fare is from Rs200 – 250 one way. The cost of the three wheeler from Pottuvil to Arugam bay will be around Rs100. The trip by bus takes from 10 – 12 hours.