Beach-hopping in Southern Sri Lanka…
An idyllic, mystical pearl-drop island in the Indian Ocean with 1340 kilometres of coastline. Bait enough. Active adventurer, laid-back lazy or photo-enthusiast…whatever your travel style, beaches will inevitably creep into your Sri Lanka itinerary. Problem: Too many beaches, too little time. Multiply challenging choices by dubious dilemmas, divide by greed, and get smart. If you’re stationed in Galle, like we were, beach-hop an entire 50-kilometre stretch southwards, in search of unadulterated Sri Lanka. Resurrected post-tsunami. Down an endless road with dazzling, tan-gold tropical sands, wave-drenched rocks and emerald palm clusters. Sleepy villages, red-roofed houses with white columns and cool verandas, modest home-stays, elite eco-retreats, sarong-clad fishing folk, cheerful red tuk-tuks and suntanned backpackers in chappals. Serenity. Untouched by mindless tourism. Game?
Vibrant vibes at Unawatuna
The stream of family-run guesthouses, boutique hotels, pretty restaurants and shops selling beachwear and souvenirs on the Amerasinghe Road that winds through the Unawatuna village are indication enough. Popular, thriving night-life hangout ahead? Not so fast. If you’re bright and early, maybe not. Indulge in the luxury of solitude. Stroll the length of the shallow, broad crescent-shaped beach, feeling the waves curling beneath your toes. Oruva boats pose prettily, palms fringes offer comforting shade and vendors sell wood souvenirs. Let your ears guide you towards the cheerful music of the shacks. Settle in the comfort of the bright cushions of the straw-roof cabanas. Grab a mango shake. And drown in the sounds of the incessant waves.
Solitary swings at Wijaya
This is where dreams of secret beaches with palms leaning over the water come to life. Insta-alert! There’s a celebrity swing tree nearby. Struggling against strong winds and supported by carefully planted cement bags and ropes tied at the right angles. Give it a shot. But first, lunch with the best view you could wish for, awaits at Wijaya restaurant. Drool over heavenly prawn mango curry on rustic benches, as you stare at the hypnotic sway of the palms overhead. Perch on the terrace ledge and dissolve into nothingness. Follow the rhythm of the froth and foam. Let the wind rustle your hair into a mess. Watch people walk hand-in-hand through the rocky cove below. Count the yellow king coconuts dangling from thick stalks of trees. Lost in paradise?
Sad stilts at Koggala
Stilt fishermen perched on cross bars tied to slim poles stand in shallow water, so that they cast minimal shadows and fish come closer. Or are they posing locals…desperate to earn traveler tips so they they can afford two square meals a day? Maybe they aren’t fishermen and maybe they’re not fishing. But they are balancing skilfully on stilts, replaying leftovers of yesterday’s magical traditions. Sad, because even this sight may soon be a thing of the past. So, brush away your cynical side and psyche yourself to focus on the loveliness of the scene instead. Toothpick-thin tall palms, transparent aquamarine waters and pin-prick poles puncturing the soft sands. They ARE fishing…in your mind, they are. Give in to the fantasy. Who’s checking? And why do you care if they are?
Fish frenzy at Welingama
A wide bay with a long rocky-strip jutting into the ocean. Boats named ‘Fast’, ‘Tulsa’ and ‘Deutsch Lanka’, decked with red flags and bamboo-stick masts rushing in by the dozen. Enthusiastic fishermen teams jumping into the water and pulling the vessels ashore with full gusto. Sailing ropes being thrown in and knots being tied with speed. Baskets full of fish being hauled away in plastic baskets. Fishmongers in short-sleeved shirts and sarongs crowding over makeshift stalls, brisk negotiations in progress. Loud, excited calls, busy movements and palpable action. All very infectious, isn’t it?
Harbour hues at Mirissa
Whale-watcher’s paradise? Surfer-snorkeler’s delight? Or photographer’s fabulous find? A rocky road leading to a fishing harbour. Hundreds of docked boats. And an explosion of colors, colors and more colors. Brilliant blues. Chirpy yellows. Raging reds. Soothing aquas. Gorgeous greens. Boats and catamarans fighting for space, yet bunched up in complete harmony in one joyous, cheerful scene that makes your eyes light up and your smile go wide. A bunch of happy fishermen folding and repairing meters and meters of green nets, giving you life lessons in contentment. And the final vantage point up on the hill. Vision of a perfectly curving beach, more gust-blown palm trees, rolling sands and paths cutting into cliffs. Balancing on the rough rock-wall that separates you from the Indian Ocean, think about how time goes by and yet stands still. A blue boat bounces over the sparkling silver, marking its presence with a red flag. A five-letter word comes to mind. Bliss.
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