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Considered as Asia’s top thriving holiday destination, Sri Lanka boasts amazing coastal waters around the island and has become a serious competitor for its neighbour, the Maldives. Sri Lanka, often referred to as “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, got first noticed as potential diving hotspot when blue whales were discovered off the coasts. With its colourful corals, unique marine life and even several abandoned WWII ship wrecks, Sri Lanka is should be on top of your itinerary if you’re into diving!

As many other diving destinations in Asia, Sri Lanka is influenced by the monsoon: While the east and north coast offer excellent conditions from April to September, the western and southern parts and best visited from November to April. Water temperatures range from 25°C to 30°C while air temperatures range from 22°C to 33°C.

Best Diving Spots

Here is a small summary of dive sites in Sri Lanka. By far not all, but they will give you a first impression of the country’s diverse marine landscape:

- South Coast. South Sri Lanka is known for its fine beaches and is popular among divers and snorkelers alike, as the water is generally calmer than in most other places around the island, speaking ideal for kids. Among the best spots for diving are Unawatuna Bay which is especially famous for a high density of different fish species, a few interesting deep sea creatures and a number of ship wrecks further off the coast. Jungle Beach and Rock Island are easy accessible, thus, also recommended sites for snorkelers.

- East Coast. A magnificent reef can be found in the east at Vakarai, a place which is still pretty much uncrowded. From wonderful corals over anemones to snappers, at just 12-15 metres depth this place offers the best conditions for beginners.

- British Sergant. This WWII shipwreck lies upside down and is broken into two parts.

- Barracuda Reef. Off the coast, near Colombo and home to various rays and lionfishes.

Rates

If you’re new to diving, then consider starting with a one day ‘Discover Scuba Dive’-course which sets you back at US$ 50, while a fully certified ‘PADI Scuba Diver Course’ will cost about US$ 200 and takes three days. Kids can start with a so called ‘Bubble Maker’ (from US$ 40), a basic introductory course specifically designed for children ages 8 and up. Diving schools offer packages for experienced divers as well with daily rates between US$ 25-30 for a single dive and US$ 110-120 for a 5 dive package.

You can rent snorkelling gear from any watersport shop, in case you prefer snorkelling over diving. It’s recommendable to choose watersport shops instead of guest houses or hotels, as the items are mostly worn out and not well maintained.

Marine Life

Sri Lanka is a true paradise for divers where even veteran divers still get surprised. From trigger fishes, turtles, barracudas, cuttlefishes moray eels, groupers, reef fishes, amazing colourful corals, scorpion fishes, various species of jellyfishes over exotics like Napoleon Wrasse, that can grow up to two metres, to Sperm Whales (known to be the largest toothed animal in the world), Whale Sharks and Blue Whales, the world’s largest known animal, among many more. Aside the abundant marine life, Sri Lanka has dozens of forgotten shipwrecks, some are even several hundred years old.

Forums

The three listed websites here provide excellent expert knowledge of diving in Sri Lanka and even feature forums as well, speaking your trip planning will be smooth:

www.divesrilanka.com – Dive Sri Lanka provides a fantastic summary of the country’s dive regions in addition to useful information on Sri Lanka’s marine archaeology, its marine life as well a useful FAQ.

www.padi.com/scuba-diving/scuba-diving-travel/vacation-spotlights/srilanka/ – PADI is the most respected certification for divers. The site gives you a general overview of the country’s best diving sites, important travel information (and current visa regulations) and a dive shop locater that shows you any PADI dive centre near to your accommodation.

http://srilanka.dive-international.net/ – DiveInternational.net provides an abundance of information on diving in Sri Lanka and is globally known as one of the best resources for diving anywhere in the world. In addition, the site has an active forum where you can seek for helpful advices from experienced divers.

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Asia’s diverse cultures and religions celebrate more festivals than known in any other part of the world. They’re vibrant, colourful and often accompanied with lots of music and dances while some even last for several days. We have compiled a list featuring Asia’s most spectacular festivals:

1. Yi Peng / Loi Krathong, Thailand
Thai festivals are known to be colourful yes mesmerizing and breathtaking. The famous Yi Peng / Loi Krathong are often considered to be the same festival, but are actually two separate events that coincide. Loi Krathong translates to ‘floating baskets’ where Thais release small baskets at the nearest water. These baskets are made from banana leaves and contain various beautiful flowers, candles and incense sticks. Thais believe that the baskets carry away bad luck and that it’s the beginning of a new and prosperous life part.
Yi Peng literally means ‘second month’ and is celebrated on the full moon of the second month of the Lanna lunar calendar. Loi Krathong is following the Thai lunar calendar and is celebrated on the full moon of the 12th month.
Yi Peng symbolizes the release of lanterns to the sky which has the same effect as the krathongs: carrying away bad luck and the beginning of a new chapter.

When: annually in November, exact dates vary, depending on the lunar calendar.
Where: throughout Thailand, best locations are Chiang Mai and Sukhothai.

2. Chinese New Year, worldwide
Chinese New Year is considered to be the most widely celebrated Asian festival anywhere in the world. Festivities are held among Chinese communities in major global cities like New York, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, among many others. Celebrations last for two weeks while every day is packed with events, parades, lantern festivals, dances and fireworks. Visitors only see 2-3 days of the celebrations as the rest is celebrated at home among families.

When: January/February, exact dates vary, depending on the Chinese Lunar calendar.
Where: outside China in places with large Chinese populations, especially Chinatowns.

3. Songkran, Thailand
Another important festival, that can’t be missed on that list – Songkran. Songkran is the Thai New Year and the most anticipated festival in Thailand. It is usually the time when families gather and family members that live in different parts of the country come together to one place. Thais sprinkle water on holy images and one another to give blessings for the upcoming year. But what once started as an important cultural and spiritual festival (and still is!) has evolved to the world’s largest water battle that draws nowadays millions of visitors to Thailand, especially to Chiang Mai. People wait on the streets for others to pass by, ready to unload their water guns and buckets filled with water. The only way to escape this craziness is to stay inside your house/hotel and wait until sunset (but who wants to miss Songkran?). Lots of events and festivities are held throughout cities, especially close to rivers and lakes.

When: 13th-15th April, every year.
Where: nationwide, but especially in Chiang Mai, as it’s considered that the best and biggest celebrations happen there.

4. Holi, India
Holi means ‘Festival of Colours’ or ‘Festival of Love’ and is in many ways similar to the aforementioned Songkran, but instead of water, coloured powder is used. Holi is one of the most important Hindu festivals and symbolizes that good wins over evil. It’s the time when families gather to end any differences by exchanging sweets and other treats. Holi is accompanied by lots of festivities, singing and dancing.

When: February/March, it’s always the last full moon day of the lunar month of Phalguna.
Where: throughout India.

5. Thaipusam, Malaysia
Thaipusam is another important Hindu festival that is celebrated throughout Asia, but especially the unique celebrations held in Kuala Lumpur are worth to highlight. Tens of thousands of people attend an eight hours pilgrimage that starts at the famous Sri Mahamariamman Temple near Chinatown towards the sacred Batu Caves as the endpoint, about 15 kilometres from the temple. Some devotees, in order demonstrate devotion to the Hindu God Lord Murugan, perform seemingly terrifying acts by piercing long skewers and/or drag chariots with hooks attached to their skin. You should have a thick skin if you plan to watch the celebrations.

When: January/February, on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai.
Where: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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