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.
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.
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.
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.