Tour guide to Batticaloa Sri Lanka !
Batticaloa, nicknamed “Batti” by locals, is a small but lively commercial town with immense potential for tourism related activities.
If you drew a straight line from Colombo to Kandy and prolonged it to the coast, you are bound to end it at Batti. If you are planning to go to Sri Lanka when the monsoon is at its peak on the west coast, then a stay at Batticaloa is something you might have to seriously consider.
Something fishy here?
Batticaloa is not just famous for its lagoon, it is home to fish that sing on moonlit nights, especially from April to September. Is it the sound of a singing fish or the sound of the water? Did the fish ever exist? Why do we hear them less these days? The riddle is yet to be solved. Will you uncover the mystery?
All we know is that one Father Lang in the 1960s managed to record natural melodies from this site that went viral. So, if you are in the lagoon on a windless, full moon night, you might want to lend a careful ear and fine-tune your senses to try and capture the sounds.
The population of about 100,000 is predominantly Tamilian here but also consists of Burghers, Sinhalese and Veddas. Religion-wise, the town in mostly Hindu with significant minorities: 25% Muslim and about 5% Christian. There are very few Buddhists here.
Scarred by years of civil war, Batticaloa and its surrounding regions were also terribly affected by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami which left 2840 dead and over a 1000 missing.
Tour guide to Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
The Batticaloa-Colombo-Polonnaruwa-Maho line is long and tortuous. There are two night trains a day at Station Road in Koddamunai. For a full list of train and bus schedules as well as information on fares, we recommend you visit the Sri Lankan Railways website.
Domestic commercial flights, seaplanes and helicopters on the island are mostly provided by Colombo-based companies.
Top tourist attractions in Batticaloa
The city is divided into many districts, and each district is further subdivided into quarters. Below you can find information about the main districts – Kallady is arguably the most interesting of these.
Undeniably the best place to find good accommodations. Kallady is the coastal area, southeast of the city. The Kallady Lady Manning Bridge (Kallady Bridge) connects Kallady and Pullianthivu. You can access the sea from any part of Eastern Kallady.
The beach here has been beautifully developed with a little children's play area, a casurina plantation and a wooden walkway that invites you for a stroll. If you have clear skies and would like to enjoy watching a beautiful sunrise, Kallady beach is just for you. Besides you can watch fishermen pulling out their nets and even give them a hand. During the evenings (especially on weekends), the beach is popular among families.
Unless you are a good swimmer and the weather conditions are suitable, it is preferable to just wade in the waters than attempt to swim in Kallady.
Navalady and environs
The long strip of land in the northern extension of Kallady is surrounded by beaches, the ocean and the lagoon. The beach here is sandy and truly unspoilt with a casurina forest and coconut trees at the backdrop. You can walk up northwards and get to see the estuary where Batticaloa lagoon ends in the sea.
Swimming is possible here from April to October but be careful as currents can be strong.
Located in the northern end of Navalady, 5km to the northwest of Kallady Bridge is the Bar Lighthouse (or Mughaththuvaram Lighthouse) on Bar Road. From the town centre, you can get here by hailing a tuk-tuk for about Rs.350.
If you are with children, you can even visit the Batticaloa Environmental Learning Centre and Eco Park adjacent to the lighthouse. The Lagoon environmental Learning Centre hosts a library, an auditorium, a lagoon viewing hall, a souvenir shop, etc. It mainly offers information on the lagoon ecosystem. The Eco Park has a children park with animal statues, a sports club, a picnic hut, resting shelters, a bird viewing tower and an access to the beach.
Situated in the north, Koddamunai is where the Batticaloa railway station is located. Other features such as the General Hospital, the YMCA building and several international organisations including the ICRC, United Nations and UNICEF are located here. The Clock Tower is a landmark feature of Koddamunai, although another one exists in Kallady.
For bikers, a trip to visit the northeast part of this area near the lagoon along Bar Road could be entertaining. Others can do the same on a tuk-tuk.
On Koddamunai Bar Road, halfway between Kallady Bridge and the lighthouse is the famous Managam Hindu Temple. Thousands of pilgrims flock to this intersection of Bar Road and the lagoon during the festival in July that lasts ten days.
This is the heart and soul of old Batti.
Not to be missed here, especially for those of you interested in Sri Lankan colonial history, is the Dutch Fort. Initially constructed by the Portuguese in 1628, it was the first one to fall under Dutch hands in 1638. The emblem of the Dutch East India Company is still to be seen at the entrance. Today the fort is partially occupied by the Sri Lankan army and other administrations.
Entrance to the fort is free.
A choice of appealing places to visit around Batticaloa
To the north of Batticaloa, you can find two finely curved beaches that lie on either side of the palm-fringed Kalkudah mainland. Long touted as the east coast’s touristic jewel, the area was severely affected by the civil war.
The longer, creamier-coloured Kalkudah Bay Beach is a tourist paradise, with picture-perfect fishing boats, palm trees and the sea. The easiest approach to this beach is at the end of the Valaichchenai-Kalkudah Road, although this was blocked by an army camp at the time of or visit. We could however bypass the army camp and use the partly rebuilt beach access lane 300m to the southwest.
Passekudah is a beautiful bay coupled with a pristine beach nearly 4 kilometres long. Located 28 km north of Batticaloa, 80 km south of Trincomalee and 77 km east of Polonnaruwa, its clear blue waters are ideal for swimming and admiring coral reefs.
This hidden gem on the east coast was a popular tourist resort until the civil war that started in 1983. Since 2009, the place but has been experiencing a sort of Renaissance. The land here has now been allotted for construction of environment-friendly resorts. Of the 50 submitted plans, 14 have been selected and some have even been completed. Soon, Passekudah will have outdoor theatres, shopping arcades and other infrastructure.
To reach Kalkudah and Passekudah by public transport, you can take several buses from Batticaloa all day around. Buses from Colombo via Polonnaruwa (A11-A15) can also drop you at the Valachchenai junction from where you can take a short tuk-tuk ride. Local airline companies fly to Passekudah.
Batticaloa has great spots to sunbathe, swim and dive
The sea is the main attraction whether you are here to sunbathe, to swim or to dive.
A note about swimming: The best time to swim is around March-April. Although the area is beautiful, the sea may be dangerous and it is advisable that you check with the locals before you take a dip. The lagoon is closed from August till December and crocodiles from the south (pushed by the rain) are present from late November to late January.
For diving enthusiasts, please note that over a dozen sites have been spotted for exciting diving around the area, some of which are between 8 to 6 metres deep. The wreck of the HMS Hermes is however attainable to only experienced divers as it lies at a depth of 58 metres.
Wildlife parks and birdwatching sites near Batticaloa
Maduru Oya National Park
Maduru Oya, west of Batticaloa, covers an area of over 58,000 hectares.
The park is unique as it combines dry-zone vegetation and tropical evergreen forest along with large patches of open plains previously used for cultivation. It was designated as a national park in 1983 and deemed to protect the catchment area of five reservoirs.
There are two entrances to the park, one from Aralaganwilla and the other from Mahiyanganaya side. A group of Veddas (the indigenous people of Sri Lanka) who have always used the reserve as a hunting ground for centuries live within the park boundary. Today, hunting has been banned in order to preserve the fauna.
Maduru Oya is also of cultural importance as there a many important ruins, some of them dating back to the 3rd Century BC. Most of these ruins are located in Henanigala, Kudawila, Gurukumbura, Uluketangoda, Werapokuna and several other places. A dam dating back to the 4th Century BC was discovered here.
You can generally spot elephants, water buffalo, monitors, primates and birds such as Painted Stork and Grey Pelican.
The lagoon in Batticaloa district offers this region a unique ecosystem and nature lovers can enjoy birdwatching at Bone Island, Buffalo Island or Manthivu Island. You can reach these islands by boats from the lighthouse or a jetty near the Puthur airport.
There are other bird sanctuaries too, including one at the Ecopark.
Unnichchai Tank, 25 km from Batticaloa, is another place where you can spot birds, buffaloes and even wild elephants.
How to keep your kids occupied in Batticaloa
Batti Lagoon Park
on Bar Road, 3 km northwest of Kallady Bridge, is open from 7 am to 11 pm daily. They organise boat and walking tours along the lagoon. Children can play in the sand and enjoy fresh snacks.
Ecopark and Boat Services
Located on Bar Road, 5 km northwest of Kallady, the Ecopark can be another good spot to take your children. You can rent a boat here for a round trip around Kallady Bridge that lasts around 45 minutes. Cost: Rs.3000 for maximum 8 persons. Another option is to take a boat ride to Batticaloa gate. The 60-minute ride cost you around Rs.3500. These boat trips are organised by local fishermen who can also arrange for your entry to Ecopark.
Great things to see and do in Batticaloa
If you are driving to Kandy from Batticaloa, south of Maduru Oya National Park is Dambana, a village populated largely by indigenous Veddas who became sedentary from 1983 onwards. The Veddas are considered the first islanders to live on the island. There are about 350 Vedda families who live here, a paltry figure compared to the original numbers in the 1950s. Tourists can get to meet the Veddas and learn about their way of life and skills.
To know more about the Vedda community: http://vedda.org/
If you looking for unique souvenirs for your friends back home, head to the Batticaloa Market or the government handloom centre for quality products, particularly those made of palmyrah.