The 12 best spots to dive & snorkel in Sri Lanka !
Diving & Snorkelling
There are several dive sites studded along Sri Lanka’s vast coastline where one gets an opportunity to see fantastic marine life such as corals, shipwrecks and a large variety of tropical fish. Whether you are exploring in the north, chilling your feet on the south coast, enjoying a break on the east coast or have opted for the west coast, there is a diving spot near to whatever town you have elected to stay. Plus, the crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean offer a visibility up to 20 meters (65ft) underwater during the right season.
For those of you who want to go beyond snorkelling and have never experienced a dive into the seas, you can get diving instructors for an affordable price from a qualified diving school. Please note that generally the best time for diving and snorkelling is from November to April on the west coast and from April to September on the east coast as the seas are calmest during this period. Here below is an alphabetical list of great spots to discover marine life.
On the east coast offers splendid opportunities between May and October/November. Ven Parai (or White Rock) and Marrakkala Gala are great to observe Rockfish. There are also a few scenic wrecks around Batticaloa to which organised trips can take you. The HMS Hermes, the world’s first purpose built aircraft carrier, lies at a depth of 50 metres, after being sunk by Japanese airplanes in 1942. To know more about Batticaloa, click here.
On the west coast, apart from being a favourite spot for all water sport enthusiasts, can be a great place to dive if you are on the island between November and May. Rock fish, Lion fish, Porcupine fish and others can be seen abundantly at Canoe Rock, South Reef or Hundirangala at depths varying between 12 to 20 metres. Hundirangala is a great spot for night dives too. To know more about Bentota, click here.
On the west coast offers lovely rock formations and big fishes between November and May. Divers have spotted Reef sharks and Whale sharks here. As the currents are strong, you are sure to see great quantities of fish. Other fishes you are sure to see here are Trevally, Snappers and Great Barracudas. The best points are Mada Gala, Malu Gala, Hatharagala, the rightly named Barracuda Rock and the spectacular Shark Point with its multi-level rock formations. To know more about Beruwela, click here.
The well-known capital of the island country is ironically a little-known diving spot, at least to foreigners. Local diving enthusiasts revel in the multiple choices the waters off the capital have to offer: from some of the most scenic shipwrecks to colourful corals and fish. The best time to dive is between November and May. To know more about Colombo, click here.
Is not just bounteous with tourist boutiques. The waters here are great for snorkelling especially in the northern end where you can easily spot marine turtles and corals that are regenerating after the tsunami. Between November and May, if you have set aside some time for diving, you are in for some great surprises. There are two scenic wrecks at The Conch, 45 minutes away from the shore. The other interesting one is the Earl of Shaftesbury that lies on a sandy expanse. Kiralagala is a great rock complex but diving here is reserved only to those with PADI Deep Diver specialty course experience or PADI Advanced Open Water certification. Very close to the shore are Off Coral Gardens and Black Coral Point, both of them offering memorable experiences. Further away is Deep Rock, a site full of underwater caves reserved only for the very experienced. To know more about Hikkaduwa, click here.
Just north of Colombo, is a must go place if you enjoy marine life. If you do not wish to take the plunge, the sea here offers spectacles of dolphins and whales from the deck. If you are just the snorkelling type, the Bar Reef offers a variety of fish your eyes can feast upon. If you wish not to dive too long or too deep, many spots like Bull Dog Reef, Kalpitiya Ridge, Moray Ridge and Trevally Pass offer wonderful diving experiences between December and April. To know more about Kalpitiya, click here.
Just a stone’s throw from the International airport is a good option for those who wish to avoid taking the road to a cultural destination if their flight arrives late at night and at the same time wish to escape the bustle of Colombo. The sea in Negombo offers a wonderful collection of large shoals of fish. There are different reefs to be explored for the avid diver, the best one being Lobster Reef about 30 minutes away from land. Other great spots are Hanova (where at a depth of around 15 metres, divers get to see Snappers, Sweetlips, Groupers, Cuttlefish, Rabbitfish and hell of a lot of Bullseyes), Route 66 (full of Barracudas, Puffers, Sting Rays, Lionfish, etc.) and Derana Gala, which is the furthest diving spot from Negombo. To know more about Negombo, click here.
On the east coast, is one of the most wonderful places for scuba diving and snorkelling. If you can escape to Pigeon Island, you are in for a great surprise as coral fish are aplenty. To know more about Nilaveli, click here.
Is a gem for snorkelling and diving. Wading the waters of the Bay Reef is rewarded with spectacular sights of small fish and soft corals. Further away, at Boiler Wrecks, a collection of sunken ships is to be admired even by beginners. For more experienced divers, a British tanker lies at a depth of 27 metres among pink corals. The Gladys Moller is easily visible as it lies only at 3 metres while The Lady McCullum with an intact bow and stern offers a very colourful experience thanks to Snappers, Batfish, Clowns and anemones that inhabit the area.
on the south coast is already a fantastic place with charming beaches and stunning natural beauty. The sea can be dangerous at times especially near Rekawa but if the weather is ideal, you can enjoy hours of snorkelling. For divers, there is ample quantity of Angel Fish, Lionfish, Pufferfish and corals to be admired. To know more about Tangalle, click here.
Trinco for short, has one of the largest collections of shipwrecks in the waters of the island, ranging from World War II to the 1990s. If you are there during the right season (i.e. April to October), you are in for a feast. Snorkelling is also possible at various spots around. To know more about Trincomalee, click here.
Unawatuna, or Una for trendy tourists
On the south coast is above all a chill out paradise. But who says you cannot break your lazy afternoons to dive into the sea with goggles and a snorkel? There are tons of things to be seen right from the start of your swim if you are there at the right period of the year i.e. between November and May. Divers can choose from two wrecks, the “Tango Wreck” at about 15 minutes from the shore or the SS Rangoon that has fish in profusion. Napoleon Reef hosts exceptional shoals of underwater marvels. To know more about Unawatuna, click here.
Close to Mirissa and Matara has some excellent diving spots. Try out Prince Heinrich Path, Yala Rock and Bridge Rock for fish and rocky formations. To know more about Weligama, click here.