The South Coast which stretches from Galle to Hambantota, offers the widest range of the country’s unspoilt golden beaches. As the region is largely underdeveloped it has not been tainted by the ills that come with modernisation, and this has been a blessing in disguise. Isolated beaches with a backdrop of scrub wilderness stretch as far as the eye can see providing a feeling of peace and solitude that is beyond compare. With a large number of wildlife watching opportunities and numerous cultural centres within reasonable distance, the South Coast is a match made in heaven for those on the lookout for a beach experience with a distinct difference.
Must Do List
- Turtle safari at night in Rekawa
- Whale and dolphin watching in December and April
- Surfing in Mirrissa
- Scuba diving in Dickwella
- Stilt fishermen in Weligama
- Sailing and deep sea fishing from the Mirissa Water Sports Centre
South Coast – In Focus
The South Coast was a part of the ancient Kingdom of Ruhuna and in the 16th Century the town of Matara was occupied by the Portuguese and later the Dutch, who built a fort around the city as a defensive measure. Although not as large as the Galle Fort, the fort at Matara was considered an important bastion of defence by the Dutch and remains inhabited today. Tangalle too had a small Fort built by the Dutch as it was an important anchorage, but over time it has undergone reconstruction many times and little of the original structure remains. The best examples of the historic culture of the region can be seen in the stilt fisherman, cinnamon peelers and traditional lace makers whose crafts have been handed down to them through the generations.
The South Coast is hot and arid with an average temperature of 32°C and relative humidity of 65%. Evening gives some respite from the heat with the temperatures dropping a few degrees but most often a warm breeze blows throughout the night. Rainfall is experienced mainly during the South-West monsoon from May to August.
The towns of Mirissa, Weligama, Dickwella and Tangalle are reached by passing Galle following the Galle-Hambantota Road, but can also be reached from the hill country via Uda Walawe. Travel by train is only possible up to Matara and air taxi services are available to the Koggala Lake, while a more expensive chartered helicopter ride will land you in Weligama.
Airport to Tangalle – 6.5 hours
Colombo to Tangalle – 5.5 hours
Galle to Mirissa – 45 minutes
Galle to Tangalle – 2 hours
Tangalle to Yala – 2.5 hours
Dickoya to Tangalle – 4.5 hours
Galle to Yala – 3.5 hours
The South coast has seen an explosion of upmarket boutique villas and resorts in recent years. Even so, the more traditional hotels and guest houses do exist presenting a range of accommodation options. Amanwella and Last House in Tangalle, are the best properties in the region and good beach villas include Taprobane Island, Beach House, Kadju House, Amapola and Teak House. Guesthouses here are all friendly and the staff are always very helpful. The Palace at Mirissa is a charming cabana style guest house which is very popular and the The Dickwella Resort is a mid-range property providing comfortable accommodation. A favourite among surfers is Ahangama Easy Beach and wellness fanatics have the option of Barberyn Beach Ayurveda Resort in Weligama.
The deep South of Sri Lanka is one of the most under-developed regions in the country so shopping is not great. The major towns all have banking and Internet facilities, pharmacies and general grocery stores with Matara having a well stocked supermarket. Look out for the fruit stalls on the roadside though and freshly caught seafood can be found in plenty on the coastal belt.
Attractions & Events
Hambantota is the largest town on the southeastern coast and is a well-sheltered fishing port. It has a picturesque Rest House which hangs perched on the reddish cliffs, and overlooks a white beach backed by sage-green jungle. Close to the Rest House lies the “Martel Tower”, a construction of the Dutch colonialists, of which the only other example is found in France. The roof of the upper floor offers a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside and also the busy shipping lane that runs just south of the coast. Just outside the town one of the country’s main saltpans are found where sea water is left to evaporate and is then carried by a mini-rail to salt factories. The salterns of Maha-Lewaya and Koholankala Lewaya are famous for their birdlife, especially the large flock of Lesser Flamingos.
Kalamatiya lies in a mature mangrove swamp and is renowned as a birders paradise. Out of the recorded 427 bird species, 250 species are resident in Sri Lanka, with the rest being migratory birds which come to Sri Lanka to escape the harsh winters of Siberia, Scandinavia and Western Europe.
The best time to see birds is between November and March. The birdlife here include the Cattle Egret, Intermediate Egret, Great Egret, Asian Openbill, Eurasian Spoonbill, Purple Swamphen, Glossy Ibis, Common Snipe, black-winged stile. Migrant birds include Pintail, Golden plover, Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Kentish Plover, Curlew, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper and Yellow Wagtail.
Tangalle Turtle Hatchery
Located at Rekawa in Tangalle this hatchery lets turtle eggs remain on the beach in their natural nests, well protected from predators and people until they hatch, and then allow the baby turtles to swim into the sea as they would do naturally. A visit to the facility at night will give you the opportunity to see the turtles come ashore, lay their eggs, close the nests and goes back to the sea. Five species of turtles use this stretch of beach as their nesting grounds.