Often referred to as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is an incredible place for world-class snorkeling and diving! Enclosed by a beautiful palm-rimmed coastline, there are many diving sites which provide spectacular sights ranging from abundant species of tropical fish and other marine life to breathtaking ship wrecks making this tiny island a perfect destination for a family holiday to Sri Lanka!
The east coast is known to be calmer and more tranquil that the west. Most towns still show war-torn and tsunami-battered attributes, however they are slowly being developed and gaining their lost beauty once again. The sea on the east coast is best for snorkeling and scuba diving from the months of May to October.
Trincomalee/ Nilaveli – Trincomalee and Nilaveli are located on the east coast known for their wide serene stretches of white sandy beaches which slope gently into the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The sea in this area is calm and crystal clear, ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Pigeon Island, floating a few kilometers away from the coast is a very small island, covered completely with pure-white coral, which offers breathtaking underwater scenes of more coral, tropical fish and other forms of marine life. Marble Beach is another splendid place that can be visited on a day excursion. A secluded area of coast enclosed by high boulders and jungle, this beach is an extremely relaxing place to swim and snorkel.
Arugam Bay – Arugam Bay is not only a world class surfing spot, but also a quiet place which offers fantastic snorkeling and diving experiences. The bay has a few places for mild snorkeling however scuba divers should hire a boat and make for the Basses Reefs which is marked by two lighthouses and is one of the top diving sites in Sri Lanka. This coral reef is composed of two enormous reef complexes which are drawn out off the coast of Yala National Park. The underwater delights here are spectacular, ranging from clear blue water to ancient rugged sandstone formations to an abundance of stunning marine life.
Tangalle/ Hambantota – Tangalle and Hambantota are located on the south east coast near Yala National park and are popular locations for snorkeling and diving. Both are beautiful natural bays fringed with palm trees. The seas are slightly rougher than other coastal areas on the eastern coast, yet the soft golden beaches and clear water attract many tourists with views of beautiful coral reefs and jewel hued fish. Sea turtles are commonly spotted along the reef and even visit the shore at night to lay their eggs. They provide are a rare delight for scuba divers. The best snorkeling areas are located in the nearby secluded villages along the Tangalle/ Hambantota coast where the most beautiful coral beds and marine life can be found.
The west coast is slightly rougher and more dynamic than the east. Most towns are developed and have most necessities required for tourism in which it thrives. The beaches are palm-rimmed, golden stretches and they are well known for spectacular sunsets. The sea on the west coast is best for snorkeling and scuba diving from the months of November to April.
Hikkaduwa/ Unawatuna – Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna are the two best known locations on the west coast that offer excellent snorkeling and diving experiences. An expanse of brilliant coral in every size, colour and formation which is inhabited by vividly coloured fish, can be seen through crystal clear water no more than four meters deep. This coral sanctuary is a large shallow area enclosed by a renowned reef which is protected, so snorkeling is the most environmentally friendly way of enjoying the wonders beneath the gentle crashing waves. Scuba divers are treated with unique rock formations, abundant marine life and ship wrecks further out from the shore. Almost every beach front shop in Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna has snorkel equipment for rent.
Negombo – Negombo is lined with a golden coast and is famous for its wide, crystal clear lagoons. Snorkeling and diving in the sea depends heavily on the unpredictable weather, however tourists and more than welcome to explore the interesting lagoons. Snorkeling in Negombo introduces tourists to a stunning underwater world where there is plenty including exotic seaweed and rare fish along with other species of marine life.
Kalpitiya – Kalpitiya is an untouched stretch of beautiful beach which offers remarkable snorkeling and scuba diving. The largest coral reef in Sri Lanka, the Bar reef is just an hour’s boat ride away from the coast. This breathtakingly beautiful reef is home to numerous species of tropical fish including manta rays, sharks, turtles and other forms of marine life protected by colourful layers or coral. Further out is Turtle Point Lodge which consists of two underwater ridges, and the beautiful Pearl Banks which is a protected home to rare pearl oyster and various other forms of marine life. Both spots are perfect for scuba diving opportunities. The underwater currents here are rather faint making snorkeling and diving safe and pleasant activities.