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Sunny Beaches
Eranda Nirmal Bandara Sooriyapperuma

Sri Lanka is a country of Beaches

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Surrounded by the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a country of beaches offering a range of different destinations to choose from.

A cosmopolitan beach destination in the heart of the city, or a jungled, lonely stretch in eastern Arugam Bay. A high activity sporting center like Bentota or a quite lie-in beach like Dickwella- the choice is entirely up to the visitor.

Let's start from the northern-most tourism point- Negombo. The smaller resort of Marawila, an hour from Negombo, must be mentioned here for the star class accommodation facilities offered there.

Negombo is a sea side fishing town, whose predominantly Catholic leanings are apparent in the number of churches and statues of saints one stumbles upon here.

The resort area is clearly defined from the rest of town, tucked away north of the fishing harbour. A wide, golden beach, kept scrupulously clean by the hotels that line up along the main resort road is its chief attraction.

Negombo is just 20 minutes from the Bandaranaike International Airport and an hour and half from Colombo city. At night the resort takes on carnival atmosphere as little pubs, discos and pizzerias outdo each other to attract visitor interest.

The Muthurajawela Sanctuary, a haven for water birds and crocodiles, is close by. A government-run Visitor Centre conducts very well managed boat rides (early mornings and evenings recommended) through the swamps and lagoon.

Heading south past Colombo city, one comes to Mt. Lavinia. A crowded suburb of Colombo but one that boasts of a fine beach and some great beachside restaurants. The palatial colonial building that houses the Mt. Lavinia Hotel is worth a visit. Many smaller, comfortable hotels offer good quality accommodation in the area.

Kalutara and Wadduwa: wide palm-fringed beaches and an important Buddhist shrine denotes Kalutara. One of the country's largest rivers, the Kalu Ganga flows into the sea here. The area is well known for reed basket ware and the best mangosteens in the country.

Beruwala and Bentota are the next stops on the southward journey. Separated by the Bentota River the resorts together pack some of the best water sports, diving, fishing, surfing and sea bathing spots in the country.

Tourist hotels in the area are all-inclusive basis. Hotel accommodation ranges from two-to-three star cabana-type rooms to five-star resorts.

For sporting try wind surfing, run by local wind surfing champion, Tushal along with banana boat rides, water skiing and surfing lessons which are all undertaken by him.

River boat rides are an added feature. Try the full moon dinner service on a river float offered by Fun Surf

Many hotels have their own sporting and recreation centers offering deep sea fishing, adventure treks to the interior of Bentota and visits to interesting places of worship.

Hikkaduwa is the country's only marine National Park. The coral reefs of Hikkaduwa nestled in the shallow bay has made the resort its fame for coral reefs.

Galle: 115 kilometres south of Colombo sits the Dutch fortress city. Galle is more than a beach destination. It is a whole different culture and atmosphere bundled into a package, which includes some of the country's best sea bathing- Unawatuna Bay.

Galle Fort is a must to any visitor. The single storied, tiled buildings inside the fortress preserved through three centuries makes beautiful viewing. Several private museums display a grand array of old crockery, utensils, items salvaged from ship wrecks, jewellery and gem stones.

Unawatuna Bay, a wide arc of calm aquamarine south of Galle offers quite a choice in places to stay and eat out. Many new hotels have come up along the road to the beach at Unawatuna. The beach has been acclaimed amongst 12 best beaches in the world. Galle and its environs offer quieter, charming guesthouses run by locals, some in old buildings - often such hideaways turn to be the more pleasant alternative.

The coastal line, up to Galle gives visitors a glimpse of much more than the sea. Many rivers, lagoons and lakes flank the coast here and many hotels will gladly arrange boat services, bird watching and nature safaries on request.

Beyond Galle, Weligama Bay is a gorgeous beach with fine sandy sweeps of palm fringed bay. A quaint little Rest House sits on the road, overlooking the bay and the tiny island of Taprobane, to which one can wade through the shallow water at low tide.

At Matara, an important southern city with its star-shaped Dutch fortress, one finds another less used, but stunning beach- Polhena.

Beyond that, past the leisurely resort of Dickwella, lies a spectacular blow hole. A fissure in the rock that forces the surging sea upward in a noisy, angry sprout has created this phenomenon. The spectacle is best seen during the monsoon times that span June to August and at high tide.

Tangalle is an ideal location to sit back and soak up the sun. It has a calm bay set in an easygoing town scattered with Dutch-period momentous.

Come up to Kirinda rock at sun rise for a stunning spectacle over the azure ocean. At the southeastern curve from where the beach takes a northerly route, Kirinda stands between a village fishing bay and the thick jungles of Yala National Park. Visitors to Bundala, Tissamaharama and Kirinda are often on wildlife tours to one or other of the surrounding parks. If time permits, a visit to the ancient temple at Kataragama would give any guest an insight into a timeless shrine worshipped with equal fervour by Buddhists and Hindus in Sri Lanka.

Arugam Bay, tucked in the lower eastern seaboard is a surfers paradise. The approach, though is not along the coast, but one has to skirt the hills and climb down on the A4 trunk route to reach Pottuvil, the nearest town and proceed from there to Arugam Bay.

Arugam Bay offers no pre-packaged holidays. But surfers from world over make seasonal visits to the resort, staying for as long six-to-eight weeks here.

Trincomalee offers some of the best sea bathing in the country. In the northern stretch of 'Trinco', known as Nilaweli, shallow beach goes up to half a mile into the sea and often one would share bathing spots with schools of flying fish and an occasional crab. The British established military base, China Bay, continuous today as a key training and defense point. Several large hotels operate in Trincomalee and the sea off Trinco was famous for whale watching expeditions.

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