© Howard Martenstyn

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Weligama Bay

Explore the Southern Maritime Province (SMP)

Places of Interest

Southern Maritime Province (SMP) consists of the districts of Galle, Matara and Hambantota. The southern province is called Dakunu Palata in Sinhala and Thaen Mākāṇam in Tamil.

 

The SMP coastline spreads from the Bentota river to the Kumbukkan Oya. Important coastal landmarks of the SMP include the Port of Galle and adjacent Fort with lighthouse,  the Great Basses and Little Basses reefs and lighthoues, and wildlife parks of Yala and Bundala. Ussangoda in Ambalantota has a panoramic view of the beach and the ocean.

Highlights

 

 

  • Diving at Great Basses and Little Basses reefs (corals, caves, wrecks, marine life).

 

  • Surfing at Hikkaduwa or Weligama Bay

Hikkaduwa

Hikkaduwa is a popular tourist destination on the south coast located about 17 km northwest of Galle. It is a well-known international destination for board-surfing. Be careful of rip tides while swimming in front of the National Park.

 

Sights & Activities

Board-surfing | Hikkaduwa National Park (overexploited) | Coral Reefs | Glass-bottom Boat Ride | Snorkelling ! Scuba Diving | Swim with Turtles| Bird Watching | Fisheries Harbour | Sea Safaris.

Tangalle

Tangalle is a large town in the Hambantota District. It is located 35 km east of Matara. It is a old world town with a regionally important fishing harbour and tourist centre. There is an old Dutch fort which is used as a prison today. For scenic viewpoint follow Harbour Road around the point. Tangalle's 6km wide pictureque bay is perfect for swimmers and snorkellers.

 

Rekawa Beach 10 km east of town is famed for its striking lagoon and nesting turtles. All five species of turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. The Turtle Conservation Project promotes conservation and protection of the turtles, so camera flashes and other lights aren't allowed. Unlike some turtle hatcheries on the west coast the eggs here are left undisturbed in the sand and are protected in situ.

Just 8km along the coastal road from Dickwella is Mawella where Humming Spout, one of the largest blow holes in the world is located.

 

Sights & Activities

Turtle Watching Rekawa | Tangalle Bay | Viewpoint | Fisheries Harbour | Swimming | Snorkelling | Tangalle Fort | Stilt Fishermen | Blow Hole (near Dickwella).

Weligama

Weligama (means sandy village in Sinhala) is located about 30km east of Galle in Matara District. It is a spectacular bay with its golden sandy beach, islet and colourful fisheries harbour. The bay is ideal for learning to board-surf. For the more enthusiastic surfer try Midigama, 5 km away in pristine and tranquil surroundings. A little further north is Koggala, well known for its lagoon dotted with small islands and stilt fishermen.

 

Sights & Activities

Weligama Bay | Taprobane Island | Weligama Harbour | Scuba Diving | Snorkelling | Cora Reefs | Stilt Fishermen | Whale and Dolphin Watching | Surfing | Turtles.

Mirissa

Mirissa is located 4km southeast of Weligama. This is another quickly developing tourist beach resort with the most popular access to whale and dolphin watching that targets the blue whale (the largest animal on earth). A quiet beach in the daytime that comes alive at night with seafood stalls dotted along the bay.

 

Sights & Activities

Whale and Dolphin Watching | Mirissa Harbour | Mirissa Beach | Turtles.

Matara

Matara is a major city on the southern coast located at the end of the southern expressway. The town has grown over the centuries on the banks of the Nilwala Ganga. The one time ancient settlement fades into history and only relics from colonial times remain. Matara beach is protected by a coral reef in the form of a lagoon.

 

Nilwala Ganga gave fertility to the spice gardens and outflows to the Dondra submarine canyon gave rise to nutrients for enriching marine life. Dondra, aka Devinuwara – City of the Gods – is a well known for Dondra Head being the southern-most point of Sri Lanka with its tall (49m) octogonal shaped lighthouse adjoining a picturesque cove.

 

There are  a few shallow water reefs in the area of which Polhena is the largest and best reef by the shoreline.

 

The Old Nupe Market is an old colonial market located about 3.2 km from Matara fort, at the junction of the Matara-Akuressa Highway (A24) and Matara Road (B535).

 

Sights & Activities

Coral Reefs | Polhena Cove | Snorkelling | Nilwala Ganga | Star Fort | Matara Fort | Old Nupe Market | Dondra Head | Dondra Harbour | Dondra Lighthouse.

Galle

Galle (Sinhala: ගාල්ල, Tamil: காலி) is a old-world town and picturesque seaside resort situated on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, 119km from Colombo. The 14th century Port of Galle has a natural harbour and is protected by a rocky promontory called Punto de Gale (Portuguese) and later became known as Point de Galle (British). In 1505 a Portuguese fleet of ships entered the harbour at dusk. They apparently later named the area Galle because they had heard the crowing of the cocks at dusk. Interestingly a cock is represented on the crest of the Galle Municipal Council.

 

Sights & Activities

Galle Fort | Lighthouse | Port of Galle | Shipwrecks | Scuba Diving | Snorkelling | Coral Reefs | Whale and Dolphin Watching | Bird watching | Scenic Bays and Coves (Closenburg Bay, Buona Vista and Unawatuna Bay) | Maritime Museum | Rummassala PromontoryMa del fishermen.

Hambantota

Hambantota the main town in Hambantota District was previously known as Sampantota – the harbour of the sampans. Over the centuries it became known as Hambantota where the new Port of Magampura was declared opened in 2010. Ancient Greek navigators knew of this safe anchorage and from this information Ptolemy named it Dionysil on his map of Taprobane.

The area is dry and arid and the plam fringed beaches give way to scrub covered sannah. It is the centre of the country's salt industry. Hambantota has a large well sheltered fisheries harbour.

 

Bundala National Park features lagoons, wetlands, scrub jungle, dunes and wildlife. Its beaches are a santuary for seabirds and nesting turtles.

 

Sights & Activities

Port of Hambantota | Port Lighthouses | Old Hambantota Lighthouse | Fishereies Harbour | Martello Tower (Fort) | Scenic Lagoons | Salterns | Bundala National Park | Godawaya Sanctuary | Turtle Watching.

Kirinda

Kirinda is a coastal village located in the SMP and is the last coastal town before Yala National Park. Great Basses and Little Basses may be accessed by boat from Kirinda Harbour. The best time of the year to dive at the basses is during either intermonsoon periods and mid-March to mid-April is the best period.

 

Sights & Activities

Kirinda Harbour | Scenic Viewpoint overlooking Ocean | Coral Reefs | Scuba Diving | Snorkelling | Great Basses Reef | Little Basses Reef | Shipwrecks | Sportfishing | Off-shore Lighthouses | Dolphin and Whale Watching.

Bentota

Bentota is situated south of the River Bentara which rendevous with the sea. Bentota with its picturesque bay was very well known as the place to spend vacations or rest and play on a journey to the south. Coconut palm trees dominate the seaside landscape.Besides the sun, sea and sand, the river is the source of many additional activities and pleasures. Be careful of strong currents at the estuary mouth. Canoe Rock is the main dive site where you will find sandy areas as well coral formations.

 

Sights & Activities

Bentota Beach | Bentota River | River Cruise | Snorkelling | Scuba Diving | Swimming | Watersports (Water-skiing, Jet-skiing, Sailing) | Body Surfing | Crocodile Watching.

Balapitiya

In Balapitiya lies Madu Ganga, Sri Lanka's second largest wetland consisting of 32 islands including two main islands. It is a shallow water body in south-west Sri Lanka, which mixes with the sea at Balapitiya. Together with the smaller Randombe Lake, to which it is connected by two narrow channels, it forms the Madu Ganga wetland which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003 according to the Ramsar Convention. Home to 303 species of plants and 248 species of vertebrate animals, Madu Ganga is possibly one of the last remaining tracts of pristine mangrove forests in Sri Lanka.

 

Terns are reported to colonize the Rocky Islet sanctuary at Ambalangoda in some years from mid-March to August.

 

Sights & Activities

Madu Ganga | River Cruise | Bird Watching | Crocodile Watching | Sportfising | Ambalangoda Rocky Islet.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Southern Fishermen-at-work

Nilwala Ganga river mouth

© Howard Martenstyn