Sri Lanka

Trincomalee, Uppeveli – snorkelling on tropical coral reefs

We’ve spent the last few days allowing our souls to catch up with us and getting some well needed rest in the beautiful Sri Lankan bay of Uppeveli, a little resort and fishing village about 3km north of Trincomalee.

We spent most of our time on the beach of course. A strip of white hot sand, as far as the eye could see, lined by palm trees and scattered with open sided sabanas to lounge in. The sea is balmy and calm, gorgeous to bathe and soothe away the hot days, with just enough wave to make it fun.

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In the evening, the air above is dancing with dragonflies as the  temperatures cool down. The bay begins to glow with candles and beach fires from resturaunts and cafes who move their tables out onto the still warm sands. I would recommend Fernando’s for their western beachy style food and chilled vibes, Coconut Beach for their curry (but not their music!), and Palm Beach Resort (where we stayed) for richly flavoured Italian dishes.

Every night, the ocean’s horizon twinkles with the lights from a hundred fishing boats, catching cuttlefish by night (and tuna by day, we are told).

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It was very easy to organise a snorkelling trip to Pigeon Island, leaving from the beach right outside our resort. We managed to get it for 5000SLR for both of us, although the normal asking price seems to be 3000+ per person. Pigeon Island is a national park, and costs 2000SLR to enter, and on top of that you need to pay boat fees, equipment, and a guide if you want to snorkel both sides of the island. So it adds up quickly. It’s always better booking with a group of course, as that splits costs. But I guess we just got lucky.

So we set off bright and early, with a handful of strangers, and chugged along until we reached the island. The beach is white with washed up coral and tinkles in the wind.


One side of the island is sheltered, and here we could explore the reef at our lesuire. The coral itself is mainly dead unfortunately, brown and yellow, with just the occasional bright flash of red or violet. But the fish are truely fantastic to see and the waters are clear and calm. Even weaker swimmers seem able here to snorkel with the aids of floats and a confident swimmer to guide and help them.

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On the other side of the island, the sea feels much rougher, and the waves are choppy, making it difficult to even snorkel at all at times. Plus, the coral is closer to the surface, giving you much less room to swim without dragging yourself on the sharp reef. I think it is strongly advised or maybe even mandatory that you have a guide for this, as the currents can be strong and disorientating too.

But it is this side of the island  where you have the best chance of seeing black tipped reef sharks. We managed to see four, always off skulking ahead of us, lurking in the gloom of the water, but so exciting. They are only about a metre and half at biggest probably, but seem much bigger than you expect in the water!


Back in Uppeveli, Rich and I took a walk along the beach one afternoon, heading north. We cross a river, wading waist deep, scramble up some rocks, and scoot around the corner, and suddenly we are a world away from the touristy resorts we have left behind, and instead, are face to face with a more authentic Sri Lanka.

First, we are met by the most bright and colourful Hindu temple, complete with cows lazing outside. The village itself spreads behind, school children giggle at gates, men in sarongs wobble on bicycles, and women wash in the sea, while fishermen are preparing the boats for sunset, strapping lanterns to the masts, or fixing their nets with deft fingers.
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Now we travel on by bus to the ancient city of Anaradhapura.

Hope you’re all well.

Stay breezey 🐠

Roo xx

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