Diving Sri lanka: So much choice!
Make sure you plan your trip according to the correct season if you’re looking to go scuba diving in Sri Lanka. There are two seasons each lasting 5 months, one on the West and South coast and one on the East and North coast. The best time for diving on the West and South coast is between November and April, whilst the diving season on the East and North coast is between May and October. Trincomalee lies on the East coast and there are some great dive sites as well as the nearby national park around Pigeon Island, which is only a short boat ride away. If you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of a dolphins pod or some blue whales!
On the East coast there are good diving opportunities at Hikkaduwa, and on the South coast, head to Unawatuna. Unawtuna was one of our favorite places to stay in Sri Lanka with pristine beaches, no resorts and a real bohemian vibe (hence why it was voted as ‘Best Beach’ by the Discovery Channel and The Rough Guide). Hikkaduwa is much larger and is currently being re-built. The 2004 Tsunami knocked down many of the ugly, high rise resorts allowing new businesses to come in and build more attractive properties and hotels. There’s no focal point to this town as everything is based either side of one long stretch of road. There are a couple of good hang out spots such as ‘Top Secret’ and ‘Mambos’.
There are plenty of wrecks dives off the coast of Unawatuna and some large patches of rocky reef (which mainly consisted of jellyfish when we visited!). Hikkaduwa is supposed to have some nice coral reefs containing more marine life for you to enjoy.
Unfortunately, the diving wasn’t up to scratch when we visited Sri Lanka in October. We had hoped to dive in Trincomalee but after contacting a local dive centre, we were told the season was finishing (visibility was only 3 metres!) and they were moving their dive school to the South coast for the next six months.
After spending some time in the South of Sri Lanka, we headed to Submarine Diving School in Unawatuna, because we were desperate to add Sri Lanka to our dive log. The divemaster told us conditions were choppy and visibility was poor above 10 metres, but it had improved below 10 metres because the silt had begun to settle. This was good enough for us, so we booked in a dive for the following day.
Leaving the tranquil sunny bay of Unawatuna was a world apart from the ocean we entered. Passing two huge rocks either side of the entrance to the bay felt like we were entering into the devils mouth. I noticed our divemaster prayed towards the giant Buddha on the cliff tops and I seriously questioned whether I should join in. The sea was really choppy, and it started to rain. It felt like we’d somehow ended up in the North Sea! After back-rolling into the sea, we were bashed hard against the boat several times. At this point, we had a serious word with each other, pulled our shit together and started to descend. Visibilty was zero initially. Filled with a growing sense of doubt about our decision to go diving we continued to descend, eventually getting into clearer waters (around 8m visibility). It was still murky and there wasn’t a lot to see other than a big rock and plenty of small jellyfish (at one point I could have sworn we’d entered a conveyor belt of the little buggers!)
So our experience wasn’t the best, but don’t let this deter you. We’ve heard amazing things about diving Sri Lanka on both coasts and the country is to die for (check out our post HERE).
Do you have any experience diving Sri Lanka? Let us know below!
Water Temp: 28 c
Sites: 23 on the West/Unsure on the East
Overall Rating: 3/5
Recommended Dive Shop: Submarine Dive School, Unawatuna
Summary: “There’s a great range of diving in several spots around this beautiful island just make sure you go in the correct season!”