Salty beach bums in Sri Lanka

by backpackingbongos

The time had come after being wedged into my seat for six hours.  The slackening of the face, the jerking forward of the head and the drool on the chin.  I finally fell asleep.  Unfortunately almost as soon as this minor miracle happened the airplane cabin lights came on and a steward ceremoniously woke me up and presented me with curry for breakfast.  It was 3.30am.  Sadly the economy class ordeal still had another six hours to run.

I find arriving far from home after a long haul flight satisfyingly bewildering.  We just about managed to keep our wits about us whilst replacing familiar money to that with many digits.  We then stepped outside into a tropical world.  The cold and monochrome of the UK was replaced by heat, humidity and vivid brightness.  My jeans immediately felt like they were made of asbestos.  Thankfully our taxi had aircon to cool our nerves as we set off towards Colombo with a blaring of horns.

I should point out that Sri Lanka features quite prominently in the world’s top ten number of road fatalities.  Our guidebook was pretty keen to point out that if anything bad happened whilst in the country, it was likely to involve being squashed by a bus.  The road was in good condition, most of the cars are pretty flash, but the standard of driving on display was to be frank rather appalling.  The journey to Mount Lavinia was like being in a real life version of wacky races.

Mount Lavinia is a suburb of the capital Colombo, with its beach it was a perfect place to hole up for a couple of days to kick off the jet lag.  Our guesthouse was like something from a really posh architecture magazine.  We had a wonderful colonial style room bigger than a badminton court, dominated by a giant four-poster bed.  Our balcony opened out with views of the garden below.

Throughout our stay I kept expecting the manager to appear telling us there had been a mistake and we would be kicked out.  It was far more lovely than anything I have ever stayed in and all for the price of a Travel lodge in the UK.  Thankfully the rest of our accommodation during the two weeks was of an equally high standard.

As this is a backpacking and hiking blog I won’t go into great detail about the rest of the trip.  Sitting on a beach and then deciding on which restaurant to eat curry and drink beer does not make for particularly interesting reading.  Here are a few photos that give a general flavour of the island instead.

Unawatuna is considered to be the most popular beach for independent travellers.  Usually the sea in Sri Lanka is too rough for swimming with strong currents.  However here there is a crescent-shaped bay meaning the warm waters are safe.  It is still far from being a tropical paradise due to the huge amount of accommodation jammed right up to the beach front.  However it was pretty chilled and with excellent restaurants a good place to while away a few days.

In Sri Lanka you are never very far away from one of the street dogs.  There were many heartbreaking sights, although this one sheltering on the beach looked happy and healthy enough.

The city of Galle is a good place to escape the beaches.  The old fort area being a particularly chilled place to amble about and take in some colonial architecture.

Watch what they put in the soft drinks………….

My favourite place we visited was Marakolliya, an isolated beach in the far south of the country.  Access off the main road was along several kilometres of dirt road until we came to a parking area.  Previously a rudimentary ferry took you across the mangrove swamps but this has just been replaced by a wooden footbridge.  A handful of cabanas hidden among the coconut groves and a small restaurant is all that there is.  Now this is tropical paradise!

As you can see, even the restaurant was pretty low-key.

The completely deserted beach.

Minimal beachfront development.

Unfortunately the sea was too rough to swim in apart from a small rock pool.  Upon arrival we were told that under no circumstances should we go in the sea.  Some of those breakers were massive!

Behind the beach was a network of lagoons lined with mangroves.

The only light for miles at night.

The back of our cabana opened out directly onto the lagoon.  One morning this monitor lizard was right outside our door.

Several kayaks were supplied for guests to use, I spent many happy hours slowly paddling.  Whilst watching the numerous colourful birds I spent a lot of time worrying if there were crocodiles about.  I did see one huge monitor lizard slide into the water which got my heart beating.

As a break from the beaches we spent three nights at a guest house located on a cinnamon plantation.  We were the only guests which made for a strange atmosphere as the place had a large amount of staff.  Everywhere you went they were lurking in the shadows ready to be of assistance.  The made to order curries in the evening were simply divine.  I can highly recommend garlic curry if you ever go to Sri Lanka!

A few minutes walk from our guest house was a villa which is available to rent for $850 a night.  It was empty so we were able to avail ourselves of the facilities for free, which I have to say were rather top-notch.  Somehow it felt wrong sitting in loungers next to a pool we had all to ourselves!

The dirt track through the cinnamon plantations to our guesthouse.

Views across the lush landscape.

One evening as the full moon rose the air was filled with music and chanting from the temples below.

We were then treated to an amazing natural light show.

I noticed that the courtyard walls of our guesthouse was covered in these perfectly camouflaged spiders.

Late one night I have to admit that I had to request assistance from one of the ‘house boys’ to remove a spider from our room.  Seriously it was one big spider!

We spent our last night at Negombo which is a very shabby beach resort to the north of Colombo, a short journey from the airport.  This was the only place we visited that had a real Sri Lankan flavour.  Being Saturday the beach was packed with locals who had come from the city to enjoy the sunset.  A fine end to a very chilled fortnight.

It was fun watching these lads watching two young and pretty tourists in their swimwear!


20 Comments to “Salty beach bums in Sri Lanka”

  1. Looks absolutely heavenly James. We don’t do tropical beachy stuff much these days – the last time was actually Christmas 2003 – but looking at those photos just makes me want to fly off somewhere hot with my swimming cozzy…

    • It was rather special Chrissie. I have to admit that I am not much of a beach bum myself but I really enjoyed it this time round. Two weeks of doing nothing in little more than my pants was rather nice.

  2. Those spiders cannot possibly be insects. They are animals. And as for those monitor lizards…. *shiver*

    We went for walks on La Digue where the huge spiders used to build their massive webs right across the pathways. These animals were 8″ from front to back and about 5″ wide.

    Then there were the cock roaches that fought back…

    Looks like you had a wonderful time. 🙂

    I *like* England!

    • Have you noticed that in the ‘larger’ spider picture its eyes have reflected the flash? It really was a big beastie! At least in the UK we only have to fear ticks and midgies……

  3. looks fantastic…that said, I’m a bit wary of going anywhere the insects are more likely to stamp on you, rather than the other way round…great pics.

  4. Bloody Nora! Out of the loop for a couple of weeks and then there’s cameras, wind farms, whales’ tails, salty bottoms and humungous spiders – aaaggghhh! I seen big buggers like that in Indonesia amongst other places, scary as fuck. I wish Mr Sloman would call the relevant beasties cockroaches rather than cock roaches – conjures an alarming and unpleasant image.

    I like a man who buys a camera when he gets back from his hols, good work. i trust you’re suitably relaxed and restored in anticipation of your impending forties?

    • Been anywhere nice young sir? I have to admit that I did not notice Alan’s Cock roach, so now my mind is full of unwelcome images……

      I had completely forgotten that number forty is approaching very soon.

  5. Everything about your trip looks like pure paradise except for the spiders. Those things alone would be enough to keep me away… that would not be restful for me in any way. :S BUT I get to come live in Edinburgh in the fall! Ticks and midges sound – not fun – but manageable.

    • It’s a lovely Island, I highly recommend a visit. Nice one on moving to Edinburgh, it is a great city and you will have the Scottish Highlands only a couple of hours away. Just remember that the fall will become autumn when you are over there!

  6. You are very lucky to get to visit somewhere so different like this…not sure about spiders and crocs….but the rest of your holiday looks amazing. Thanks for sharing it with us… are giving me that wanderlust kind of feeling.

    • Thanks Karen, I have to admit that I constantly get that wanderlust feeling, an itch that has to be scratched every now and then.

  7. Wow looks beautiful except for the spiders. I would love to visit someday. I bet though the poverty is disturbing.

    • I have to admit that povery was not something that we came across much on this two week trip. We were generally out of the cities and in ‘touristy’ areas so we probably got a different perspective on what the country is really like. Although after spending a lot of time in India we did get the feeling that Sri Lanka does not have the poverty on such a huge scale.

    • I agree, too many places to visit and not enough time (or money)!

  8. It looks a great place to chill for a while and I don’t even mind the spiders – as long as they keep off me. However, I would feel frustrated about being surrounded by warm water and to able to swim in it. As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, I’m drawn to the sea and almost feel *compelled* to jump in if it’s barely above freezing.

    • Sheila it is very frustrating being next to that lovely warm sea and not being able to swim in it. It is not so much the size of the waves but the power of those breakers as they hit close to shore. Some of the undercurrents are meant to be pretty ferocious too.

  9. Fabulous trip, been to Colombo airport on my way home from the Maldives but love to do a proper tour of the island and take in the beaches, the history and the culture.

    That is until I saw that spider – bloody hell!

    I have to get Jane to remove even the moderate UK ones – I’m all glasses and bits of paper. Spiders are W-R-O-N-G!

    I’ve seen a few Roaches in my time but never down there…..

    • We did stop briefly in the Maldives on the way out Andy but only got to see the runway from the airplane window!

      I really don’t mind spiders to be honest but the spider in the bedroom was too large even for this boy to deal with………..

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