Diving in Sri Lanka | All You Need to Know

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Sri Lanka’s reputation as a diving destination is slowly but surely picking up. While nearby destinations of Maldives and Indonesia are more popular, our island’s secluded beaches and waters teeming with marine life attract only a handful of keen divers. What does that mean for the divers diving in Sri Lanka? Smaller dive groups, more frequent dives, better coral and marine life and not to mention being one of the only few in one particular dive site on a given day.

Best time to dive in Sri Lanka

The best part of our little island is that no matter what time of the year you visit, you’ll be able to dive. There are two main seasons for diving in Sri Lanka, primarily due to the monsoon seasons which affect either side of the island at different points in the year. Between the months of December to April, the south and west coasts are perfect for diving, while in the months from May to October/November, the east coast should be on your diving list.

Diving in the south

The south coast of Sri Lanka is absolutely stunning for all kinds of reasons. It is home to travellers with all kinds of interests, mainly, yogis, surfers and beach lovers. However, there are tons of historical attractions like the beautiful Galle Fort, and cultural aspects from temples like the Japanese Peace Pagoda, the best beaches, spots for snorkelling, beach parties, etc. The south is also easily accessible (at least for someone who uses public transport) and is much closer to Colombo city (located on the west coast).

Popular towns for diving: Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa, Weligama and Mirissa.

When to dive on the south coast: December to April

Diving in the west

The west and north-west coasts of Sri Lanka are beautiful in its own rights. If you’re strapped for time or need to fit in a quick dive, Colombo and Negombo are scattered with shipwrecks! So much so that it has made me a wreck-lover! Colombo itself has 20+ wrecks that are simply beautiful. Further up the west coast, you’ll find Kalpitiya that’s home to an almost-dying protected Bar Reef. However, it’s not short of other dive sites where the local community and divers have invested in coral planting in a bid to encourage marine life and regrow the corals here. Kalpitiya’s waters are also very calm and gentle and great for getting certified (it’s where I got mine!) It’s also one of the best places for dolphin watching!

Popular towns for diving: Colombo, Negombo, Kalpitiya.

When to dive on the west coast: December to April.

Diving in the east

Two names that have earned a place in the hearts of all beach lovers, Trincomalee and its neighbouring town of Nilaveli. An approx 5-6 hour drive from Colombo, you’ll find yourself in sparkling blue waters teeming with corals and marine life. Nilaveli and Pigeon Island National Park are great for snorkelling. If you’re swimming/snorkelling near the reef, you’ll meet quite a few blacktip/whitetip reef sharks and sea turtles in Nilaveli. Trincomalee is known for a few dive sites and the iconic underwater navy museum with large statues, canon guns and sunken ships. Shipwreck lovers, I implore you to dive this WW2 shipwreck, SS British Sergeant in Pasikudah.

Popular towns for diving: Nilaveli and Trincomalee.

When to dive on the east coast: May to October/November.

Are there liveaboards?

Fortunately or unfortunately, there are no liveaboards in Sri Lanka. The island is smaller and the distance between the dive sites is smaller still. It’s easier to book an onshore accommodation near your dive center, head out for dives when you want to, and explore the nearby attractions or simply sit on the beach all day.

EDIT: Serendib Scuba is a new kid on the block combining the best of luxury and diving from their sleek yachts.

How to get around the island?

Public transport is super easy to get used to here.

By Train: Train rides are fun and scenic especially since the south railtrack runs parallel to the beach for most part, but it can be slow and get crowded quite fast. They’re also more prone to delays. Trains generally don’t run so late, but its best to check the train timetable when making arrangements.

By Bus: There are AC and non-AC buses zooming to all parts of the island till evening. Buses can get you to your destination faster, and if you miss one – there’ll be another shortly after.

By Car: Alternatively, taxis and private vehicles are obviously easier, faster and will suit your travel plans better.

Is it safe to travel by public transport?

Yes, so long as you keep your wits about you. Travelling as a solo-female traveller is also safe, as long as you practice basic safety techniques like you would when travelling around alone in other countries. I once took a night bus from Colombo to Trinco by myself, in the height of the fuel crisis – and felt pretty safe.

bus to trinco

Got more questions? Get in touch, easily DM me on Instagram.

Yours truly,

Imperfect Traveller / Mermaid

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