Im a woman of my word and here you have it folks! After 3 Discover Dives, 2 in Unawatuna and 1 in Kalpitiya, I finally got my PADI Open Water Scuba Diving License! Watch out fishies, there’s a new mermaid in town! Scuba diving in Sri Lanka is by far, one of the most thrilling adventures. There’s a whole new world out there!
I wrote briefly about Kalpitiya during my first discover dive in Kalpitiya in 2021.
The last 3 years in Sri Lanka were terrible – Easter Attacks followed by 2 years of lockdowns amidst a global pandemic, the island and its smaller communities suffer(ed) greatly. Kalpitiya was no exception.
Kalpitiya and its Seasons
Tourists often visit the town for 3 reasons – diving, dolphin watching and kite surfing.
Diving and Dolphin watching occur between December to April where the sea is calm and gentle. While the months of May – October/November attracts the kitesurfing community, where strong winds are the only thing you need to propel yourself from one end to the other of the lagoon.
So if you’re thinking of scuba diving in Sri Lanka – plan accordingly. The west and south coast is great during December to April for diving. But if you’re visiting during the months of May to November – head to the east coast for some amazing dive spots.
Where to eat in Kalpitiya
Except for fried rice and fried noodles, we couldn’t find much to eat in the ghostly town. Most restaurants were closed due to a low number of travellers. However, we did find a small home/restaurant called Roshell’s, next to Ocean View Beach Resort – our accommodation in Kalpitiya for 2 nights. They had quite a few items on their menu and were happy to prepare what we wanted, including delicious pol roti and chicken curry!
On our last night at Kalpitiya Chalets by Thilanka, we had quite the delicious feast. Traditional Sri Lankan breakfast with kirbath, roti and delicious chicken curry and for dinner, a lovely crumb fried fish with soup and salad.
Scuba Diving Theory + Exam
Before we arrived in Kalpitiya, we sat down and did our theory. Five incredibly detailed and comprehensive sections on diving skills, important tips, gear information and more, with exams at the end of each section and a final exam at the end. Once we got through all of that, we headed off to Kalpitiya that weekend for our practical lessons!
Our theory wasn’t over yet, as we had to watch a 3 hour long video, basically a refresher of our theory lesson – all five sections played out in video. Battling drowsiness after a 4 hour drive with only a coffee, we powered through! By the end of the day, Sam briefed us on the following days activities – Skills Training in the pool!
Pool Dives and Skills Training
Almost everything you learned in theory, gets practiced here. After swimming two laps as the initiation to display your swimming capabilities and fitness levels, we got down to skills training. We learnt how to wear and check our equipment, how to breathe, to be neutral and negatively buoyant, emergency ascension drills, tired diver tows, how to remove our gear and put it back on, how to remove our masks and regulators and put them back on – all underwater!
Scuba Dive Day 1
I was a jar of butterflies and moths on the morning of my first dive. We were briefed on our dive sites – two dives, back to back, with an hour interval on the boat to rest and allow the nitrogen to leave our lovely bodies. Failure to do this can result in decompression sickness.
During our first two dives, Sam took us through our skills again, demonstrating what he was going to test us on before we did the same. I.e. He would take his regulator off first, use one of the learnt skills to retrieve it, purge the water out and continue breathing as normal, we had to do the same.
After testing some skills, we explored the world beneath the surface – and what an adventure it was! We saw puffer fish, moray eels, clown fish, stunning anemone and corals and so much more.
Trying to stabalise your buoyancy while trying your best not to hit or touch any coral was probably was one of the harder things to get under control. I was deadly afraid of accidentally touching coral -cause the oils from your hands or fin damage can break or completely destroy that coral – and there was no way in hell I was going to be solely responsible for that, even if it meant, occasionally drifting towards the surface, which I did a few times! For you non divers, this isn’t really a good thing, cause you’re risking equalizing and decompression sickness. Moving on…
After two dives, I was exhausted and starving. We got back to the dive center around 3pm – tired, sunburnt, hungry, and with flippercuts on both my legs. I wasn’t feeling entirely motivated for Dive Day 2 with two more back to back dives in store.
Rest and Recharge
We headed back to Ocean View, and relaxed and rested the entire day. Our main goal for the rest of the day was to look for a place to eat – after 3 meals of fried rice, we were dying for something different.. I resisted the urge to sleep because I didn’t want to be awake through the night and risk being tired the next morning – we had to start Day Two by 7am, so I needed a full night’s sleep.
By 7pm it started to rain and that only meant that the seas were going to be rough! Day 2 was looking less exciting. We drove into town and managed to find a delicious kottu from a local market so yay.
Scuba Dive Day 2
Gloomy skies and cold winds greeted us in the morning, Ugh! I was dreading the cold water but did my best to shake it off! For the first time ever, I found myself yearning for the sun. With a desperate attempt to shoo away the gloomy skies, I sang my ‘Oh Mr Sun, Sun, Mr Golden Sun, please shine down on me’ song. Luckily enough, there was no rain the entire day until we headed back to the center! So the song worked!
To combat my flipper cuts, I wore diving boots and open flippers, which protected my open wounds. But the salt water and friction between the dive boot stung quite a bit. But Battle On, Gillian!
Sam tested more skills during our last two dives. We practiced CESA (Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent) and on the surface skills like tired diver tows and more. By our last dive, we were confident and independent to swim by ourselves – as a group of 4 . I was comfortable with my equipment and had better control of my buoyancy, which allowed me to explore easily without worrying about my flippers touching corals and destroying marine life in the process! Woop! This little diver was as happy as a clam – which we saw quite a bit of too!
What did we see on our third and fourth dives?
Thanks to the lovely rains, there was a lot of current and waves. The last dive was exhausting, as we had to swim against the current for almost an hour before riding the current on our way back to the boat. By 3pm, we were making our way back to the dive centre – again exhausted and hungry.
After a hearty lunch and a bit of relaxing, we filled our divers log books for the first time (digital and print), and were officially certified! *pops champagne*
We’re certified divers!
Our Hotels in Kalpitiya
We stayed at Ocean View Beach Resort for the first 2 nights – an airconditioned beach cabana with a small toilet for LKR5,500.
On our last night in Kalpitiya, after we got our scuba diving certification, we checked into Kalpitiya Chalets by Thilanka for a little bit of luxury after roughing it out for the previous two days was a welcome treat.
The staff, manager and owner in particular were exceptionally courteous, welcoming and hospitable. The food was delicious – especially after 4 fried rice meals!
Kalpitiya Dutch Fort
In short, this historic fort is nothing like the Galle Fort. Controlled by the Sri Lankan Navy, you enter through a small gate, where a guard shows you around the ramparts.
You’re not allowed to explore the rest of the fort or take pictures, because its controlled by the Navy. What we saw inside the fort shocked us! The grounds were a complete mess! We later found out there was a Naval event the previous night, but there was so many beer cans, paper plates, food remains, etc strewn all across the ramparts. There are some whale and dolphin skeletons displayed near one of the bastions, which you can see. So that sucked! All in all, we were quite displeased after a visit to the Kalpitiya Dutch Fort.
That’s all folks! Until my next dive!
Imperfect Traveller; Certified Diver and Mermaid.