Although our base in Hikkaduwa on the South West coast is amazing year-round, it's always great to head over to the East Coast, where high-season is currently in full swing. With Arugam Bay listed as one of the worlds top 10 Surf destinations, there is a great crowd, and a lively atmosphere, while not so far away, some incredible, un-developed beaches lie in wait, and you don't have to go far to spot some amazing wildlife. We made the trip last weekend, and here's a look at our journey.
We set off at around 1pm from Hikkaduwa and took the highway East. The journey took us through Lahugala National park where without even leaving the road, we had a couple of elephant encounters-one completely blocked the road for a while. At 1,554 Hectares, this is one of the smallest National Parks in Sri Lanka, but also a very important one for elephant conservation.
The journey took us about 7 hours (including the necessary food stops!) and we arrived in Arugam Bay to some friendly, familiar faces-as always-then headed to Mambo's for dinner. Located at the main point of the bay with an uninterrupted view of the beach, it's a popular spot, owned by a fellow Hikkaduwa local. Safe to say, it was a great evening!
As much as we like being in the midst of things, we were itching to get to our favourite place-which is pretty much the opposite of the bay..Reached by driving off the main road, across a dried up river bed and through a seriously bumpy jungle road (Tuk Tuks and jeeps have the advantage here..) Peanut Farm is a quiet, beautiful haven for any type of nature-loving beach bum.
Large wooden swings invite you to lie down and watch the clouds (and waves) roll by, there's a small restaurant run by a handful of friendly guys-one of whom also repairs boards on site- and a generally laid-back atmosphere. If you look along the coastline from this point, you won't see another restaurant or hotel. It's easy to loose track of time here.
We took the opportunity to go looking for wildlife, and jumped in the car to go to Kumana National Park. This is the most important bird watching site in Sri Lanka (the best time is between April-July when thousands of birds migrate here). The landscape is currently very dry but has some fantastic views.
From here we drove through to Okanda, where fishermen sat mending their nets in the pockets of shade and fish were laid out on the rocks to dry in the sun. This is another quiet but quality surf point, although this time we didn't see another soul in the water. With 2 peaks, one of which is 2-8ft, the other 2-4ft, it's worth the journey.
This is also the site of the Okanda Devalaya temple. Situated on the Kumana Panama jungle path Okanda Devalaya is believed to be the location God Skanda first sailed into Sri Lanka in a golden boat. The boat, which was turned into a rock, still stands on the Okanda beach known to all as the ‘Ran Oru Gala’.
When it was time to get out of the sun, we drove into the village to enjoy some food (any excuse for a bunch of food addicts.) Pol (coconut) rotti is particularly good here, take note! We spent some time watching the local deer-who are amazingly tame and seem to be happy hanging around-before re-tracing our route back trough the park. It was one of those days where you can't believe how much you've seen within a short space of time. In spite of being here before, it's always enjoyable.
There's always something extra to do at the end of the day here..and we took a small diversion on the way back to Peanut Farm to do some crocodile spotting. Within one short stretch of river, we saw around 20 crocodiles. This was a moment where I needed a zoom lens-I was NOT getting close-at the risk of sounding like a bragging fisherman, believe me when I say these crocs were huge.
So that's our first couple of days covered. There's more to come-surf and night fishing-so another post will follow..