Life is almost always better underwater. Everything is peaceful, slow, calm, colourful and so many times more beautiful than on land. And for those who aren’t content with glass bottom boats and feel the urge to jump in every time they’re cresting the waves, as well as those of you who have an inner calling to be under the waves, snorkelling is perhaps the best experience on offer.
Unlike scuba diving, snorkelling offers an opportunity to be among the fish and coral without diving too deep. Of course, the joys of snorkelling rest heavily on having good equipment – because a leaky mask that collects water, a snorkel that floods or fins that are too big or small for you can transform your dream experience into a nightmare.
Sri Lanka is a haven for many things and when it comes to snorkelling, its tropical waters are among the best in the world. So dive in and enjoy your own episode of The Blue Planet, while gazing at angelfish, butterflyfish, clown fish, surgeonfish, Moorish idols and dozens more flashes of colour.
Hikkaduwa is arguably the ultimate haven for snorkelling in Sri Lanka. Blessed with a beautiful coral reef and abundant sea life (including some of the island’s famed turtles), it is a highly protected marine sanctuary. So rent your snorkelling gear from any of the equipment touting outlets nearby and jump into the water; but be mindful of the many boats that are usually bobbing about in the bay.
Snorkelling enthusiasts also love The Bar Reef in Kalpitiya, which is one of Sri Lanka’s most pristine coral reefs with an abundance of reef species – including manta rays, reef sharks and our favourite Testudines. If you’re lucky, you might even swim across some endangered dugongs that love to graze on the seagrass below.
The definitive gem in the crown of Sri Lanka’s shallow coastal waters is undoubtedly the coral around Pigeon Island off Nilaveli Beach. Feel like a mermaid lost in a world of colour, tranquillity and enchantment as you take in the wonders of ocean life.
Shallow in some places and deep in others, this surreal outcrop of coral is one of the finest in the country. Be mindful of the turtles when you kick.
Your snorkelling mask helps open your eyes to the magical sea world. And whether you’re floating around admiring the coral or braving it with free dives to the seabed, you’ll never be the same once you resurface. Only don’t think… take the plunge!
And while you may feel cool and wonderful in the water, snorkelling exposes you to the sun’s rays. Since it’s important to be mindful of those creatures that call the reef ‘home,’ use only biodegradable sunscreen. And if you can’t find any, opt for a full body wet suit – it will also protect you from any unwanted cuts from the coral.
You should know that it’s not acceptable to stand on coral no matter how tired you may be. If you need a break, float on your back for a few minutes. And no matter how tempting it may be, never touch the coral, fish or turtles – you’re in their habitat so play by their rules. In addition, do resist the temptation to feed them.
What you could do for these marine animals is to pick up any plastic you find in the ocean while you’re snorkelling and bring it back to the shore with you.
Compiled by Ruwandi Perera