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The Big Blue

Mesmerizing Marine Tourism of Sri Lanka

June Mukherjee, Mirissa, Sri Lanka, Feb 05, 2023

One of the astounding buildings in the old Porvoo is the pink town hall. Located in the he

I want to be truly clear and little blunt. Let us stop asking “Is it safe? What is the current situation?” Sri Lanka is as normal as any other country after the pandemic. So yes, travel to Sri Lanka.

The 'All in one capsule' as termed by Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Mr. Chalaka Gajabahu & Managing Director Ms. Padma Siriwardana, is now even more value for money. Yes, the country has had economic dip in recent times, and the people are still fighting a financial struggle and that is why this is the time to head to Sri Lanka. Travel in good numbers, spend affordably and support their tourism industry which is the backbone of their economy.

After the pandemic as newer travel trends are developing, the source can be identified at the realisation of the worth of life, time and fulfilment of the deep personal aspirations. Hence instead of copybook tick-mark tourism, people are opting for more niche tourism and action-based travel or hobby-based tourism where there is presence of mindful and heart full of travelling.

The Asia Pacific is blessed with the marine world experience and Sri Lanka is a country which is surrounded by it.

Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean, whose maritime environment has long been one of the most attractive settings for tourism and recreation. The concept of maritime tourism comprises all tourism activities linked to the sea and the coastline. In addition to the function of pleasure boats and sails, it allows for a wide range of adventurous activities such as water skiing, windsurfing, deep sea diving, pearl hunting, underwater fishing, scuba diving, swimming, and marine park tours.

The coastal line of the entire country is a spectacle as far as beachside activity goes. But now there is a group of tourists who are growing in numbers wanting to go deep down under and middle of the sea in search of Nemo!

The concept of Marine Tourism is relatively new though maritime transportation is one of the ancient mode of transportations found in the history. However, by Marine Tourism, the latest understanding is more of an experience beyond surface level cruising and adventurous things as mentioned above.

Recently I went for an extensive day-long whale-watching voyage in a catamaran cum yacht in the middle of Indian Ocean from Mirissa, of southern Sri Lanka. The nonstop cruising was made as comfortable as possible by the Sri Lankan crew starting from teaching how to spin the wheel to feeding us with some of the best fine-dining delicacies. It is a learning experience to see how responsible they are to keep everything clean.

As soon as our catamaran came closer to an area where there was a possibility of concentration of big whales, the crew alerted us and started screaming 'tail up, tail up' to various directions. It was a breath-taking view when the whales started swimming parallel to our small yacht and their rhythm was no short of a musical note.

Whale Safari in Mirissa is one of the most exciting activities one can do in Sri Lanka if he or she is not willing to dive in the water. In the soothing blue water of Indian Ocean of Mirissa go spotting the Big Blue Whales, Bryde´s whales, Sperm whales, Fin whales, and sometimes Killer Whales, and all sorts of Dolphins, Bluefin Tuna and Turtles. You can choose big or small Catamaran, Yacht, or common ship to sail according to your budget and time. My journey reminded me some of my favourite films like Mutiny on the Bounty and the Life of Pi.

Since my childhood, I was always very fascinated with the fishing boats sailing in the middle of the deep blue ocean in international waters. I came so close to one this time, so that we could talk to the sailors. From our yacht to the fishermen's boat, we talked, exchanged not only greetings, but also fishes, fruits, sandwiches and fresh drinking water.

The Sri Lankan coastal town of Weligama took me back to one of my favourite childhood memories of Old Spice ad, where a pro surfer used to sail through the high tides. Southern Sri Lanka is a paradise for surfing. I am in awe of the place and its global standard of surfing facilities. The professional surfing guide will teach you the basics and you can do surfing all day as much as you wish. Jumping in the Indian Ocean is another milestone crossed for me.

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Deep sea diving is now another popular trend among the sea lovers. According to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), there are around six million active scuba divers worldwide engaging in various forms of diving and Sri Lanka is one of their favourites. Diving includes exploring shipwrecks and underwater caves, observing aquatic plants and animals, as well as commercial and military diving.

The most generic form of scuba diving is recreational diving, which is usually experienced at depths of less than 39 metres where divers can make a straight ascent to the surface. In general, they seek locations where the water is clear, temperatures are warm and marine life is at plenty.
Divers often choose to visit areas with coral reefs because they are colourful and dense with life, and provide shelter for a variety of fishes. Wrecks and reefs draw the attention of divers who intend to immerse themselves in this unique underwater experience.

The popularisation of scuba diving following World War II had an impact on Sri Lanka when Sir Arthur C. Clarke and Mike Wilson (later Swami Siva Kalki) visited the island after their successful expedition to the Great Barrier Reef. They came here to write ‘The Reefs of Taprobane: Underwater Adventures Around Ceylon.’ The authors were joined by Sri Lanka’s top scuba diver, underwater explorer and marine biologist, the late Rodney Jonklaas.

Tourism linked to studying maritime archaeology is a major area. Shipwrecks have been a fascinating subject for a variety of reasons. The study of archaeology, marine-life and treasure hunts are the most popular among them. A ship at the bottom of the ocean is a time capsule, as history stands still in a sunken vessel. In 1964, Clarke and Wilson discovered a 17th Century wreck of a Dutch vessel with a cargo of silver coins and bronze canon. The authorities promptly designated the site an archaeological reserve. The discovery of this genuine treasure ship marked the advent of Sri Lanka’s maritime archaeology.

Around one hundred wrecked ships lie at the bottom of the sea around Sri Lanka.
Several decades ago, Jonklaas made headlines with his sensational discovery off Elephant Island in Trincomalee, which he described as a British warship that was well over 200 years old.

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