After doing some research about Sri Lanka’s south, we decided just to take the plunge and see for ourselves… You can read blogs and articles and reviews, but at the end of the day, everyone’s opinion is different and sometimes you just can’t beat trying it out for yourself. So we jumped into a taxi and headed down to Kataragama on the outskirts of Yala National Park. Yala is supposed to have the highest density of wild Leopards in Sri Lanka and so has the highest chance of spotting one.
Once again on the road we encountered wild Elephants, however, this time they weren’t hiding in the bushes at the side… literally in the middle of the road! We ended up having to wait a while before slowly squeezing past. I guess the elephants must be used to it!
We arrived at our accommodation at lunch time and after a quick vegetable roti pit stop we asked our guest house owner to help us arrange a jeep safari. The jeep felt like 5-star luxury compared to the previous beat-up jeep we’d had in Sigiriya, but the roads were just as bumpy and after 5 hours in the jeep we were glad we hadn’t signed up for a full day!
Luckily though, the wildlife and scenery made up for it – we saw buffalo, deer, boar, peacocks, hares, elephants, leaf monkeys, crocodiles and countless fancy-looking birds, but unfortunately, no leopards 😦 Our jeep driver asked a few other drivers and it seemed not many people had been lucky this day.
Another great benefit of doing an afternoon drive was to avoid the other jeeps, and it was only towards dusk when we were leaving the park that we stumbled upon other jeeps, and wow, there were a lot. I think being on a separate timetable to the full day tours which start at 5am, meant we managed to completely avoid them during our trip, which felt a bit more special.
In the morning we saw how beautiful our accommodation was, little safari huts which were newly built right on the outskirts of the park away from Kataragama, we saw lots of bids and chipmunks here, and the owner made us a delicious carob smoothie from the carob trees surrounding the huts.
We decided to take another bus from Kataragama out towards Dikwella beach. There are hundreds of beaches along the South coast of Sri Lanka, so I chose one fairly central with the plan to find a motorbike to rent and explore the region from there.
After yet another incredibly crazy bus journey, we arrived to check in to a brand new place – in fact, we were the first to stay there! Beta’s place was lovely, on the main highway through Dikwella above Beta’s shop and 3 minutes walk to Dikwella beach. Because the place was new, we got a luxury room with power rain shower, amazing A/C and the most comfortable bed we had for a ridiculously low price!
There were also lots of little local cafes all around the accommodation serving traditional rice and curry all day long. We actually much prefer these places to the restaurants we generally went to in the evenings. The food was far spicier, especially the soy-protein curries they sold here, so spicy, but incredibly delicious. We found them to be very hospitable too, as we tried to fit in and follow the local’s lead with what to do – getting your own plate, rinsing it, drying it, covering it with some saran wrap, and filling it high with spicy curries and using your hands – making sure to mix it together of course! 🙂
We ventured out to Dikwella beach, which was so peaceful and beautiful, but I had planted the ‘surfing’ seed in Pete’s head and he was desperate to try it, so we walked over to Hiriketiya beach which has a busy surf scene. The waves were perfect for a beginner here and the boards were £1 for 1 hour! Pete got on it immediately, just rented a board, watched a single YouTube video on ‘how to surf’ and gave it a go… One hour later, he had managed to catch 3 waves successfully! Very proud!
That evening we got chatting to a British/Canadian couple which turning into a few cocktails and beers. Unfortunately, Pete was a little worse for wear the next day, so I spent the day chilling and snoozing on the beach again before he joined me for another little surf and food.
The following day, Pete was finally well enough to rent a bike, we looked around for one but struggled to find one, so asked Beta to help us. He offered us his bike first, but when he realised we’d be out all day, he got a friend to drop his off instead. We drove over to Matara and then Mirissa to have a look at some whale watching tours, but we made the decision to give this a miss. Mirissa was nice, but a lot more commercial than Dikwella or Hiriketiya. On the way back we stopped at Talalla beach which was also stunning, but once again the draw of surfing had us crawling back to Hiriketiya…
I tried it this time and got my own board to do it with Pete, it was fun, but I was conscious of my recently repaired knee. I almost stood up once, and a couple of times I made it to my knees. I think next year when I’ve completed my physio I might have a better chance 🙂
As I said, there are so many beaches in Sri Lanka, all of them different, from busy party beaches which are more active at night than in the day (like Mirissa) to smaller coves where you won’t see anyone else all day, and everything in between. The sea also varies, we saw some beaches with calm waters, and others with huge waves, but all the beaches we saw had one thing in common – they were absolutely stunning – I’d recommend just getting a moped and exploring. What a beautiful part of the world…