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Snorkeling Pigeon Island, Nilaveli

sunny 30 °C

Our plan was to visit Nilaveli yesterday, but when we woke it was overcast and rain threatened so it was an easy call to give it a miss. Instead we went for a walk along the main road of Uppuveli and called into a local place for a breakfast that consisted of rotis, vegetable curry and dried chilli. We also shared a platter of 'shorties' eating a few dahl wadi's (deep fried dahl patties with chilli and onion) and vegetable roti's (curried potato and other veg sealed in a folded roti) Washed down with two bottles of fizzy drink it came to the grand total of Rs395 or just under £2. We still struggle to believe how much food you can get for the money, especially when the local food is so good.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, we had a few beers on the beach but mainly relaxed outside our room. Coincidentally we were approached by a man who works at our hotel if we fancied joining a trip to Pigeon Island the following day for £15 each. We thought about it for a while before deciding to go ahead. When visiting Pigeon Island National Park, you have to pay a national park fee, boat fee, snorkeling equipment fee and then the transprot to Nilaveli. £15 each, hassle free, all in seemed more than reasonable.

The only slight negative for us was the 8.30am pick up. A 7am start to eat breakfast hurt, as we have become real lazy over the last week or so. Even so we were sat on the beach fed and watered waiting for the boatman to come collect us. We waited twenty minutes until we asked our guesthouse to get in contact with the guy. Turns out he was just from a hotel further up the beach so he quickly appeared and took us that hotel. Here we sat around for a while not quite knowing what was going off. We knew we were going with another two people but noone was around. We were fitted with fins, snorkel and mask and told to wait. Then a couple appeared and nonchalantly went to eat breakfast, we assumed these were not coming with us. We were wrong, we waited another half hour for them to eat and then go collect there stuff before joining us. We (especially Chelsea, who has got particularly foul mouthed since we left the UK) were pretty fed up of waiting by this point.

Never the less, we joined up with them and got collected by one tuk tuk. This did not fit all four of us and our bags and equipment so one of us pulled the short straw (Liam) and had to go back on the guides motorbike. Unlike South East Asia, Sri Lankans like decent motorbikes. The guide had a serious Yamaha sports bike that was not really designed for two people but had two seats. Liam is a nervous passenger in a car, he likes to be in control, on a bike he is terrible. He told the guy to go slow which he seemed to pretty much ignore, especially if it was treacherous. Being a passenger on a bike is bad enough, when you have to dodge, tuk-tuks, people, carts pulled by cows, other cows just crossing the road, dogs, one hundred and fifty year old men on push bikes carrying all there possessions and buses it becomes a nightmare. Luckily Liam arrived in one piece.

We were dropped off in a very nice hotel which sits directly on Nilaveli beach. The beach is huge, and is made up of clean white sand.


We had another wait for the boat to take us to island to be attached to the motor that powered it. Pigeon Island is around 1km off shore, we could see it from the beach. It is called Pigeon Island due to the Rock Pigeons that nest there. From Nilaveli we could see two hills, and beach, separated from us by a rough sea. Once the boat was set up we had to help hurl it into the sea and then could finally climb aboard to be on our way. Off shore the water was quite rough, big waves made us leave our seats as we crashed through them. However once past half way, the closer to the island we got the calmer it became.


With a huge pull we moored the boat on the island. The coastal water was incredibly clear. When we approached shore our guide said 'Look shark, waiting for us' we thought he was pulling our leg, but stood on the coast we could see baby black tip reef sharks, only around 18 inch in length circling. We quickly became excited. We had been diving half a dozen times and not seen a shark, now we were watching them 3 feet away from dry land.

Pigeon Island is a beautiful, small island. A small white beach, peppered in old coral, is surrounded by greenery, It is extremely quiet and peaceful,



It was getting hot by now so we were eager to get in the water. Only one of other two was snorkeling so we had a quick chat and geared up. The current was stronger than in the proper season, but the visibility was excellent. It was better than any diving we had done. There were immediately tonnes of fish. We saw huge green parrotfish, bannerfish, angelfish, and triggerfish to name a few. The coral was extensive, the only problem was in some dense areas there was only a foot or less of water over the coral- this made it hard to swim across without disturbing or catching, and we both have a few scrapes on our hands and knees.

This did not take away from the experience though. Chelsea was lucky enough to see an either bigger black tip reef shark swimming about. Not quite an adult but more than double the size of the smaller ones. Liam missed it as he was at the back of the group it and left by the time he got there. The highlight though without a doubt came a few minutes later.

Our guide led us out Chelsea in front Liam behind. Suddenly he stopped and pointed, then grabbed Liam and dragged him forward. In front of us a large adult Green Turtle, minding its own business, grazing and swimming. We were only a few feet away and it was not bothered, we allowed it to swim off as to not disturb it, you could have seen Chelsea's smile from shore.

We had a break not long after that, Liam spent the time just off shore in the shallows, watching the small sharks swim around him and take bites at smaller fish. At one point he was within touching distance when Chelsea thought it would be hilarious to grab his leg. He practically jumped out of his skin and the shark darted.

Our second time in the water was just as good. We were told by our guide a 3 metre reef shark is resident to the island, unfortunately we did not get to see that. Instead we carried on over the coral admiring the fish. We took a different route the second time that took us to a rock around thirty metres of the shore. Liam lingered watching the fish, then he noticed something glimmering in the light that the fish were attracted to. He approached it and was greeted by a huge eye and head that quickly squirmed into the rock. It was an octopus, around 3 feet in length, and bright red. He called the rest of the group over, and we all waited for it to pop its head out once more.

That was the last thing we saw, the time had flown by and we were back in the boat to take us back to the mainland. We had loved every second of it. We had seen way more than we thought we would have. The turtle was an absolute highlight as were the sharks and octopus. We had a wait at Nilaveli before heading back. We shared a beer, more for Liam's sake so he cope with the motorbike ride back.

After speak to our guide it seems we could possibly be the last tour of the season to Pigeon Island. We were incredibly lucky. All the waiting at the start was well worth it. We only wish we were able to take photos underwater.

Posted by Chelsandliam 04:25 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka trincomolee Comments (3)

Exploring the East

Trincomolee and Uppuveli

sunny 32 °C

Leaving Anuradhapura a few days ago was more complicated that we thought it would be. There are some major roadworks on the Auradhapura - Trincomolee road, meaning that the direct bus currently no longer runs. Thankfully there was a helpful man at the bus station who told us that we could still get there by changing at a town called Horowupotana. Judging by the amount of looks we got when we climbed aboard the bus, it is not a town that see many visitors. It took around 2 and half hours to travel the 60km or so to the town, which is roughly half way to Trincomolee. The other passengers were very much intrigued, especially the kids, some waved and some looked until you looked back and then hid away out of sight.

Once we arrived at Horowupotana we needed help of yet another man. He was also going to Trincomolee and could tell by our vacant faces when we were dropped off in the middle of the town, that we had no idea where to go to get the next bus. He led us to the bus stop, chatting to us, asking us the usual questions, and when the bus arrived he even got us a couple of seats. It was another 2 and a half hours to Trincomolee, primarily due to the roadworks and we were exhausted by the time we arrived. We did not even bother to haggle with the tuk tuk driver that took us to our hotel we were so impatient to get there.

Uppuveli is 6km out of Trincomolee and it is where we have decided to base our selves. It is the middle town of three, Trincomolee, Uppuveli and Nilaveli, which is a further 6km on. We are staying in a very nice hotel called Coconut Beach Lodge and the whole area is very peaceful and quiet. There are only a dozen or so people staying up and down the beach, as we are out of season, some places are even shut until next year. Our room has a proper mattress and pillows and even had petals thrown on when we arrived. We are not used to such a comfortable bed, believe it or not we are having trouble sleeping.


Sunday and Monday we decided to do as little as possible, we explored the beach, and called into other hotels for beers. Our beach is long, with nice sand and is shaded by palm trees.


It is a bit derelict, and there is a lot of debris that has been left by the tide. It has a certain charm though. Half way down the beach there is an abandoned boat which we enjoyed exploring as well as a huge anchor.



At the other end there is a tiny harbour for the local fishing boats.


During our walk we also spotted several dead pufferfish that we imagine have been left by the retreating tide. Chelsea was fascinated and has took several photos.


We already have a favorite bar, it has a nice view of the sea and huge friendly dog - we have spent a good portion of the last two days there.


This morning we decided to go out for a little explore and spent a few hours in Trincomolee. We got the bus in, which was an experience in itself. The bus that turned up was actually a mini bus, but this did not stop people from cramming on. Luckily we only had to put up being shoved and our feet being stamped on for around ten minutes. Trincomolee is one of our favorite cities we have visited in Sri Lanka. It is quieter, with less traffic. It is spaced out and has a beautiful coast line. When we arrived we were immediatley heckled into a nearby eatery. We hadn't had breakfast yet so we did not argue. We shared a pile of rotis, with curry and dahl for £1.70 before heading back into the sun. We walked for a while through the streets until we came to the sea.


We stood and watched the one or two locals that were walking up and down the beach, at one end we could see what was left of an old fort, the other way led to the harbour. We decided on the latter.


Trincomolee has a lot of religious structures throughout the streets. On the way to the harbour we passed, Hindu temples, Mosques and several churches. Some next door to each other. Also there are the faded remains of British rule, including some red postboxes.


It did not take long though until we got lost. We came to a crossroads had no idea which we needed to go. Inevitably a tuk tuk driver pounced and asked us if we needed help. We asked him which way and he told us, he then offered to take us for free as he was heading that way. This is a first for us, we thought it was almost definately a con so declined a carried on walking. The tuk tuk driver carried on his way. At the next junction he was there parked up and pointed us in the right direction. He then offered to take us again for free. By this point we had walked a fair way and the midday sun was in full force so we hesitantly accepted. It was only a couple of minutes to the harbour, the driver took us, gave a little guided tour on the way and once we arrived simply drove off, we are still confused as to what actually happened. He was just a lovely man.


The harbour is not as grand as we accepted, it is vast set in between two headlands and has a little island in the middle. There were only a handful of small boats though, and apart from a quay for the local police, very little activity. We stood around for a while having a look around before deciding to head back for the afternoon.

It has been really hot today and we are hoping the wheather holds up so we can visit Nilaveli tomorrow. It is another beach town, and 1km off the coast there is a national park called Pigeon Island which we hope to visit. There is suppose to be excellent diving and snorkelling around there as well but we maybe too out of season we will just have to wait and see.

Posted by Chelsandliam 23:55 Archived in Sri Lanka Tagged sri_lanka trincomolee Comments (1)

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