A popular beach destination since the 1970’s Hikkaduwa is a buzzing resort town on the South Coast of Sri Lanka.
Once an isolated and pristine crescent shaped bay of clear waters and exquisite coral reefs, the adverse effects of over development has changed its face forever. However, Hikkaduwa or ‘Hikka’ as it is known by many, still remains a highly popular hotspot with travellers who prefer a party atmosphere to their beach holiday. ‘Hikka’ has plenty of action to offer; snorkelling and diving (plenty of old shipwrecks to explore offshore too) amongst the corals and schools of tropical fish. Turtles can be seen during the season, both in the water and on the beach. The surf off the bay is also known as one of the better surfing spots in the island. And if seaside activity is not all you are after, there are plenty of historical sites within easy access to explore as well.
Hikkaduwa is yet another popular surfing destination in Sri Lanka and has been attracting surfers from around the world for over 30 years. There are 3 to 4 main surfing points which have reef breaks as a result it is the ideal place for beginners as it is quite calm. The main surfing point is called ‘main reef’ and is well known for its ‘A’ frame shaped waves enabling people to ride in both directions of the wave.
Normally the waves range from 2 to 7ft in height during the surfing season which is from November to April. This place has a laid back vibe about it and is a great place for both beginners and professionals to surf at.
Diving is another favourite experience of all who visit here and it should be as there are truly amazing things to see underneath. Starting with the shipwrecks there are 2 main attractions; shipwreck Conch, built by a British Shipping company sank near Hikkaduwa after it struck the Akarta Rock spilling oil. Even today its ruins are quite magnificent and have been occupied by many fish varieties such as snappers, angelfish, puffer fish, butterfly fish etc. The other shipwreck is the Earl of Shaftsbury and that too is a shipwreck worth exploring.
In addition to shipwrecks one can also see the famous ‘Kiralagala’ which is the formation of rock pillars underground. A few other famous places underwater include black coral point, Goda Gala, and Hikkaduwa rock complex with a lot of underground caves. Sri Lanka has some of the best reefs in the world and is truly an experience of a lifetime
This sanctuary can be founds towards the north end of the beach and is about 100m offshore. The water over the reef is never more than 3 or 4 meters deep which allows spectators to have a great view of the reefs and fish underwater. Today however this sanctuary has lost most of its beauty as it has been damaged over the years.
It was established in 1988 to protect the small shallow area of the reef, however in 1998 the sanctuary suffered coral bleaching and then in 2004 it was greatly damaged by the tsunami that hit the coastal area. There are still fish such as parrotfish, unicorn fish, balloon fish etc that can be seen and during mid- afternoon one is also able to glimpse turtles. Even though it has been greatly damaged by disasters and pollution it is still a good place to visit whilst in Hikkaduwa.
This is the first marine park to become a national park. Declared a national park in 2002, it is home a fringing coral reef that is quite spectacular and can be found towards the north end of the beach. Rich in bio diversity with over 170 species of fish living in it this reef well worth a visit. This reef helps protect the coast from soil erosion and is a natural breakwater.
There is also underwater fauna and flora and is best experienced by snorkeling. This park’s main aim is to protect this reef but due to manmade and natural disasters this reef has suffered quite a lot. It is still worth visiting although it is slowly degrading.
Snorkeling too provides an experience similar to diving although one cannot go as deep into the water as diving. There are special areas of the beach reserved for snorkeling where the water is only about 4m deep allowing one to have the best snorkeling experience at Hikkaduwa. One is able to get a glimpse at beautiful shoals of fish and even more spectacular reefs that Sri Lanka is home to. A much favoured past time amongst visitors to Hikkaduwa!
The Moonstone Mines are 7 km away from Mitiyagoda and is home to the beautiful semi precious stone, the moonstone. Historically this stone was mined in forests. This mine is a typical 18th century style mine and has 6 to 7m long muddy rabbit holes and it is in these holes that this stone is mined. It is even possible to venture down these narrow shafts in order to get a realistic experience of a mine. Filtering of stones, cutting of stones and polishing of stones are some of the activities that can be seen here. An ideal spot for anyone interested in precious stones.
This temple is situated on its own island and is a devale dedicated to the Devol Deviyo or God Devol. Devol is believed to be a local god who protects fisherman and their boats while they are out at sea. It is a popular destination for people across Sri Lanka who come and make offerings at the shrine. Legend also has it that if anyone who is robbed visits this place of worship and uses the special oil provided by the temple to light a lamp in their home the rogue is soon found. It is a small simple temple but it is said to have a calming effect on anyone who visits it.
Tsunami Photo Museum
December 26th 2004 marks a dark day in Sri Lankan history as one of the most devastating disasters struck the island in the form of a tsunami. This museum, which was started by a Dutch lady, is situated halfway between Hikkaduwa and Ambalangoda and has an array of photos, articles and paintings about the aftermath of the tsunami displayed here. Although it is a bit rundown many visitors both local and foreign are seen visiting this area frequently.
This museum is built at the place where a local train carrying over 1200 passengers was washed away and was considered to be the worst train disaster ever. There is also a memorial built outside for the 40,000 people that died and the 15,000 people who were injured. Entrance is free although donations are gratefully expected. This establishment is certainly worth a visit.