Arugam Bay, the surfer's paradise
(April to October)
Surf, Beach, Lagoon, Village, Beautiful Inland Landscape, Jungle, Elephant Rock & Crocodile Rock
Arugam Bay is one of the TOP 10 surf points in the world. It is also a pristine sandy beach of stunning natural beauty. Arugam Bay's proximity to Lahugala National Park & Yala East National Park makes it a unique surfing beach.
LocationArguam bay is located 320 km from Colombo. Some 60km due east from Monaragala, Arugam Bay is a tiny fishing village 3km south of the small fishing village of Pottuvil (12000 inhabitants) at the remote southern end of the Eastern coast & on the edge of Yala East National Park.
To the beachThe journey to the beach here takes you across some attractive meadows teeming with wildlife.
OrientationThe bay lies between two headlands & is excellent for surfing.
BeachThe wide, sweeping sandy beach in front of the village is an attraction for swimming all year-round. The beach is usually deserted, except at the southwest corner, where some fishing boats & thatch huts reveal the tiny fishing village of Ulla, just to the south of the guest house area. This is also the safest area for swimming.
Surf'The Point' in Arugam Bay is regarded as a top world surf destination. It is a well lined up right hand point break, generating a clean peeling glassy wave that barrels a surfer a 400m ride right through to the inside. Additionally there are four or five high quality breaks within a radius of 30 minutes.
Three main point breaks of the surf
The PointPottuvil point in the northern end of Arugam is often deserted & popular with more experienced surfers Crocodile Rock promontory 3km south of Arugam Bay is a long, deserted beach from where wild elephants can quite often be seen.
Water temperature of the surfWith a water temperature of 24-28 centigrade year-round, you don't need a wet suit.
Surf ChampionshipJune 2004 saw Arugam Bay host the inaugural Sri Lankan Airlines 'Champion of Champions' British Professional Surf Association tour competition.
"The contest exceeded all expectations and have secured funding for the contest for the next 5 years. Our aim is to make it bigger and better next year". BPSA president David Reed
"Bay and the waves really turned on. The wave here is pretty much world class" - Arugam Bay BPSA competition winner Spencer Hargraves
Wreck DivingThere are various opportunities for wreck diving in the bay with five pre-1850 ships within 5km of each other.
VillageThe village still has an impromptu, remote, crashed-out ambience with a palm-shack feel that still reflects its origins as a low-key surfing hangout. It carries you with the "end of the road" feeling.
Crocodile RockThe Crocodile Rock is 2km south of Arugam Point along another deserted beach to Kudakallliya. We can reach the rock by scrambling across the dunes & fording the lagoon. Its wild: eagles swoop overhead, elephants attempt to climb the rock. Look out, large mugger crocs creep in utter stealth. At the top, we will be rewarded for our efforts with magnificent views inland across the paddy fields & lagoon.
Elephant RockA walk to Elephant Rock, about 3km south of Arugam Bay provides an appreciation of the extent of the beautiful beaches. In the early morning or evening we will have the sight of elephants roaming nearby.
Lagoon, Bridge & Prawn catchingPottuvil lagoon is a haven for numerous bird species. Arugam Bay's picturesque lagoon divides Ulla village from Pottuvil lagoon, north of town. The bridge is an excellent vantage point to see the sunset, & at night you can watch prawn fishermen throwing, gathering & emptying their nets.
The Pottuvil Lagoon ecotourThe Lagoon tour provides us with two hours of calm paddling & an insight into the importance of mangrove ecosystems in the area. Local fishermen takes us in their fiberglass canoes through the mangroves, stopping off at the sandbar in the ocean & then at a mangrove nursery. Lagoon is home to a wide variety of wildlife including crocodiles, monkeys, water snakes & plenty of birds. The lagoon tour was set up as part of a mangrove conservation project (Restoring the Natural Cycle) by the local Hidayapuram Fisheries Cooperative Society & the Sri Lankan NGO Sewa Lanka Foundation.
Magul Maha Vihara , Lahugla (to the west from Pottuvil)8km west of Pottuvil along the A4 main road is the beautiful Buddhist temple of Magul Maha Vihara built by King Dhatusena (515-526 AD). This interesting & evocative site, with the remains of a dagoba, vatadage & the bases of several other ruined structures is made all the more enticing by its remote jungle location. This temple in Yala East mustn't be mistaken as the temple by the same name in Yala West ( Ruhuna Yala National Park)
Ruhuna Yala National Park to the south, the park is part of the protected 'Elephant Corridor' for the elephant population to move freely across the south-eastern part of the island. In July & August (dry season in east) when surrounding areas are dried out, large herds of elephants start to move in. The best time to watch them is in the late afternoon. The attraction for elephants is grazing, the beru grass, which grows in the pastures around the three tanks in the park. With the arrival of rain in October, most of the herds of elephants drift back to their regular haunts.
To the south along the southern coastRoute: Arugam Bay- traveling along a minor coastal road: along the coast / causeway Panama / coastal road / Okanda / Yala East National Park / Kumana
The coastal scenery south of Arugam Bay is highly distinctive. Rising from the flat landscape are giant boulders in bizarre formations, at the foot of many of which are abandoned now overgrown cave monasteries & hermitages, some dating back almost 2000 years. Cultivated paddy fields are interspersed with open parkland & scrub jungle, all supporting a remarkable variety of birdlife. This is wild country where elephants roam freely. The road from Arugam Bay to a Panama is low lying area & could be under water in places in the rainy season.
PanamaThe paved road ends 12km to the south at Panama, the last inhabited village before Yala East National Park. The lagoon & area around the attractive lagoon is home to turtles & crocodiles sometimes bask on its banks. A track leads to the sand dunes approaching Panama's seemingly endless beach, with its pink rocks shimmering in the distance.
Panama belongs to a cluster of villages called Panam Pattuwa consisrting of five Sinhalese villages, namely Panama, Lahugala, Hulannuge, Bakmtiyaava & Kumana. The original occupants of these villages were the Sinhalese who escaped from Uwa Wellassa during the suppression of Sinhalese Revolt of Wellassa in 1818 by the colonialist British army.
Navalar Kulama in Panam Pattu is also the location of a 1st century BC inscription that recorded the association of the man & the elephant. In Sri Lanka no other animal has been associated for so long with the people in their traditional, ceremonial, cultural, religious activities as well as in logging, transportation, construction operations & military expeditions as the elephant. The elephant has been the bulldozer & bulldog of ancient Lanka.
The Panama region (area of 352 sq. miles with 214, 016 acres of jungle) is earmarked for Ethno-Development (ED) to support Traditional Lifestyles by The living Heritage Trust (LHT), No1, Horton Place, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka. The project concentrates on traditional agriculture, education, medicine, forestry & native arts. Placing culture in the limelight of development planning of rural areas, ED is designed to harness indigenous or traditional culture, technologies, knowledge, organizational skills & talents with a view of ecologically sustainable development (ESD).
Okanda: BeachOkanda, 28 km south of Arguam Bay is a popular surfing spot. We may see elephants in the road.
Okanda: Heritage Conservation Zone of LHTOkanda-Kudumbigala region is the first Heritage Conservation Zone of LHT. The Okanda-Kudumbigala Heritage Reserve is a Sanctuary, a Sacred Grove, where traditional laws shall take precedence over modern laws. Sacred groves are operated under the patronage and guidance of the villagers themselves as the custodians of the living tradition.
Okanda: The LegendsAt Okanda, beside a rocky outcrop there is a shrine dedicated to the God of Kataragama, Skanda. Okanda hilltop has by tradition been declared to be one of the places where a divine ray (katir) from God Skanda struck. The Batticaloa Manmiam narrates the story of how God Skanda landed here with his consort Valli, with a view to kill the demon Asura. The God, being a god, & and a fine one being at it, as expected vanquished the goddamn demon by splitting the Vahura hill into two. Three splintering rays which originated thence from the ocean, were sheltered, one on the Okanda hilltop, one on a white naval tree at Tirukkovil and the third on a tillai tree at Mandur. God Skanda's consort is venerated at the Valli Amman kovil at the top of the rock.
King Ravana, ten-headed Lord of pre-historic Lanka in Hindu epic Ramayana, was believed to have rested here on his way to Koneswaram.
Okanda: The aboriginesSubsequently, all important locations of Okanda are reverentially observed as holy places by the aboriginal hunter-gatherers of Sri Lanka, Wanniya-laeto (inhabitants of the forest) also called the Veddas. On the top of the Okanda hill, the Veddas preserved the sanctity of the location with a simple shrine of sticks and leaves dedicated to Valli Amma, the consort of god Skanda.
Okanda: The multicultural natureDepending on individual faith, people believe the whole region is purified with the spirit of God of Kataragama, Skanda, Murugan or Al-Khidr, the Green Man of the Qur'an - teacher to Moses. The multicultural nature of the region enables Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians to practice their faith in the safety of a sacred area. Hills, certain old trees, rocks and points along rivers are landmarks in a culture where everything is sacred and connected with mythical exploits.
Okanda: Hindu ShrineThis small ancient shrine dedicated to God Skanda is located on a rocky outcrop along the seacoast, eastwards river bank of the Kumbukkan Oya (Stream) which divides Ruhuna Yala National park as Yala West Park and Yala East (Kumana national park). Dedicated to the God Skanda of Kataragama this shrine is worshiped by Buddhists and Muslims of Sri Lanka as well as by Hindus.
Okanda: Pada Yatra pilgrimageOkanda is also an important staging point on the overland Pada Yatra pilgrimage, the long walk to Kataragama for 15-day festival in July. Hundreds of pilgrims gather here to join the 45-day walk from Jaffna & Mullativu to Kataragama for the last five-day leg. Families comprising very old, young, infants arrive in Tractors spending long days on this pilgrimage. They spend a couple of days in the shelter of trees & temporary tents doing various poojas (worshipping rituals) to the shrine. Up on the rocks behind the temple is a series of small pools in which pilgrims bathe before making offerings. There are excellent views of the coast towards Arugam Bay.
Kudumigala Forest Hermitage (Kudumbigla Aranya Senasanaya) of Buddhist Bhikkus (16km southwards of Panama).
Some 2 km inland from Okanda, around Helawa lagoon, lies the extensive forest hermitage of Kudumbigala, (4700 hectares) established in the 1st century BC by Buddhist monks. 225 known caves are believed to have been occupied by Buddhist monks as far back as the first century BC. One of the first rock temples you see on your ascent features a 1st-century BC inscription over the arch indicating the number of Arahath Theras (supremely enlightened Buddhist monks) who dwelled in this land. There is a part-restored stupa too. There are plans to develop the hermitage into an international meditation centre.
This Hermitage, built with the advent of the Arahat (supremely enlightened) Mahinda during the reign of famous Deer Hunter, King Devanam Piya Tissa (307-266 BC) is considered one of the most important ancient Sacred Lands in the country. A stupa built on a rock called "Belum Gala" is built as a replica of the Dharmachakra Dhammika Stupa of Isipathanaranama of India and is the only such Stupa in the island of Sri Lanka. The ancient Dagoba built in the centre of the land too show great craftsmanship. The symbol on top of the rock inscription at the entrance to cave housing the great "Sudharshana" rock statue is unique in terms of its features. At the end of trek of two hours, at the top of the rock, we will be rewarded with the spectacular view as far as Kataragama. This sacred land with an area of over 11,000 acres surrounding this land was declared as the "Kudumbigala sanctuary" in 1974.
HulannugaHulannuge is one of the five villages in Panam Pattuwa. Karandahela is a 633 foot hill situated in Hulannuge with the Karandahela tank situated on the south close to the base of the hill.
Hulannuga: Tharulengala Aranya Senasanaya Buddhist Forest HermitageAt end of the Hulannuge village, close to the Karandahela tank situated on the south close to the base of the 633 foot hill is another very important monastery called Tharulengala Aranya Senasanaya forest hermitage. The hermitage consists of amazing caves.
Hulannuga: CavesThe caves on top of the hill and on slopes are amazing creations of nature. There are numerous caves here with and without drip ledges. Among them the most amazing is the cave in the second circle, perhaps the largest cave in Sri Lanka. This cave 512ft long, 30ft broad and 82ft high at the highest point with interior in eight levels has a drip ledge cut right along. The shrine room cave situated near the entrance is 175ft long, 31ft broad and 35ft high & houses a 41foot reclining Buddha statue. The Buddha statue is considerably damaged by treasure hunters.
At the water's edge of this Karandewewa tank is an ancient dagoba. Next to the cultivated land below the tank is the village. Herein too, as in all over the island, once again, the ancient concept of the triple focal points of the village, tank, temple & dagoba has come into prominence.
Hulannuga: Ruins of StupasIn addition to the caves found on this hill, there are numerous ruins at various stages of the hill. Among these ruins are some artifacts hitherto unidentified. There had been three stupas in this sacred land: two of them on rocks on the hill and one at the base of hill. The two on rocks are completely destroyed leaving only signs of them on top and bricks can be seen fallen down. The remainder of the other, which is at the base of the hill, has a circumference of 150ft and a height of 20ft. As there is no archaeological survey done here, it is not possible to date these ruins correctly. However from one or two stone inscriptions and other historic documents elsewhere in can be deduced that this hermitage is built before the 2nd century BC
Incoming projectsThe government has announced the opening of Ampara airport (1 hour 30 minutes flight from BIA, Bandaranayake Int'l Airport, Colombo for commercial flights. There are now almost daily flights to Ampara with Sri Lankan Airlines sea planes.