Scuba diving is a year-round, seasonal activity on the east coast in spring-summer and on the south and west coasts in autumn-winter. Renowned for its idyllic beaches and spectacular scenery, Sri Lanka is also known for its generous waves and year-round swells.
A very large variety of fish are to be observed, among them: the Sea Parrot, the UnicornLion, the Globe Fish, the Clown Fish, the Barracuda.
It is also common to cross one of the five species of sea turtles that inhabit Sri Lankan waters. The most amazing spots are in the vicinity of Trincomalee (Pigeon Island), Passikudah, Batticaloa, Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa, Beruwala, Negombo, and Kalpitiya.
For lovers of wreck diving, Sri Lanka offers some of the most beautiful spots, more or less accessible, from ten meters deep to more than 50 meters.In this post, we will tell you about some of the most striking places where you can practice and indulge in Snorkeling in Sri Lanka.
Best Places for Snorkeling in Sri lanka
Trincomalee is best known for its two natural treasures: the almost deserted beach of Nilaveli and its coral garden Acropora (abundance of fine branches) which surrounds the Pigeon Island. Except that in between, there are dozens of square kilometers of coral reefs to explore. Diving and Snorekeling clubs are legion on the beach of Uppuveli near Trincomalee, they are much rarer in Nilaveli.
Accessible to beginners and rewarding for experienced divers, the beautiful colorful reefs off this islet allow you to discover nearly 300 species of fish and other marine animals. The place also lends itself to Snorkeling.
Leather Coral Reef
The water is 12 meters maximum depth, 20 meters visibility, and at 28 degrees.The diving spots off Nilaveli and around Pigeon Island are basically the same, but whatever, as long as it is beautiful!The bottoms are full of hard coral formations like potatoes and plates, but also rocky on which are grafted soft coral and some Gorgonians. The spots are colorful and very varied.
You can see everything clearly and it leaves anyone enthralled! It does not have the wink side of the Maldives, but it is still beautiful. Reef Fish including imposing specimens of Parrots and Chests, Rabbit Fish by hundreds that have only the name, not even the ears. On the ‘little creatures’ side, the place is not left out!
Many Crayfish with antennae protruding from cavities, and Shrimp Mentis (the fastest animal on the planet, far away, far away from the cheetah) coexist with Coral Crabs and Nudibranchs.
Pigeon Island is located 17 km North of Trincomalee and about 1 km off Nilaveli beach. The Snorkeling at Pigeon Island is organized in such a way as to protect the coral reefs as much as possible, still in good condition, even if there are a lot of shards in some places. But that takes nothing away from the pleasure!
One follows a corridor and a line to never cross: in any case, the depth is so low beyond this line that snorkeling is impossible. The coral is home to a very varied population: besides the fish already mentioned, flutes and trumpets, diodons, tiny barracudas fringing just below the surface and especially Black Tip Sharks by tens. Trincomalee is, indeed, a perfect place for practicing Snorkeling in Sri Lanka!
If a family snorkel trip is on your mind, head to Hikkaduwa. It is located in the Southern Coast of the beautiful island nation. For amateurs, it costs about $54 and the price goes up for experts. The price for experts may be $98. It all depends on the tour operator as to how much he/she charges.
Head to Hikkaduwa from December through April for a fun snorkel tour. Once the monsoon season comes to an end, the coral reefs can be clearly seen. The good news is that even kids can snorkel here. Make sure you get the gear for your whole family, including the flippers for your kids.
Pasikudah is a resort town in the Eastern Province. It has a very nice touristic atmosphere. The trip to the diving center passes from mangroves in small villages to the river. On your way, you will be amazed by the scenery of coconut trees.
Pasikudah is the best-suited destination for a swim! You can explore the waters by straight jumping off the yacht.The water is crystal clear. Under water, you will get the chance to see a historical cargo ship which is clearly visible from the bottom. This massive ship, bombed by the Japanese during the Second World War, is that of the British Sergeant who supplied the British fleet with equipment and fuel. Interesting details, right?
The wreckage is separated into two equal-sized pieces: the front part stands upright while the second half rests on the side.The wreck of the British Sergeant is rich in fauna: Torpedo rays (those that deliver electric discharges); Emperors of different species, imposing benches of Platax particularly curious, some will accompany you until the end of the Snorkeling.
Jacks and Barracudas patrol while countless ladies, Butterflies, Surgeons and Sergeants Majors dance on the bridges. Scorpion fishes camouflage themselves, Lion Fishes drift casually. The hull is full of Nudibranchs, underwater Molluscs in the colors of the rainbow.
The beaches in Pasikudah are deserted, but that is the beauty of this wonderland!In different regions of Sri Lanka, you will find diving spots. When you move further from Pasikudah (through sailing), we reach a gorgeous snorkel spot.
From Pasikudah to the Anemone city, it is about an hour of sailing, perfect to achieve the minimum surface interval before Snorkeling.
The water here is 15 meters deep, 30 meters visibility, no or little current, and at 28 degrees.
An easy spot, all flat where the color pink dominates, more for beginners and children who want to see the most popular Pixar character, Nemo.
Remember the famous movie, ‘Finding Nemo’? Yes, you can find the same clownfish in the ‘Anemone City’. When the movie released, every kid asked their parent whether a clownfish really exists or not! Never underestimate the storywriter, they do thorough research before making these kid-friendly animated films.
The Anemone City site counts several subspecies of Clownfish. The rest of the fauna consists of small colorful coral fishes: Juvenile Emperors, Butterflies, damselflies, Parrots, Chests, Small-Gauge Balists and Porcelain Crabs hiding under the anemones, detectable by good observers.
Well, as proud Sri Lankans, we can tell you that the ocean is filled with gifts of God. There is plenty of seafood, stunning aquatic creatures, and some historical shipwrecks that you HAVE to witness.
Bull Dog Reef
Bull Dog Reef is one of the most attractive coral reefs in the Kalpitiya region. The dive spot is ideal for lovers of snorkeling, macro diving and underwater photography.
The turquoise blue water leaves the adventure enthusiast spellbound. Scuba diving is also a possibility here, but snorkeling is a tad easier for those who are afraid of going deep into the ocean. Once you gain the confidence, you can head straight into the ocean and meet the fishes.
Adventurers will come in close contact with the butterfly fish, reef sharks (black tip), and parrot fish. Now, those are interesting names. But, the ocean is even more interesting.At a shallow depth, there are many interesting species including Crocodile Fish (which are rare in Sri Lankan waters), White-Eyed Morays and Panther Turbots.
In this particular spot, it is not unusual to bump into one or more Napoleon fish during your snorkeling time. Once you are completely satisfied with the snorkel tour, don’t forget to watch the dolphins and whales in Sri Lanka. Kalpitiya is known for its dolphin tours. The happy creatures can be seen in pods of thousands.
It is certainly a treat for sore eyes! On second thoughts, none of the adventurers should leave Kalpitiya without trying all the adventure sports. If you are fortunate, you will be able to witness turtles. Manta Rays can be seen within the ocean. The icing on the cake is that Kalpitiya is free from tourist rush and madness. Sri Lanka’s largest coral reef is just one hour away from Kalpitiya. We believe you got your answers in just one line!
Southern Sri Lanka
Gorgonian Garden is another amazing coral reef! As the name suggests, this seabed is filled with majestic Gorgonians. To protect this dive site, all anchorages are forbidden.
You will have to go down into the blue waters at almost 35 meters bottom to see this fabulous forest. Even more than just snorkeling, you will get the chance to experience scuba diving. Indeed, some days the currents can be strong and capricious. In addition to the giant Gorgonians, you will see the ballet of hundreds of Balists.
Taprobane North Wreck
The magnificent place was named after the British steam ship SS Perseus built at the dawn of World War I that sank on February 21, 1917, after hitting a German mine. Located 20 km off Colombo, the ship is massive and in good condition, lies between 30 and 40 meters deep, and covers a vast area that allows divers to make several dives there.
Covered with soft corals and black corals, the wreck is a paradise for many fish species such as Snappers, Napoleon fish, Jacks and Groupers. Despite the excellent visibility (more than 30 meters) due to the depth of the wreckage, this dive is reserved only for divers with a level 2 dive or an advanced open water diver. If you are seeking to experience snorkeling in this area, don’t forget to be accompanied by your instructor or a professional.
Taprobane East Wreck is best-known for snorkeling. You can reach this site via a boat. It’s easy to find a boat from Colombo to reach this particular site. Make sure you are taking an instructor with you. They will provide the snorkel/diving gear. Of course, there will be someone to guide you through. Never leave for new expeditions all alone, especially in a new country. A knowledgeable instructor and guide are required for this adventure.
Built in Sunderland, England in 1860, the SS Rangoon was a 66 meter long sailing and steam cargo ship that sank in 1873, just across the street from Galle’s Historic Fort. The wreckage now lies on a sandy bottom, for more than a hundred years, at a depth of about 32 meters.
The snorkeling conditions are sometimes perilous, between sheer visibility (5 to 15 meters) and the benches of Jellyfish which are, sometimes, a natural obstacle, unpleasant to cross. Once on the wreck, you will be captivated by its intact beauty, striking contrast between the white of the sand and the black of its hull.
The numerous fish species that exist around this site will make the experience top-notch and unforgettable.
Pleasing corals and colorful fishes – Who would want to miss this sight?
Rock Island in Unawatuna is the best place to go for a snorkel session. Just rent the necessary gear and head for a happy session. Snorkel enthusiasts will also get to see a small ship wreck along with some rocks. A little farther away from Unawatuna is a place called Jungle Beach Bay. Since the entry point is shallow, you can snorkel your way in and watch the coral reef and the colorful fishes.
A maximum of seven snorkelers are allowed onboard and the duration is of 3 hours. Speaking of the snorkeling trip, we are sure you want to find out what it costs and what’s included. The main question is – How does the snorkeling session take place? Let’s find out!
How Does Snorkeling Take Place?
Once arrived at a snorkeling center of your choice, you will be received by your instructor. Please note – You should always opt for a certified instructor. Read reviews, get in touch with the instructor, ask questions, and make wise decisions.
The instructor will explain to you the rules of safety, and the behavior to adopt as well as the signs to know underwater in order to communicate with him. You will also complete a health questionnaire. Anyone can do snorkeling, but certain health conditions are extreme and one needs to take precautions. Non-swimmers can snorkel without a sweat! The experience is safe and does not need superlative swimming skills.
Once you reach the snorkel spot, the instructions will be given to each participant. After that, the instructor will introduce you to the equipment and, together, you will do some tests, such as learn how to evacuate the water in the mask (exercises that you will apply in the sea) or regulate the pressure in your ears.
You will then go to the sea, and that is where the serious and fun action begins! Once back on land, your instructor will give you a small booklet and a certificate. As for the pricing of the snorkeling tour, it starts from $50 and can go up to $100. It all depends on how deep you wish to go! The pricing will include the gear which is needed for snorkeling. That’s the fun part! You must keep your underwater cameras ready. Ask the tour operator if they can get someone to click your photo or take a video. It might be a part of the package!
There are many tour operators/instructors around the area who would be happy to offer you a good price. However, you need to ensure that you are choosing the right instructor.
Note – Did you know you can also rent the equipment from a legit shop? There are many snorkel gear rental places along the beaches. Also, do make sure you practice before jumping straight into the water. Firstly, you must understand how the gear works.
When and Where to Choose?
Practicing Snorkeling in Sri Lanka depends on the season.
- From April to September: the season is on the East Coast, the most popular diving spots are in Trincomalee.
In Pasikudah, we find a beautiful wreck that is relatively accessible, that of the British Sergeant, as we already mentioned.
In Batticaloa, we find the wreck of the mythical Hermes, very deep (more than 55m). It is reserved for technical divers.
- From November to April: the season is in Colombo and the entire West Coast.
There are many opportunities for snorkeling: Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa, Bentota, Weligama, Polhena and Negombo.
Further North is Kalpitiya, so much more famous for its kitesurfing and dolphin watching tour. The coral reef is beautiful and a must-go!
We hope you have a fabulous snorkel tour in Sri Lanka! Make sure you have a gala time and say hello to the fishes too. Sri Lanka has so much to offer in the name of adventure activities!