If you take a trip towards the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, then spending a day or two in Arugam Bay should definitely be on your bucket list. Popularly known as a surfers’ paradise, Arugam Bay is home to one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. The season begins from April to August – that's when the area comes to life with surfers, parties, and restaurants buzzing with visitors. There is no such buzz off-season, but there are other activities to do if you base yourself here. During our visit to Arugam Bay, we discovered several places that you may want to explore.
Kumana National Park
Located approximately 34 kilometres away from Arugam Bay is the Kumana National Park, ideal for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. On a lucky day, those who visit Kumana will be able to spot an abundance of wildlife from deer to elephants, leopards, and the black-necked stork, a bird species that is only found in Kumana. It is also home to several archaeology sites such as Bambaragasthalawa. If you are a history enthusiast you could ask local guides to take you there and they will provide you with details. Birds of various sizes and shapes dominate the landscape, especially during the migratory season.
If you want to spend more time in the jungle, you could also visit the Lahugala Sanctuary which is around 12.5 miles away from Arugam Bay. This Sanctuary is an important conservation area for elephants and birdlife. The area is an ideal feeding ground for elephants with its evergreen forest cover. Here too, you may be able to spot the sloth bear, jackal, wild boar, leopard, and other species of flora and fauna.
Muhudu Maha Viharaya
This is a historic temple located in Pottuvil. In fact, Pothuvil alone is home to many archaeological sites as it is one of the main cities of the ancient Kingdom of Ruhuna. The Muhudu Maha Viharaya was built over 2000 years ago by King Kavantissa and the ruins of ancient stupas. Avasa Geya and other sites at the temple can still be seen to date.
One of the best things to do in Arugam Bay is surfing and there are several locations for beginners and for experienced surfers. These include Main Point, Baby Point, Pottuvil Point, Elephant Rock, Peanut Farm, and Whiskey Point. However, during the off-season, surfing is not really possible but you could still take a walk along the beach as surfing could be too risky due to rough seas.
This is an ideal location for photo enthusiasts especially if you want to get some breathtaking shots of the sunset, located towards the east of the bay.
Spending a day or two at the Kudumbigala Monastery is recommended for those who like to spend some time with nature. Serving as a monastery for forest-dwelling monks, this venue is also home to many sites of historical and archaeological importance. You can visit Balumgala which has remains of the ancient Akasa Chaitya to get a better view of the surroundings. Although it is a steep climb uphill, a visit to the summit is worth it.
A boat ride along the lagoon is another exciting adventure, especially if you want to see local wildlife. However, the heat could be unbearable at times.
Camping in Panama
The scenic Panama beach is now popular for camping activities but rainy weather and strong winds could be a challenge. Camping by the beach is a different experience than camping inside a forest or atop a mountain.
Even though some restaurants and pubs remain open, there is certainly no buzz. You could try out some delicious food during your stay including seafood barbecues. There are some places that make refreshing mocktails and cocktails for you to try out. However, if you are a party animal, the best time to visit Arugam Bay is during the season when you can dance the night away at beach parties that happen almost every day and all night long. Arugam Bay awaits hopefully for a good season ahead!
Pix by Dasun Muthugala