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Home > Around the Regions > Sri Lanka… Next Sailing Destination in Asia?

Sri Lanka… Next Sailing Destination in Asia?

A magnet for yachters and pleasure sailors worldwide

An island nation located south of the Indian sub-continent, Sri Lanka has a culture and heritage integrally associated with boating and sailing with origins going back many centuries to the country’s fishing community.

Separated from India by a few nautical miles along the narrow Palk Straits, Sri Lanka is located north of the east-west international shipping corridor in the Indian Ocean and is becoming recognised as an amazing cruising destination for yachts and superyachts.

Despite the influence from invaders Sri Lanka has managed to retain her unique culture, language (Sinhala), proud history and her gracious hospitality. Wherever you may go, you will always be met with smiles and the greeting ‘Ayubowan’ (translates to ‘May you live longer!’)

What awaits those visiting this unique country? Within a mere area of  65,610 kilometers lie eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 1,330 kilometres of coastline (much of it pristine beach), 15 national parks showcasing an abundance of wildlife, nearly 500,000 acres of lush tea estates, 250 acres of botanical gardens, 350 waterfalls, 25,000 water bodies and a culture that extends back to over 2,500 years!

Ports & Marinas

There is no marina and the Port of Galle is the popular Port for visiting yachts, located on the southwestern coast near the bottom tip of the island. Once the primary port, much of the international shipping traffic was switched to Colombo, now the main port, in the late 19th Century.

A yacht marina and plans for future expansion is planned in the Port of Galle by the Sri Lanka government explains Asia Pacific Superyachts Sri Lanka managing director, Priyantha Perera: “There are talks on plans to set up a marina that will accommodate the ‘big boats’. The third phase of the Hambantota Port, located deep down in the Southern District and built by the Chinese, is also looking at constructing a cruise terminal and marina. There are also talks of a Marina coming up in the Port City Project carried out by the Chinese in the middle of the busy City Centre in Colombo”.

Sri Lanka remains a useful stop for yachts en route to the Red Sea and a good point of departure for cruising the Maldives, Chagos and Seychelles, notes Priyantha: “Whilst the northern parts of the country were out of bounds for many years, Trincomalee on the NE coast has now opened up to cruising yachts”.

“Special permission must still be obtained before travelling to other Sri Lanka northern states. Colombo, on the central west coast of Sri Lanka, has a large commercial harbour with little provision for yachts and formalities are complex. Refueling and provisioning at the old port of Galle is straightforward and this is where most yachts clear-in and conditions for visiting yachts have improved slightly.”

APS can advise on moorings and restrictions at Galle, as space is very limited. An agent is required to clear into and out of Sri Lanka and basically organise everything, notes Priyantha, explaining there are important procedures for Captains, “For example, when the country lifts restrictions the current guidelines will still be in effect that ‘no boat can cruise around the country without obtaining Defense Ministry & Sri Lanka Custom Approval’. Although the Defense Ministry has relaxed its stance with regard to cruising around, an itinerary of the cruise with full details of guests on board to the Sri Lanka Navy and the Coast Guard must be provided and the route is not permitted to change without prior approval from the Defense Ministry.”

The agency’s vast experience covers several decades of providing care and services to ships calling in the Ports of Sri Lanka, including superyachts: “We’ve taken care of superyachts such as M.Y. Vava, M.Y. Queen Miri, M.Y. Talisman, M.Y. Intrepid, M.Y. Talisman C, M.Y. Cloud 9, and the S.Y. Hemisphere, the world’s largest luxury catamaran”.

A personal itinerary can be crafted that includes the best cruising grounds, authentic experiences, such as being up close and personal with the local ‘Stilt Fishermen’ (found nowhere else in the world) and a not-to-be-missed full sampling of the best of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine.

Galle

Calling into the seaside town of Galle down the south coast of Sri Lanka, Fort Galle is still the slow beating heart of the town’s history. The walled city, identified as a living World Heritage Site, has stood since the early sixteenth century, through the Colonial periods of the Portuguese, Dutch and British and present times and proclaimed as an Archaeological Reserve. In fact, the Old Dutch Market, the local bazaar, is still standing on its 300 year old columns and tiled roof, still trading in fruits and vegetables of all colours.

CRUISING

“Among the best time to visit is from October to April – when the bay is blue and the sea is calm with light winds and blue sky. During these six months all the conditions are spot on to enjoy some wonderful cruising experiences”, explains Priyantha.

The two monsoon winds providing rain to the two corners of the country at various periods, makes Sri Lanka’s beach holiday a year round prospect. The north east winds make the south western coast sunny and the sea calm from November to March. The South West winds make the East Coast waters quiet with constant sunshine.

Departing Galle, the main cruising destinations in Sri Lanka consist of the North-East coast and the Southern coast, boasting some of the most pristine beaches of the world.

A great start off is a three day Southern Coast cruise, departing from Mirissa to Weligama Bay, Jungle Beach and Rumassala, and back to Mirissa. During the voyage there’s whale and dolphin watching, snorkelling, swimming and lazy afternoons on golden beaches.

Galle and Trincomalee

The serene waters of Galle and Trincomalee are perfect for dolphin and whale watching with the best time from August to March during the North East monsoon season. Cruising Trincomalee is recommended from April to July – the south west monsoon season. Highlights include deep sea angling, whale and dolphin watching along with water sports and motor boat exploration.

According to the season your voyaging can be from Trincomalee to Batticaloa and from Mirissa to Galle. Embraced with golden sunsets and the fresh saline breeze of the Indian Ocean, the Southern Coast is well known by locals and celebrated by visitors.

In a prime locality within the city limits of Colombo, a popular sailing destination is Bolgoda Lake. Located towards the South part of Colombo within the suburbs of Piliyandala, the lake is one of the country’s largest freshwater bodies. The Ceylon Motor Yacht Club at the lake offers waterskiing, windsurfing and motor boat activities that can be enjoyed by the more adventurous guests. The club represents Sri Lanka in a number of international events and takes sailing very seriously.

Beruwala and Pasikuda

The beautiful coastal resort area of Pasikuda offers one of the world’s most gorgeous beaches can also be explored during the months of April to September when the weather is most favourable. Cruising along the scenic coastal belt of Bentota and Beruwala with a stopover in a picturesque cove for a private swim or paddleboard and an afternoon sailing cruise is a memorable experience when exploring beautiful Barberyn Island.

LAND ATTRACTIONS 

Along with incredible cruising, you don’t want to miss ‘Hill Country’, the lush rolling hills of the tea plantations famous for exporting Ceylon black tea. Another way to explore is with a 4-wheel drive vehicle, driving into the well-maintained national parks where amazing images of wildlife can be captured.

Picture-perfect, the land offers palm-studded strips of sparkling coastlines reaching up to the luxuriant hills of deepest emerald. If in Sri Lanka during the right season you might include a visit to the Koggala-Habaraduwa Turtle Hatchery to view baby turtles hatching and marching off to the sea, along with adult turtle activity.

A group from the luxury motor yacht Queen Mira were thrilled with their land visit to Yala National Park and highly recommend. Here is where you can enjoy nature and view wonderful wildlife that’s home to wild elephants, leopards, reptiles and exotic birds.

An island of magical proportions, Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon and known as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, is a unique destination for vessels from around the world. For more information on the country and Covid-19 status/changes please email priyantha@asia-pacific-superyachts.com  and visit www.asia-pacific-superyachts.com/srilanka

By Linda Cartlidge

Photos Credit: Asia Pacific Superyachts.