Top diving sites in Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka is not only famed for its tea, spices, handicrafts, and blue sapphires but also for great diving sites. Diving sites in Sri Lanka are worth putting on diving clothes and taking the plunge. Sri Lanka has an abundance of great sites to discover including wrecks scattered off the coast. Most of the wrecks are blanketed by marine creatures, soft corals, macro critters, and large aggregations of schooling fish. The following are some of the great diving sites in Sri Lanka.

Swami Rock is situated in the port town of Trincomalee. The famous Hindu temple, Koneswaraam Kovil is located on the top of the rock. The site is famous for its stunning coral and marine life including large rays and schooling fish. Some of the statues from the temple which was destroyed here in the 17th Century were also present. Swami Rock is one of the best places to spot numerous blue whales as well as dolphins. The famous Arthur C Clarke has mentioned these diving sites in his book ‘the Reefs of Taprobane’.

The famous diving site, the Gorgonian Gardens is found about 20 minutes away from Colombo, on the South Gale Reef. To see these Gorgonian gardens surrounded by amazing sea fans, one has to go to a depth of around 115 feet. Hence this site is recommended for certified deep divers only. You can also spot triggerfish and other reef fish here.

This dive site located along the bay near the Trincomalee hospital presents an amazing reef that stretches over 2,300 feet, from the beach. The reef is shallow and hence perfect for all levels of divers.

Some of the marine creatures found here are sulfur head moray eels, white-eyed morays, giant moray, honeycomb moray eels, nudibranchs, cephalopods, and a range of interesting bottom dwellers such as scorpionfish, frogfish, stonefish, and stingrays.

Bull Dog Reef is a shallow, well-lit reef near Kalpitiya in northwest Sri Lanka. This dive site has an abundance of sunlight underneath and is good for underwater photography. The best time for diving here is from late November till early May. December through April is a good time for dolphin and whale watching. Some of the fish species found here are white-eyed moray eels, Napoleon wrasses, and panther flounder.

4KM west of Mount Lavinia in Colombo is found the formation of Barrakuda Reef. The reef is not as colorful as the traditional reefs but what sets it apart is the abundance of fish life. The fish species common here are schools of rabbitfish, snappers, fusiliers and the ever-present shoal of the small fosters barracuda. Also, colorful nudibranchs, pipefish, and various species of shrimps are quite common here.

Located on the southeast coastline of Sri Lanka, near Kirinda, Great Basses Reef has been the cause of many a shipwreck. 

The Great Basses Reef consists of sandstone and limestone rock formations with corals such as black corals, and fan corals, and marine species such as angelfish, porpoises, and snappers. Another highlight is the ruins of a treasure ship of the Mughal King, Aurangzeb, discovered in 1961.

The world under the ocean in Negombo remains unspoiled despite a growing influx of tourists every year. The second and the third reef are two famous diving sites in Negombo. The colorful exotic life such as vibrant corals, schools of multi-colored fish, and adventurous shipwrecks are plenty in this underwater heaven. 

Schools of barracuda, trevally, fusiliers, blue stripe snappers, honeycomb moray, large schools of Goldline, spinetrek, oriental sweet lips, yellow jack, lobsters, and rays are species of fish that can be spotted here.

Some most interesting shipwrecks are the wreck chief dragon, taprobane wrecks, and aircraft carrier wreck of 1945.

The wreck of a cargo carrier named Pecheur Breton offers certified divers an amazing diving experience. Schools of fusiliers, hunting tuna, trevally, and king mackerel are common here with rare sights of whale sharks. The reef is home to numerous species of reef fish.

Prince Heinrich Patch (PHP) is one of the famous dive sites located at Weligama.  Just a 30-minute drive in a boat towards the south of Weligama Bay will take you to the dive site. Lying 20 meters under the blue ocean, PHP houses fabulous marine life that includes giant morays, yellow margin morays, and honeycomb morays along with mantas and rays. Mirissa, a neighboring town is one of the world’s best places to see blue whales, while Galle is home to Sri Lanka’s first underwater museum.

The 1892-built, 3,555-ton steamship and oil tanker sunk under the ocean as deep as 69 feet after hitting Akurala Reef in 1903. When it comes to Sri Lanka wreck diving SS Conch is a must-see site. A propeller and three huge boilers are the remaining of the ship. You may also encounter sweetlips, angelfish, triggerfish, groupers, and Napoleon wrasse.

Pigeon Island is situated 1 km off the coast of the famous touristic beach Nilaveli. It is famous for its magnificent coral reefs. If you are an adventure lover, then this is the best place for diving in Sri Lanka. Certainly, it is one of the most beautiful places to see underwater life in the country. It is closer to the Pigeon Island Marine National Park which got its name after endemic blue rock pigeons that inhabit the nearby island. This island is an important breeding ground for rock pigeons.

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