Posted in Travel

Unawatuna, Sri Lanka (where I rediscover my love of diving)

Unawatuna beach was recommended by a few people as being very beautiful and I’ve read other good reviews too, so off I went. My hotel was away from the beach, surrounded by jungle, so I dropped my bags and headed straight for the beach. I followed one dive company’s signs to the west side of the beach near my hotel and within half an hour, I was signed up for a refresher course and dive for that afternoon. I walked the length of the small beach, practically tripping over topless/butt floss bikini bottomed, cigarette smoking Russians. There are so many Russians, that the restaurants lining the beach advertise in both English and Russian. The ocean is very calm so it is also a premier destination for families. Guess how much I loved it here? I was happy my hotel was away from the beach and that I had a non-beach activity to keep me busy. 

The only section of the beach I spent any time on

After lunch, I got ready and searched my bag for my PADI card, which proves that I have done the open water course, albeit 20 years ago with my last dive almost 17 years ago! I have been carrying this card, along with my name change documents around for the past 3 months of travel, and now they were nowhere to be found- I was gutted. I had no desire to hang out on the crowded beach for 3 days, so I took my chances and went anyway. When I explained my situation, they were like, “no problem ma’am, you bring the number later.” Everyone calls me ma’am now, *sigh*. After a quick refresher, I was out on the boat with two others doing a combined reef/wreck dive at 10 meters for a full hour. There were tons of fish, the water was 28 degrees, and we had 20m visibility. It was amazing and I was hooked on diving again. With that, I signed up for the 9am dive the next morning and followed that with a 12:30pm dive. After each dive, I passed by a sweet man selling coconuts (for $0.50) and sat with him, first drinking my coconut water and then having him open it up so that I could eat the meat. Yum!

A coconut a day keeps the doctor away?

I loved my guesthouse too. It was at the end of a small side street, so there were no sounds of traffic. Just the sounds of all kinds of birds, a couple species of monkeys, geckos, squirrels, frogs, and insects. I even got to watch a group of 10 monkeys come snack on the trees off my balcony. I find it amazing that they can open coconuts with their hands. It was a very relaxing place to escape the midday heat. 

On 2 mornings I was up early and off to the temples, the first one was at the end of the beach and the Japanese Peace Pagoda was about a 40 minute walk away. Getting there first thing meant I had the places to myself before the crowds and the heat arrived, it was perfect. Then back to my guesthouse for an amazing breakfast spread, then diving at 9am. I did 4 dives in total, 2 wreck dives and 2 reef dives. I mostly just saw thousands of fish, but I also spotted two octopi and a stingray. The second wreck dive was a 150 year old cargo ship down 32 meters. 

Japanese Peace Pagoda

On my second night there, the dive shop’s owner (Shirly) invited me to a beach BBQ. So with me, his Austrian friends, and a couple of staff, we enjoyed a nice meal and I got to try the local Arrack, which is not very tasty btw, though the rest of them managed to polish off 2 bottles. Luckily, my dive master (Gil) and I had hopped on his scooter for a liquor store run earlier and I was able to have a couple ciders instead. The liquor stores here are the same as in south India, which is basically a barred window with men pushing forward with money in their hands already knowing what they want. I let Gil do the work. 

Not a great photo but you get the idea
After the wreck dive on day 3, I decided to spend the afternoon at Galle Fort, a Unesco World Heritage site, originally built by the Portuguese in 1589 but then destroyed and rebuilt by the Dutch in 1663 and in 1796, the Brits took it over. It is surrounded on three sides by the ocean and you can almost walk the entire circumference on top of the wall. It was a great day trip, but I don’t think I would stay there, it’s pretty expensive. 
Old entrance to the fort.

Then back to Unawatuna for my final night where I found a yummy veggie curry buffet for $3.50, probably the cheapest meal in all of Unawatuna. I thought about doing one last morning dive, but my ears were a bit sore from the deep dive, so I went to a yoga class at a nearby hotel instead. I then splurged on a tuk tuk ride to Talalla, an hour away, where I sit overlooking a beautiful non-touristy bay while writing this post. 

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I'm off on my first travel adventure since my 20's. This blog is intended to keep my friends and family up-to-date while I'm away.

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