Location

Arugam Bay is located on the southeast coastline of Sri Lanka, about 60km south of Batticaloa and about 320km across the island from the capital Colombo. Lonely Planet calls it the ‘east coast’s most traveler-friendly destination’ and with good reason as ‘Arugam Bay’s sandy crescent is one of Asia’s best surf spots’. Regarded as the surfing capital of Sri Lanka and rated as one of the top ten surf points in the world, Arugam Bay is obviously a hotspot for tourists in search of surf, sand and the sun. This single strip of beach secluded many miles away from the busting cities and towns of Sri Lanka now plays host to international surfing competitions and from April to October is when the best surfing waves hit the beach – followed of course by the best surfers.

There are plenty of places to stay in Arugam Bay and the discerning traveler has a pick of comfortable budget lodging or more up-market luxurious residencies and bungalows. Although badly affected in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami with the help of tourists, avid surfers and locals, rebuilding and development took place at an increased pace. Arugam Bay’s fame is not limited to simply riding amazing waves but is also tied up with the locals and the hospitality that they extend to outsiders. An easy going beach culture is combined with excellent culinary skills which is definitely one of the reasons so many people are psyched to return to this east coast hot spot. Spicy jumbo prawns, king crabs, cuttlefish, lobsters and sizzling fish all fresh from the ocean ensures that you are dished out with some of the best seafood in the whole island.

Surf Spots

As the surfer’s paradise of Sri Lanka, Arugam Bay and its surrounding areas has some great surf spots perfect for all those who are dotty on surfing. Famous surf points include Ulla and Elephant Rock as well as ‘The Point’ – with breaks between 2 to 6 feet -Pottuvil Point – includes 800m wave swells, – Peanut Farm, Crocodile Rock and Panama Point. The sea and surf is not the only attraction at this East Coast destination which is surrounded by magnificent lagoons, mangrove forests, ancient temples, wildlife sanctuaries, sand dunes and fields of rice. Pleasure seeks and adventurous explorers will be spoilt for choice.

Attractions

Lahugala which is about 20 minutes away is home to the Lahugala National Park and one of Sri Lanka’s most interesting ruins, the Magul Maha Vihara. The Lahugala National Park is a small national park in Sri Lanka significant as a vital habitat for the Sri Lankan Elephant. Photographers and biologists are captivated by this place as there exists plenty of opportunity to observe the elephants in their natural surroundings engaging in mock fights, feeding and mating. The dry season brings together large numbers of elephants with the figures increasing as the temperature increases. At times the Kitulana tanks (found inside the Lahugala National Park) is privy to an unexpected overland migration from the Mahawewa in the form of the ‘Climbing Perch’, fish species.

In close proximity to the Park is Magul Maha Vihare, a jungle ruin and the only remains of what may have been a glorious ancient complex. Believed to date back to the 2nd century BC, the Magul Maha Vihare is supposed to have been built by King Kavantissa upon his marriage to the princess Viharamahadevi. In Sinhalese the term ‘magul’ is the word used for marriage and the remains of the original wedding structure upon which the king married his queen is believed to be in this complex. This ancient domain contains a monks’ residence, a crumbling dagoba with four entrances flanked by seated stone lions, and a vatadage. The vatadage is in the shape of a fence but is made up of plain slabs with no other adornment. The entire Vihare Complex probably covered an area of 10,000 acres many centuries ago and it had a palace, moonstone, monastery, stupas and a pond as well.

3km North of Arugam Bay is Pottuvil, one of the larger towns on the east coast and location to another ancient site of significance, a dagaba in ruins known as the Mudu Maha Vihara. On the west of the dagaba are pillar structure remains along with the torso of a standing Buddha and 2 Bodhisattva figures which are in better condition. The beach behind the Vihara encompasses large sand dunes, is wide and largely uninhabited and while its privacy is great it may not be ideal for a swim. Interesting is local folklore which believes that the princess Viharamahadevi was washed ashore at the Mudu Maha Vihare after her father cast her adrift on the high seas to appease the gods and a very angry sea. Modern historians believe this incident maybe a reference to the first tsunami in Sri Lanka’s recorded history.

30km south of Arugambay, along the Panama road from Okanda, is the Kudumbigala Monastry. Rough and dry terrain starts to give way to dense jungle highlighting the fact that you have entered territory east of Yala. The monastery is on top of a huge rock and is an extensive complex of caves and buildings which remain virtually untouched by the modern age.

Further south and south-east of Arugam Bay is Yala East or the Kumana National Park, a beautiful wilderness and important place for bird nesting and breeding in Sri Lanka. Wildlife safari enthusiasts should definitely head in the direction of Kumana. There are even a fortunate few who have sighted Sri Lanka’s rare black necked stork. While the Park is not as popular as the main Yala National Park it contains its fair share of wildlife. Sloth bear, leopard, elephants, wild buffaloes, deer and saltwater crocodiles prowl the eastern Yala jungles and provide interested spectators with a fair share of excitement.

Arugam Bay encompasses everything a traveler in search of an adventure would want to experience. Simplicity, seclusion, natural beauty, warm skies and seas along with great company, mouth-watering food and enough of excursions and activities to keep you on your toes. Escape the routine of daily life and embark on an unpredictable and exciting east coast escapade.

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