Jul 13, 2016

Exploring Southern Sri Lanka: Bentota and Galle

This summer, I visited Sri Lanka for my internship and had the opportunity to explore the fantastic island nation. I landed in Colombo when the Sri Lankan new year celebrations were going on (mid April) and therefore decided to take a trip down South to the beautiful little towns of Bentota and Galle.

How to Reach

International Flights from Chennai take about an hour to reach Colombo. From Colombo, you may take a train from the Colombo Fort railway station to Bentota. There are many options in terms of the International Airlines, with Sri Lankan Airlines providing jumbo jets for the journey.

Day 1: Bentota

Bentota is a small town about an hour from Colombo. Bentota and Galle are similar in terms of attractions, but Bentota hasn't been commercialised as much as Galle. Therefore, I would suggest you spend some more time at Bentota.

The dilapidated train to Bentota
I stayed at a guest house, Mihin Villa, which provided clean rooms for a relatively cheaper rate (LKR 3500/night ~ INR 1600) for solo backpackers. There are quite a few attractions at Bentota, out of which the river safari and the turtle hatchery stand out.

You need to rent a boat for the river safari and the rate is a flat 2000 LKR/ride, irrespective of the number of people (boats have a capacity of carrying upto 8 people). Interestingly, the name of the river is Bentota Ganga! It's good if you start the safari early in the morning to make sure you get to see a wide range of species. I was lucky enough to see tree snakes, some wild birds, a monitor lizard and baby alligators!

Yo alligators so scary, my fingers are getting slippery!
The turtle hatchery is a wonderful place too. There are many hatcheries along the West coast, with fees getting progressively higher as you go South (due to the commercialisation!) There's one hardly 5-6 km from the Bentota Railway Station. Visit the hatchery around sunset to make sure you are present when one-day old turtles are released into the sea!

Releasing the turtles into the sea
Food is very costly in Bentota and water isn't complimentary in most restaurants. The Taj Vivanta provides a good buffet option at LKR 3500, but it's quite cheap since I had ordered some poorly prepared Biryani for LKR 1400 earlier in the day.

Day 2: Galle

On the way of Galle, the moonstone mine may be of interest if you like gemstones. Sri La\nka is famous for blue moonstones and this is one place where you can get these gemstones for cheap.

Extracting the blue moonstone from the mine
The main attraction in Galle is the Galle Fort and lighthouse area, but one also encounters the Galle stadium on the way (Galle is where Chris Gayle score his famous 333.) The Galle Fort provides a serene adobe to just walk around and enjoy the environment.

The Galle Lighthouse
A trip to Sri Lanka can serve as a weekend getaway from India, and I would suggest you hop on the next airline if you want to enjoy the South Asian country unlike any other!

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