If you have a passion for adventure, then Sri Lanka is the place for you! This small, yet diverse island is loaded with a variety of excursions ranging from beach activities, to spectacular mountain climbs and exhilarating river rafting. Here are my top 5 with tips that won’t disappoint!
I’m starting you off with the one I’ve done most recently. Adam’s peak is Sri Lanka’s fifth tallest mountain and has a moderate 5,500 steps to traverse on your way up (and again, coming down). If you are a good and steady climber, the ascent would take you three to four hours; most climbers get to the base by one in the morning so that they can see the morning sunrise at the temple by 5:30/6:00, depending on the day. Before you even think of making your way up there, I would suggest making sure you’ve had 2-3 days rest prior to making the climb, regardless of your fitness level. Your legs will thank you for it!
Adams Peak has a rich history, filled with legend as several religions claim the mountain as their heritage. The Buddhists claim the footprint at the top is that of Buddha, whereas in Hindu tradition, it belongs to Shiva. In Muslim and Christian belief, it is the footprint of Adam, or Saint Thomas who was known to have served in nearby India. With several religions holding claim to this mountain, making the climb upward is not just an adventurous one for many of them, but one that is a significant spiritual journey.
The Buddhist temple at the top has a limit on the number of people allowed at one time, so depending on the season you go, Adam’s peak can be packed with pilgrims, maneuvering to see the glorious view. Make sure that you get an early start, so your only view isn’t the closing of the gates before you reach the summit! Don’t be discouraged if you do miss it though, the area around the temple is great for getting that morning sunrise but you have to get a good spot to see it before someone else does.
- Brace yourself if you’re competitive. You’re going to be seeing old local ladies who have been making this climb for years who just might pass right by you.
- Take a jacket with you, while you may not need it much when climbing, once you’re resting at the top it can get chilly, especially early in the morning when the sun is not out yet.
- Take a water bottle that is not too heavy. You can also buy bottled water along the way to refill.
- Some of the food shops on the way up can be a little spicy, but if you’re feeling adventurous, give it a try!
- Take a camera because there are so many sites and memories waiting to be captured along the way.
- Do not expect a clean toilet. They are available in case of emergency, but you should know the conditions won’t be the best, so plan your potty schedule with that in mind.
White Water Rafting
White water rafting! It’s glorious to battle the elements while trudging through in a boat full of your comrades. Based out of Kithulgala (Key-thool-guh-la), you will be going down the Kelani (Kah-luh-nee) river, you will face 5 major rapids and 4 minor rapids; depending on the water levels, they even have areas where you can do rock jumps. If you do not know what White-water rafting is, let me break it down for you, you get in a rubber boat with about 6-8 other people and you are all paddling for your life (don’t worry, you get oars) against rapids that threaten to throw you over or capsize your boat!
- You do get life jackets, but it is helpful if you already know how to swim.
- DO NOT take any valuables with you just incase they fall out.
- Wear a water proof bug spray and sun lotion as afterwards when you get out, you could get bothered a tad by pesky insects.
- Listen carefully to the instruction that is given at the start by your guide. He will explain it in English.
- If you do fall over, do not panic. The worst you can do is try thrash around; stay with your face to the sky and cross your arms.
Bonus: In the same area (Kithulgala) you would also be able to do abseiling down a waterfall. If you do not know what abseiling is, it is repelling down a rock face while secured to a fixed rope; while this excursion is fun on it’s own, throwing a waterfall into the mix could kick your adrenaline up a notch (Check it out, here)
Ella (Waterfall Climb)
Ravana Falls – If you are an adventurer, I’m sure you like the idea of scaling up a rock seeking out a beautiful view, and this is exactly what Ravana falls offers you. There are three tiers to Ravana falls, which, as you make your way up, you will discover the views to be even more breathtaking. For the first part you will be scaling dry rock but as you progress to the second tier you will be rewarded with a slightly beaten dirt path that leads you onward. Most people do not recommend climbing these falls. There is even a message board aiming to deter you, so remember that climbing it is at your own risk.
- Make sure to wear footwear that grips well. NO Slippers.
- Try not to carry too much going upward. It isn’t a long trek, and unnecessary weight will be a hindrance.
- Do not try to entertain the monkeys if you see any. They can be quite mischievous.
- Be prepared and remember that climbing is at your own risk. There are no safety measures or medical facilities for miles.
Deep Sea Fishing
A little less physically demanding, but an adventure nonetheless. Almost every coastal town you encounter, you can hire a boat that will take you out to sea to catch some gnarly fish. My favorite two locations are Bentota and Arugam Bay. Along the streets are many a shop that will rent out the fishing equipment that is needed. Most likely you will get a boat that is heading out early in the morning, so be prepared to spend several hours out on the open sea. It’s not hard to find populated areas to fish from guaranteeing a catch. Sri Lanka has a healthy amount of marine life, so it’s not hard to find some great fishing areas with a high fish population guaranteeing you a great catch. There are numerous fishing villages spread around the coast ready to welcome you if fishing is on your list.
- Take PLENTLY of water with you, being out there can make you dehydrated really fast.
- Wear Sunblock/Sunscreen to make sure you don’t burn up.
- Unless you have a waterproof bag, leave your mobile phones and wallet somewhere safe.
- Take tons of lures and bait with you. Things happen out on the sea and you don’t want to have a short trip because you forgot to stock up!
- If prone to motion sickness, take some medicine several hours before you embark.
P.S If you’re feeling really adventurous, take a stab at the traditional Sri Lankan stilt fishing! Photos of these fishermen are some of the most iconic images you will see on postcards throughout Sri Lanka.
Who doesn’t love going head first into the open sea and exploring all the wonder that is waiting below? Trincomalee is one of the best places in Sri Lanka for these excursions! The waters are teeming with beautiful vibrant sea life and the water is calm enough to spend hours in. You could spend an entire day just floating/swimming around marveling at all the glorious things you would see down there. Always remember, if you’re swimming in pairs and you see a shark, here are three things you could do:
1) grab your knees and pretend to be rock.
2) don’t make sudden movements.
3) point to the nearest meal. I am kidding, of course but Pigeon Island in Trincomalee hosts Blacktip reef sharks which are non-aggressive and are passive around swimmers, so even an experienced diver could have a good chance to see one of these beautiful animals up close and personal.
- Grab a GoPro or any action adventure camera that’s waterproof. You’re bound to get some great shots in!
- Go after sunrise at about 10 in the morning. The sun will be scorching, but the water will be clear.
- It can be easy to get lost in the wonder of the creatures around you for hours, so remember to take regular water breaks and follow your safety training.
- Always dive in pairs to ensure you have the help needed in case of an emergency.