The stretch of the coast between Unawatuna and Weligama might not have stunning beaches, but it doesn’t mean it one should skip it. That’s where stilt fishing was born, though now men posing to the photos for money replaced the real fishermen. The rough-sea beaches attract the surfers, while the natural pools draw the snorkellers.
Just east of Unawatuna is Mihiripenna, where you can find Delawella Beach and Turtle Bay. The sunbeds of a nearby hotel take up most of the space on the beach. Although it’s hard to find a place to sit, the beach itself is pretty. Moreover, the reef created there a kind of large natural pool, perfect for swimming and snorkelling.
Unfortunately, the sea was very rough the day I visited. The waves beyond the reef were high, while the water in the pool wasn’t clear or calm as usual. A strong current was pulling me all along the shore when I entered the water.
Suddenly, I noticed a local man pointing to an oval shape in the water. Soon, the head of the turtle popped up to the surface. I saw it lifting his head over the water a couple of times over the next 15 minutes.Shame that water wasn’t clear that day. The turtles frequently come to the shore and could (but should not be) approached from a very close distance.
I visited Nigrodarama temple in Talpe on the day of February Poya (full moon), a Buddhist religious festival. I got off the bus at Kahawennagama bus stop, together with a small crowd of locals dressed in white.
An enormous queue of white-dressed women was reaching the main road, crossing the railway, ending on the top of the hill where the temple was situated. The devotees queued for giving the offering so I just carried on and went straight to the temple. Some people were handing free soft drinks and cookies to those standing in the queue.
I didn’t have much hope of getting inside but when I tried to have a peek through the doors, a man coordinating temple traffic asked me if I wanted to get in. He handed me two white pieces of cloth for me to wrap around the lower and upper part of my body. Moreover, he let me take photos inside! I didn’t want to take too many, though, as I found it disrespectful.
The staff member pushed me into the queue just at the entrance while another staff member handed me two little flowers to offer. Inside, there was a row of small glass jars with tiny pieces of bones. Behind each jar there was a picture of a monk it belonged to. In the centre, under the Buddha statue, stood two jars containing his relics, namely two hair and a tooth. I mimicked the devotees, bowing in front of each jar and leaving the flowers at two of them.
Once I got out of the temple, I went to check out Talpe’s natural pool (marked on Google maps), located exactly opposite to the temple. There were indeed a series of large pools, created by the rectangular slabs of stone blocking the waves. As I could see only the local people in the water (fully dressed), I decided not to draw the attention to myself and entered the water in a T-shirt and wrapped in a sarong.
It’s just a short bus ride from Talpe to the nearby Koggala. I first got off at Habaraduwa Bus Station for Koggala beach. As soon as I got off, I was approached by men who offered to pose as stilt fishermen for 100 rupees.
Stilt-fishing is a tradition reaching to the WW2 times among the coastal population living between Unawatuna and Weligama. However, this fishing method doesn’t bring profit anymore. Posing to the photos to tourist does. I was lucky enough to see a real fisherman not posing to anyone in Walliwalla so had no wish to pay someone to make a show out of himself.
The stretch of the coast in Koggala was undeniably attractive. It was a very picturesque mixture of rocks and sand with the coconut palms growing all along. Like in Talpe, there were mostly Sri Lankans around, some in a natural pool, others sitting on the benches.
I ordered a curry set at a very simple take away place at the seafront. The owner initially asked for 300 rupees. Once I protested, he happily agreed on 150 rupees. That is the difference between the tourist and the real, local price for a typical curry meal.
The main reason for my visit was the folk museum, located just 10 minutes walk from the Koggala bus stop. Martin Wickramasinghe House and Folk Museum double up as a museum of a renown Sri Lankan writer.
Wickramasinge’s house is a typical rural gentry residence from the 19th century located in a large, well -maintained park. A few other old buildings house the folk museum. You can find there Buddha statues, beautiful masks and puppets and all kinds of daily life objects, including boats and carts. It is a simple but pleasant museum. The fee of 300 rupees is adequate for a one- hour long visit.
It isn’t far from the museum to the huge Koggala Lake.
Ahangama is one of these low-key locations where, apart from hotels scattered here and there, there aren’t any tourists. Ahangama beach is small but quite pretty, with a narrow strip of sand and lots of rocks. It’s not suitable for swimming, unfortunately. The presence of stilts suggests the stilt- fishing posing happens here as well. Ahangama attracted me with a couple of old, picturesque houses. Finding a low-budget meal in town wasn’t an issue.
Midigama is another unassuming destination near Weligama. It has a small beach very near to the road which is mostly used by the surfers. Take a look at fish drying on the sun on the special scaffolding near the harbour. It’s photogenic but doesn’t smell very nice.
How to get to there?
All of the beaches and towns described lie along the main coastal road and the local buses have frequent stops all along this stretch of the coast.
Talpe, Kogalla, Ahangama and Midigama all have trains stations (located near the coast) as well.
Prices [in Sri Lankan rupees as of February 2019]:
15 bus Weligama to Midigama
40 bus Weligama to Talpe
100 lunch at low-standard eatery in Ahangama
150/300 lunch at a simpe take-away place at Kogalla (depending on negotiation skills)
300 entrance to folk musum in Koggala