Unawatuna to Negombo, leaving Sri Lanka

Negombo, a small beach town sitting close to Bandaranaike International Airport and home to a dizzying array of high-end hotels, is the perfect spot to spend the last hours of anyone’s visit to Sri Lanka. Some people use Negombo as a base for their entire Sri Lankan trip. The beach is not as picturesque as some, but the fine sands run for several kilometres up the coast and are filled with activity.

Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats
Fishing boats, Negombo, Sri Lanka
Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats
Fishing boats, Negombo, Sri Lanka
Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats
Fishing boats, Negombo, Sri Lanka
Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats
Fishing boats, Negombo, Sri Lanka
Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats
Fishing boats, Negombo, Sri Lanka
Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats
Fishing boats, Negombo, Sri Lanka

We arrived just in time to walk along the beach before the final glorious sunset of our trip bathed us in golden light. All along the sand were traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats, sails fully extended to dry in the sun after a day’s hard fishing. As the sun sank into the ocean, the beach began to fill with local families, kids played cricket, others jumped in the water, couples smooched. It was a lot of fun.

The many upmarket hotels along the beach with bars offering ring-side seats over the ocean, make it seem rude not to have a sundowner or two. It was the perfect way to start our last night. Back in Galle earlier in the day, we’d left the comfort of our hotel before sunrise to take a tuk-tuk along the coast to find one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic sights, stilt fishermen.

Traditional Stilt Fishing in Sri Lanka
Stilt Fishing, Sri Lanka
Traditional Stilt Fishing in Sri Lanka
Stilt Fishing, Sri Lanka
Traditional Stilt Fishing in Sri Lanka
Stilt Fishing, Sri Lanka
Traditional Stilt Fishing in Sri Lanka
Stilt Fishing, Sri Lanka
Traditional Stilt Fishing in Sri Lanka
Stilt Fishing, Sri Lanka
Traditional Stilt Fishing in Sri Lanka
Stilt Fishing, Sri Lanka

We’d seen stilts along the south coast, but never any fishermen. Our hotel owner told us we had to get there early, so we hatched a plan to find the fishermen and spend the rest of the morning on one of Sri Lanka’s finest beaches, Unawatuna. Our luck held and we finally found the fishermen, and some who were returning home with their catch stopped to talk.

Stilt fishing does not look comfortable, but for those with a sense of balance it’s undoubtedly a good way to catch fish. Today, this traditional means of supplementing diets also supplements incomes with tourist dollars. Tipping for photos seems common, but these early morning fishermen were also there to catch fish for real. Soon we were back in the tuk-tuk and heading for breakfast.

Traditional Stilt Fishing in Sri Lanka
Stilt Fishing, Sri Lanka
Traditional Stilt Fishing in Sri Lanka
Stilt Fishing, Sri Lanka
Beach in Sri Lanka
Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka
Beach in Sri Lanka
Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka
Beach in Sri Lanka
Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka

Unawatuna beach is touristy, but in the early morning we had it to ourselves. Even by lunchtime there were only a few people to spoil our delusions of being castaways. We found an open beachside cafe, ordered food and went for a swim. In recent years, Unawatuna has been the victim of heavy development, a shame as our memories are of a beautiful and relaxed beach backed by palms.

Back in Negombo, we started the final few hours of our trip with a morning walk along the beach. It was now much quieter, all the fun and energy of the previous evening had given way to a deserted beach and views of the fishing boats out at sea. Our flight wasn’t until the afternoon, so we walked to a spot where the boats were landing their catch in a hubbub of activity.

Fishing boats, Negombo Beach, Sri Lanka
Fishing boats, Negombo Beach, Sri Lanka
Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats
Fishing boats, Negombo, Sri Lanka
Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats
Fishing boats, Negombo, Sri Lanka
Traditional Sri Lankan fishing boats
Sunset, Negombo Beach, Sri Lanka

WIth its traditional catamaran fishing boats, this is a working beach, and all the more interesting for it. We ate breakfast while gazing out to sea. Negombo was once an important colonial port town, and major source of cinnamon, but we had no time to visit the old Dutch fort and other historic sites. Sadly, our time was up and all that would have to wait for another trip.

10 thoughts on “Unawatuna to Negombo, leaving Sri Lanka

  1. Hope you had a great timee!💕

    1. We did, it was a fantastic trip.

  2. Another wonderful post, Paul. (Was that you near a boat on a previous post?)
    Stilt fishing. Fascinating. 60 years ago, my parents shot the same images. A slow world.
    take care.

    1. A very slow world at times, but never far from massive change it seems, Brian. i’d really like to go back to Sri Lanka and explore the north and east. Yes, that is me pushing the boat up the beach. Everyone (i.e. Sri Lankans) thought it was hilarious.
      Hope all’s well?

      1. I will make sure to include Ceylon in my next asian tour. (At that rate it will take 3 years)
        Good to know you can push a boat. After or before the beer?

        1. Before, the tea pot beer was a reward for my efforts!

  3. Great Photos and wonderful narration. Hope you come visit our island once again soon.

    1. Thank you. We loved our trip to Sri Lanka, hope to visit again one day.

  4. Oh, those boats are marvelous as are your photos of them. But the stilt fishing caught my attention as well. I’ve never even heard of this. Your post is a very interesting one — and so is this country!

  5. I’ve never been to Negombo, but after looking at your photos I’m convinced that I should check it out the next time I’m in Sri Lanka. I love the sense of tranquility in your photos, and for me the color of the sand is unmistakably Sri Lankan, if you know what I mean — here in Indonesia the sand colors are usually white, pink or black.

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