When it comes to scuba diving around Asia, Sri Lanka doesn’t tend to be the first scuba destination that comes to mind.
However, those that have dove around this South Asian island know that the waters here are full of incredible sights and surprises.
A scuba diving trip to Sri Lanka offers not only the chances explore the beautiful underwater world of the island, but also to relax on sandy beaches and explore a different culture.
Historical sites, tea plantations, and temples add in an exciting mix to your scuba holiday.
However, we are also aware that planning the PERFECT dive holiday to Sri Lanka can be somewhat stressful due to the lack of useful information online.
But it doesn’t have to be.
In this guide, it is my goal to show you all of the best dive locations in the country, how to get there, what to expect, who to dive with, visa information and more.
There are a ton of options when it comes to diving here, so I will tell you what makes each one unique and special, and once you decide where you want to go, I’ll give you all the information you’ll need to make it happen.
Without the stress of not knowing what to expect, and letting you plan every detail.
Dive Sites to Explore in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka really is a scuba diving paradise. Coral reefs, over 50 ship wrecks, and tons of marine life make it a must-dive destination. Here are some must-visit dive areas.
This region is made up of 14 islands on the north-west side of Sti Lanka. It was registered as a marine wildlife sanctuary in 1992 and has a diverse array of species.
There are Plenty of macro species here making it popular with underwater photographers. Whales (blue, humpback, pilot, minke, and more) along with rays, sharks, and dugongs can also be found in the area. Must-dive sites in Kapitiya include: Bulldog Reef, Bar Reef, Trevally Pass, and Kalpitiya Ridge.
Located near Galle, the famous fishing village, Unawatuna is one of the most popular dive destinations in Sri Lanka. Lots of shipwrecks, plenty of corals, and a variety of marine life make it a must-see spot. Here you can find barracuda, rays, reef fish, crustaceans, and sometimes dolphins and sharks. Don’t miss: Galle Ship Wreck, Rangoon Wreck, and Diyamba Kaputha.
Weligma is another dive spot close to Galle. While it doesn’t have as many dive sites as Unawatuna, it’s definitely worth a visit. The highlight of the sites here are the massive underwater rock formations that are fun to explore. The area is also home to reef sharks, black tip sharks, a variety of whales, and, if you are lucky, whale sharks. Don’t miss Bridge Rock and Prince Heinrich’s Patch.
Negombo is another popular pick with tourists. The waters here are beautiful and suitable for all levels of divers. As with elsewhere in Sri Lanka, plenty of marine life, great topography and some interesting wrecks. When it comes to critters, there’s a lot of macro species to be found here. Must dive sites include Derana Gala and Ahas Yatra Gala which is a British aircraft wreck.
5. Trincomalee & Niraveli
Home to the second largest natural harbor in the world, Tincomalee with its pinnacles, shipwrecks, underwater walls, and crystal clear waters is a popular dive destination in Sri Lanka.
This area, along with the nearby Niraveli, are also home to dozens of great wrecks. Expect to see plenty of juvenile fish and reef here along with some macro critters.
There is also a chance of seeing dolphins and blue whales. Be sure to dive: Swami Rock and the H.M.S Hermes Wreck.
Beruwala’s dive sites are a good 30-minute boat ride away from the shore, but they are worth it. The massive rock formations are impressive enough to explore on their own, but don’t get too caught up in the nooks and crannies because the big stuff is frequently seen in the blue.
Watch for whale sharks in season, mantas, reef sharks, and more. Don’t miss: Shark Point and Barracuda Rock.
Colombo may come as a surprise, but it’s actually known to be one of the best areas for wreck diving in Sri Lanka. From WWI ships to barges, and more, Colombo is a must-dive destination for wreck enthusiasts.
Must dive sites include: Teprobane East Wreck, SS Worcestershire, and the Black Coral Wreck.
Thanks to the warm currents of the Indian Ocean, the water around Sri Lanka attract all kinds of marine life. From tiny macro species to some of the Ocean’s largest species, Sri Lanka has a lot to offer in terms of critters.
Whatever you see, you won’t be disappointed. Here are some things to look out for.
–Whales: The waters of Sri Lanka are home to a variety of whales throughout the year including humpbacks, blue whales, minke whales, and pilot whales.
–Dolphins: Several species of dolphins can be found around Sri Lanka including spotted dolphins, spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, and more.
–Sharks: Black tips and reef sharks are fairly common. Whale sharks can also be seen at certain times of the year.
–Rays: Manta rays and sting rays are both common in certain areas.
–Turtles: Five species of turtles inhabit the southern parts of the islands.
–Nudibranchs: a few species, so keep an eye out.
–Frog Fish: Especially in the shallow rocky areas.
Travel information about Sri Lanka
How to Get to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has two international airports: Bandaranaike International Airport which is closest to Colombo and Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport near Hambantota.
Chances are you will be arriving into the first one. Flights to Sri Lanka will usually involve a couple of connections if you are coming direct from North America.
Once you arrive, the most popular way to get around the country is by rail. There are the local trains (the ones you see in the photos with people hanging out the doors) or luxury trains. The luxury train ride line is called Expo Rail and covers 60 destinations.
It is also possible to hire a private driver or a taxi. If you check ahead with your chosen dive resort, they may be able to arrange something for you.
Visa Information for Americans
American tourists will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. There are two ways of doing this. You can apply ahead of time for an electronic visa or, get one on arrival at Colombo airport.
The visa will be valid for thirty days. As with most destinations, visitors must have at least one blank page in their passport and the passport must be valid for six months after the expected departure date.
Best Times to Visit
Choosing what time of year to visit Sri Lanka really depends on what part of the island you are going to be in. Monsoon season (the worst time to dive) is different on both sides of the island.
If you are going to be based in the west or south/west of Sri Lanka, the best time for scuba diving is between the months of May to October. But, if you are considering basing yourself on the North or East parts of the island, then it’s the opposite with the best times being from May to October.
Other Things to See and Do in Sri Lanka
While Sri Lanka’s beaches and dive sites are stunning, there is a lot more to see and do on this island country.
There is plenty of amazing wildlife on land as well including elephants, macaques, leopards, jaguars, and more.
If you are an animal lover, then definitely consider spending a couple of days on a safari exploring one of the country’s national parks to see if you can spot any of the above.
Some great picks include Yala National Park, Sinharaja Forest Reserve, and Udawalawe National Park.
Sri Lanka is also home to some amazing temples and historical sites. Perhaps the most popular is Sigiriya; an ancient city and rock fortress which you can climb and explore.
Don’t forget to spend some time in Sri Lanka’s cities as well. Kandy is a favourite; with its beautiful buildings, Temple of the Tooth, and gorgeous highland surroundings.
The highlands are also famous for their tea plantations which are beautiful to wander as well.
Sri Lanka known as Ceylon is an island country in Southern Asia with an area of 65,610 km2 (25,330 sq mi) with an estimated population of 21,203,000. Though it is small, it is a home of various cultures, ethnicities, and languages.
Traders and adventures often visit Sri Lanka for precious stones and rare spices. Undeveloped beaches lined the island and variety of beautiful landscapes and jungles that inhabited many elephants, leopards, and bird species.
Capital city of Sri Lanka: Colombo
Closest neighbors to Sri Lanka: India on the southeast and Maldives in the northeast are the closest neighbors of Sri Lanka.
Best times to visit Sri Lanka: The best time to visit varies, due to the two separate monsoons that affect Sri Lanka, the climate is complicated.
It’s best to go from October to March on west and south coast of the hill country. While the best time to go in April/May to December for the east coast. Hilly part is freezing while the other part of the country is humid.
There is no direct flight to Sri Lanka for the cities outside Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. It’s either you will take a stopover in Southeast Asia or Europe or a non-stop trip to India from Chicago, Newark, and New York City over the South pole.
Visa requirements for Sri Lanka: Visa, passport, and return ticket are required. Passport is valid not less than 6 months upon entry.
Currency of Sri Lanka: The currency of Sri Lanka is Sri Lankan Rupee.
Official Language of Sri Lanka: The official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala, Tamil, and English.
UNESCO World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka
There are 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka and 2 in their tentative list.
- Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
- Ancient City of Sigiriya
- Golden Temple of Dambulla
- Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications
- Sacred City of Anuradhapura
- Sacred City of Kandy
- Central Highlands of Sri Lanka
- Sinharaja Forest Reserve
More Sri Lanka travel & diving resources:
- 13 Unique Experiences Around Sri Lanka
- 7 Easy Ways to Overcome Language Barriers
- 50 Amazing Things to do in Sri Lanka