The 8 Best Sites for Diving in Sri Lanka - Famous Spots, Ship Wrecks and Coral Reefs

 Diving in Sri Lanka is another fantastic thing to do in this beautiful country. [Image: public domain]

Diving in Sri Lanka is another fantastic thing to do in this beautiful country. [Image: public domain]

Scuba diving is an increasingly popular activity in stunning Sri Lanka. And with a huge number of dive sites including world renowned ship wrecks and coral reefs, it is easy to see why. If you're heading that way and fancy a dive, check out this ultimate guide to diving in Sri Lanka.

 

Known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka boasts insane beauty both on land and at Sea.

I recently went through my pick of the must see ‘land based’ places for any Sri Lanka itinerary, but what about all there is to see under water too?

Indeed, with countless dive sites, from sea caves, rock formations and shipwrecks to vibrant coral reefs and a huge variety of marine wildlife, diving is a hugely popular activity among travellers to Sri Lanka.

And there’s something for beginners and experts alike.

So, for anyone planning a visit to the country for the first time, eager to explore its deep blue underwater world, I thought I’d put together a guide to diving in Sri Lanka.

When to Go Diving Sri Lanka

It’s possible to dive all year round in Sri Lanka, but there are two main seasons based around the monsoons.

From all accounts, diving on the West coast is best between October and May, while on the East coast it is best around May to October.

The water temperature peaks in April and is lowest in August.

 A guide to water temperatures in SL. [Source:  https://travel.padi.com/d/sri-lanka/ ]

A guide to water temperatures in SL. [Source: https://travel.padi.com/d/sri-lanka/]

Top Sites for Scuba Diving in Sri Lanka

 Vakarai is situated on the Eastern side of the country.

Vakarai is situated on the Eastern side of the country.

Diving in Vakarai

Location: East

Dive Time: May to October

Diving details:

With dives from as shallow as 14m, Vakarai is a perfect place for beginners.

It offers pristine reefs with a diverse population of colourful tropical fish population, including Bengali Snappers, Rock Cod and Trevally. There’s also plenty of coral and anemone species.

Think undamaged reefs, calm seas and un-crowded diving.

 Kalpitiya is North West Sri Lanka

Kalpitiya is North West Sri Lanka

Diving in Kalpitiya

Location: North West

Dive Time: November to April

Diving details:

Kalpitiya boasts beautiful diving around the largest reef in Sri Lanka: the Bar Reef. Thanks to its marine sanctuary you’ll dive with reams of tropical fish, as well as reef sharks, whales, dolphins and manta rays.

 The capital city, Colombo, on the Western side of SL, boasts some of the greatest diving off its shores. 

The capital city, Colombo, on the Western side of SL, boasts some of the greatest diving off its shores. 

Diving in Colombo

Location: West

Dive Time: November to May

Diving details:

Colombo is said to home the best diving in Sri Lanka, due to the many shipwrecks and huge selection of reefs to explore.

Notable dive sites include the Taprobane East Wreck, which is an unidentified wreck 2 hours outside Colombo. At 30m deep you need training, but it’s worthwhile to see through clear waters the stingray, Napoleon Fish and huge shoals of Glassfish.

The Gorgonian Gardens are another site of interest. It takes roughly 20 minutes to get to the South Gale Reef, which, at 35m, is also mainly for experienced divers due to the strong currents. The  Gorgonian Sea Fans are said to provide a mystical experience.

The Barracuda Reef off the coast of Mount Lavinia, not far from Colombo, is another popular dive site in this area.

 Hikkaduwa's on the South Westerly side of the country.

Hikkaduwa's on the South Westerly side of the country.

Diving in Hikkaduwa

Location: South West

Dive Time: November to April

Diving Details:

Hikkaduwa is approximately 20km from Galle, the famed colonial fortress town of Dutch and Portuguese origin.

Here, among the colourful reef and tropical fishes, the diving boasts impressive shipwrecks to explore, such as The Conch: a famous wreck and popular dive site.

There’s also Deep Rock, which is a rock complex with multiple level and many underground caves. This one will requires a PADI Advanced Open water or Deep Diver Qualification.

 Unawatuna is in the South of the country and has some of the World's best beaches as well a diving.

Unawatuna is in the South of the country and has some of the World's best beaches as well a diving.

Diving in Unawatuna

Location: South/South West

Dive Time: April to September

Diving Details:

Unawatuna hosts some of best stretches of beach in the world and the diving is of equal quality.

There’s coral reefs as well as the celebrated wreck of the SS Rangoon to explore. This wreck is 100 years old and sits upright upon the seabed.

The biodiversity off Unawatuna is famous too. Dive with turtles and huge variety of fish including the Humphead Wrasse (otherwise known as Maori or Napoleon Wrasse). Enjoy the black coral, Talpe Reef & Diymba Kupotha (the ‘Napoleon Reef’).

 Kirinda is South Easterly and best for diving between the monsoons.

Kirinda is South Easterly and best for diving between the monsoons.

Diving Kirinda & the Great Basses Reef

Location: South East

Dive Time: Mid March to Mid April (Between the Monsoons)

Diving Details:

The Basses Ridge is the Great Barrier Reef of Sri Lanka. At almost 40kms long it boasts intense, adventurous diving suitable only for experienced divers due to the strong currents of the area.

There are ancient shipwrecks, limestone caves and overhangs, as well as hundreds of species marine life to admire, including the Giant Trevally, shoals of Spadefish, Goatfish, & the White Tip Shark too.

 Trinco is another stunning part of SL and boasts more of the country's incredible diving.

Trinco is another stunning part of SL and boasts more of the country's incredible diving.

Diving in Trincomalee

Location: North East

Dive Time: April/May to Octover

Diving Details:

Trinco is a gem on the North Eastern side of the island and a popular diving spot in Sri Lanka thanks to its clear waters and white sand beaches.

The shallow sand banks make Trinco a good bet for first time divers. However, the true rewards of diving in this area are said to be for more experienced divers, who can enjoy the spectacular Blue Whales and large numbers of wrecks in the area.

Trinco is home to a number of WW2 aircraft wrecks (Hurricanes), which add a level of historic intrigue to the diving here, as well as the large variety of marine wildlife.

There’s also the opportunity to dive with Black Tip Reef Sharks at the aptly named Black Tip Rock, as well as turtles and other marine life over the coral at Pigeon Island. 

 Batticaloa on the East of SL is another great diving location.

Batticaloa on the East of SL is another great diving location.

Diving in Batticaloa

Location: East

Dive Time: May to October

Diving Details:

From all accounts the most famous dive of Batticaloa is the HMS Hermes. It’s meant to be one of the greatest wreck dives in the world: exploring the ruin of the World’s first aircraft carrier, built in 1912.

It sounds impressive: situated at a depth of 53m, the huge Hermes has all its guns visible. It’s a technical decompression dive, requiring a high level of diving experience.

Explore the wreck and enjoy Black Coral, Giant Trevally, Mangrove Jacks, Tuna, Barracuda, Marble Rays and Whales in the vicinity.

The numerous other wrecks and reefs make this a great spot to dive.

For more in depth and comprehensive advice on the diving available in Sri Lanka, check out the Dive Sri Lanka website.


For any divers or budding divers heading to Sri Lanka, I hope this brief guide has been useful in planning your trip.

There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of dive sites to explore, so wherever you go, have an amazing time and stay safe!