The narrative of Hambanthota, now emerging as a maritime hub of the Indian Ocean has to start with its name. The port city of today was also the refuge of Malay seafarers who attempted to sail with the westerly winds from the straits of Malacca. The Malay voyagers came in their Sampans on the ancient maritime silk route. The town still has the largest Malay community whose forefathers brought their women along in their pursuit of a permanent piece of vacation Sri Lanka.
The tides of trade in a new world order have again transformed the fortunes of this newest deep water port city that caters to the constant flow of maritime traffic in both directions between the straits of Malacca and the Arabian sea.
Hambanthota marks the transition from the wet zone to the dry zone that opens in to the plains of shrub jungle. The topography of the south of the island is in throes of a great transformation with an International airport now under construction.
To the curious it may be of note that the two largest sanctuaries that are rich in avifauna, Bundala and Kumana are in close proximity to Hambanthota.
Migratory birds from Central Asia, Siberia and the Himalayas nest in them. The wide bodied birds of Boeing and Air Bus will want the same tails winds that the Siberian and Himalayan birds rely on when on their Sri Lanka flights.
Tissamaharama which derives its name from the impressively large Stupa built in 3rd Century BC is about forty minutes from Hambanthota. The historic town is the base for you to visit the Yala National park by 4X4 safaris. The manmade lake with its huge flocks of egrets, along with gentle breezes may convince you to take a boat trip around the lake.
A half hour away is the famous Kataragama shrine dedicated to god Skanda, son of Shiva and god of war and wisdom. The origins of the present shrine is obscured in the mist of history so ancient that legend takes over. The shrine is sacred to both Buddhist and Hindus.
What is fascinating is that there is an old pilgrim route that connects Jaffna in the north of Sri Lanka with the shrine that is only a few miles from Kirinde, a Sri Lanka beach resort that is at the extreme end of the south coast. Katharagama is a unique meeting point of two closely connected but yet separate religious traditions, Buddhism and Hinduism that have co-existed in the island for two millennia and more.
Of greater interest is the priceless opportunity of exceptional diving of the world renowned ‘Great Basses’ wreck and the Little Basses reef.
A 24 cannon battleship that was sent by the Moghul Emperror Aurnagzeb to the Far East wrecked in a storm is in quiet repose on the sea bed off the Great Basses. Like to dive for Moghul coins during your Sri Lanka Holiday?