The sea outside the Trincomalee harbour has been identified as having great potential for viewing whales and dolphins. Twenty six of the worlds eighty three species of whale, dolphin and porpoise have been recorded in Sri Lanka waters. Some of the species spotted are blue whales, sperm whales, humpback, brydes whales, spinner dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.
Whale and dolphin watching in Trincomalee can be undertaken both from land-based view points and by going to the sea in boats. Land-based viewpoints can be located in the high rise areas around the inner and outer harbour of Trincomalee.
Pigeon Island National Park, Nilaveli
The Pigeon Island, fringed by a coral reef, off Nilaveli beach was designated as a National Park by the WLCD under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance in 2003. It is unique in the sense that it is the only national park in the country to harbour a colony of the beautiful Blue Rock pigeons and contains some of the best remaining coral reefs in the country. Over 100 species of corals and more than 300 species of reef fish have been indentified from the Trincomalee area, and many of these species are found within the Pigeon Islands National Park, which consists of around five hectares of land and about 1000 meters radius into the sea with the coral reef as the national park boundary. The island is visited by boat and it was opened for tourism in 2002.
Built by Portuguese in 1624 from the debris of an ancient Hindu temple (Koneswaram) it was later captured by a Dutch fleet under Admiral Westerwold in 1639. Not until 1665 was a new fort built here by the Dutch to defend against the advancements of the British and French. In 1672, the year when the Dutch Republic was attacked by France, Britain, and two German states, the French captured Trincomalee and later they occupied Batticaloa.
In 1795 it was taken over by the British, and remained a British garrison till 1948. Coastal artillery guns were added during the two world wars. Today it remains garrisoned by a detachment of the Sri Lanka Army but accessible to visitors. There is also an interesting story about Lovers Leap at the highest end (behind the Kovil) of the cliff with very romantic surroundings which can be of interest to discerning visitors.
Thirukoneswaram temple Inside the Fort
Thirukoneswaram was one of the ancient temples in Sri Lanka. In the 16th century, it had one thousand pillars and esteemed to be one of the richest temples in the South East Asia. It had in its possession large amounts of gold, pearls, precious stones, and silk, which have been endowed over one thousand years. The Temple was demolished by the Portuguese Commander of Army Constantine de Sa de Menzes in 1624 and used the rubbles to build a well fortified Fort to prevent the Port of Trincomalee falling to the rivals. The other destroyed ancient temples are Berndi Kovil, near Avissavela, in 1552, Muneswaram near Chillaw, in 1575, the Vishnu temple at Dondra, in 1588, Thirukatheeswaram, in 1589, and Nallur Kandasamy Kovin, in 1621.
The stones from the destroyed Thirukoneswaram temple were used to build Fort Trincomalee for the protection of Portuguese rule and the Fort changed hands to Dutch in 1658 and to the British in 1782. There was no worship at Thirukoneswaram for nearly 180 years and no temple until 1963. However, the British, with religious tolerance, allowed worship at Swami Malai. The hill on which the temple stood was called Swami Malai.
Thirukonamalai is mentioned in ancient Hindu chronicles of Dekshana Kailasa Puranam, Ramayanam, and Kanda Puranam. Accurate timing of these events has not been established. However, these chronicles appear to narrate events that took place approximately four to five thousand years before the birth of Christ.
During the destruction, some of the articles and statues of deities were saved by the devotees and were unearthed later in 1950. These unearthed items now form part of newly built Temple. The ancient statues made of gold and copper were found in 1944/1950. The Hindus have preserved their heritage through many generations and have rebuilt the destroyed Thirukoneswaram Temple in 1963. The initiation ceremony, Maha Kumbebishekam, of the newly built Thirukoneswaram temple took place on April 3, 1963. Ceylon was lucky to have two Hindu temples for which laudatory hymns have been sung by eminent Saints. Saint Thirugnanasambantha Moorthi Nayananar sang in praise of the Lord of Thirukoneswaram and both he and Sundaramurthi Swamigal have sung in praise of the Lord of Thiruketheeswaram that was instrumental in creating an urge for rebuilding the ancient Hindu temples in Sri Lanka.
Velgam Rajamaha Viharaya, Kanniya
This Temple complex which counts more than two thousand years of history is situated about five kilometres from the Trincomale Anuradhapura road (A12) and is of religious and archaeological importance.
There are old dagabas, temples, statues made out of stones, letters inscribed on stones and beautiful ponds spreading over an extent of 32 hectares (80 acres) of land. In the eleventh century, during the reign of King Solee, Sinhalese people were compelled to move to the Southern part of the country. The people have lived in a dark era and Buddhist cultural environment had deteriorated.