Tourism Eastern Province
Major Attractions in Trincomalee District
Whale and Dolphin Watching
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.
Fort Fredrick, Trincomalee
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.
Kanniya Hot Water Spring
Located at Gomerankadawela, about13km from the Puttalam-Trincomalee Road. It is considered as one of the traditional villages in the district. According to the details provided in some information boards at the site, Kanniya Hot water spring has the history from the King Rawana era. It says that King Ravana stuck the earth with his sward in several spots and several fountains were started on those places. The water was hot and thats the beginning of this hot water springs. Some believes that this is a part of the Buddhist Monastery and Buddhist Monk used this place as a part of their complex. There are some old ruins scattered over the area. It seems that most of those historical artifacts were destroyed in the war time. With the end of the war, many people visiting this Kanniya Hot Water spring in their trip to Trincomalee. People believe that this hot water is good for some skin deceases and it has healing power for Arthritis and Rheumatic.
Major Attractions in Batticaloa District
Passikudah Bay contains a shallow fringing coral reef towards the outer bay with scattered coral communities within the bay, and is connected to similar reef systems further south towards Kalkudah. It is one of the best-known reef systems in the east and has been proposed as a Marine Sanctuary by NARA . Passikudah is very popular among visitors due to the calm clear waters which are ideal for swimming. This is located about 28km north of Batticaloa town, in the Batticaloa District, of the Eastern Province .
Originally a Portuguese settlement, the Fort of Batticaloa was first constructed in 1628 as a trading and administrative center. Set upon a small island, the fort protrudes into a swampy lagoon, surveying the brackish waters protected by the citys outer banks. The Dutch had arrived in 1602, drawn to the prospects of trade and the abundance of pepper and cinnamon grown by the local community. However, it was not until King Rajasinghe in Kandy urged Dutch intervention that the European colonial power took action, capturing the fort in 1638 and establishing sovereignty in the region.
Bordered by a moat on two sides and the lagoon on the others, the stone fort remained in Dutch hands for nearly two centuries before the British entered the country in the late 18th century and took control of the Dutch fortifications. The site has significant religious implications dating back to the 1st century B.C., evidenced by a Buddhist stupa and shatra from the Ruhuna Kingdom that remains in the area.
Located within the urban area of Batticaloa and adjacent to the lagoon, the site consists of mixed wetland habitats and extends to an area of 75 ha. The site has a well-known reputation for its bird population and includes a number of rare species such as Lesser Adjutant Stork Leptoptilus javanicus and Spot Billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis. The lagoon also contains a small population of Broad Snouted Crocodile or 'Mugger' (Crocodylus palustris) a species also in decline and classed as vulnerable by the World Conservation Department (IUCN).
The Sathurukondan site is locally noted for the wide variety and large numbers of water and wading birds that flock to the open water thus making it a visual spectacle of visitor interest all the year round. Located close to the urban center, the area provides an underused nature site resource which could be further developed as an educational/recreation center for both local people and visitors to the area.
Major Attractions in Ampara District
Arugam Bay is situated on the Indian Ocean in the dry zone of Sri Lanka's South-East coast. The Bay is located 220 km due East of Colombo. Arugambay is important for fishing and tourism activities. It is considered to be one of the 10 great surfing places in the world.International surfers gather between the months of May to September each year.
Kumana National Park
Kumana National Park in Sri Lanka is renowned for its avifauna, particularly its large flocks of migratory waterfowl and wading birds. The park is 391 kilometres (243 mi) southeast of Colombo on Sri Lanka's southeastern coast. Kumana is contiguous with Yala National Park. Kumana was formerly known as Yala East National Park, but changed to its present name in 5 September 2006.
The park was closed from 1985 to March 2003 because of the Sri Lankan Civil War. It was also affected by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. Kumbukkan Oya forms the southern boundary of the national park. Some 20 lagoons and tanks support the extensive birdlife of the national park. The lagoons are shallow with depths less than 2 metres (6.6 ft). Kumana Bird Sanctuary, declared in 1938, is included within the Kumana National Park. Kumana is one of the most important bird nesting and breeding grounds in Sri Lanka. 255 species of birds have been recorded in the national park. During April–July months tens of thousands of birds migrate to the Kumana swamp area annually. Rare species such as Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Eurasian Spoonbill, and GreatThick-knee are breeding inhabitants of the Kumana villu.
Lahugala Kitulana National Park
Lahugala Kitulana National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Sri Lanka. Despite its land area, the park is an important habitat for Sri Lankan Elephant and endemic birds of Sri Lanka. The national park contains the reservoirs of Lahugala, Kitulana and Sengamuwa and they are ultimately empties to Heda Oya River. Originally it was designated as a wildlife sanctuary on July 1 of 1966. Then the protected area was upgraded to a national park on October 31 of 1980. Lahugala Kitulana is situated 318 km east of Colombo. This national park is used by elephants traditionally as a feeding ground. Many wetland birds found in Lahugala Kitulana.
Magul Maha Vihara
Magul Maha Vihara is located on the Pottuvil to Monaragala Road and close to Lahugala National Park. The history of this site goes back to the 2nd century BC. Legends related to this site refer to the marriage of King Kawantissa and Vihara Mahadevi. The site has a well preserved Bodhi Ghara (Bodhi Tree Enclosure) Buddha statues and Stupa.
Okanda Murugan Hindu Temple
Located in Okanda, this large Murugan Hindu Temple marks the spot where God Kataragama is said to have landed on the island and is the staging point for the Pada Yatra pilgrimage to Kataragama. Okanda may also be where Sinbad the Sailor landed and embarked on his island adventures.