The first thing you would notice when stepping into the lovely beaches of Mirissa is the great enthusiasm for surfing amongst the tourists. Be it rain or shine, you will spot enthusiastic surfers trying to catch that perfect wave. Early morning (6.30 AM ~ 9.30 AM) and late in the evening (5.00 PM ~ 7.00 PM) are the most popular times for this time-honored sport.
A relaxing walk along the beaches of Mirissa often leads to interesting encounters. Below is a Catamaran waiting for the tide, in order to proceed with the evening’s fishing trip. The fishermen wait patiently and when the moment is right, they would push the boat into the sea and board it.
As a whale watching hotspot Mirissa is sought out by many a nature lover to catch a glimpse of those magnificent mammals of the deep blue. Visit Mirissa from December – April during the mating season if you are planning on a whale-watching trip. They say there is a 90% chance of sighting any of the 26 species of whales, and you might get lucky and meet the Blue-whale. It is believed there are both migratory and resident varieties in these fertile waters that stretch all the way to Antarctica.
The Mirissa fishing harbour is a hive of activity from sunrise till mid morning. The colourful fishing trawlers that have just arrived from sea are berthed in every nook and corner of the harbour, giving the harbour a jam-packed appearance. Meanwhile, the crews are busy trading off their bounty to eager buyers, who could be fish “mudalalis” (vendors) or individuals who want to buy freshly caught fish, in large quantities, for a good price.
The southern coastal region is populated with fisher-folk. Their scope of operation ranges from the big time businessmen who own multiple fishing-trawlers, to the humble stilt-fishermen who’s daily catch helps them to earn a few bucks to get through the day and provide for their families. Sometimes, they get lucky when an entire shoal of small fish are driven close to the shores by some unknown deep sea event. On such days the fishermen fish to their hearts desire, and can be seen celebrating with their mates and families.
In Mirissa, in the old town of Totamunu, is the Weheragalle Samudragiri Viharaya, famous for its faded but lovely murals painted in the days gone by. The temple has a significant history, established under patronage of King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe (reign 1747 – 1782). The temple, which is also known as the Mirissa Viharaya, was renovated by bikku Thiranagama, a pupil of the most venerable Welivita Sri Saranankara thero. The vihara has produced many erudite priests who have contributed much to the revival of Buddhism and monastic education in Southern Sri Lanka.
A mere 10km away is the town of Matara, which is the largest town in the South, there is the infamous Weherahena temple that boasts of a truly magnificent Buddha statue.
Further South, is Wewurukannala Viharaya in Dickwella which dates back to the Kandian era where stands the tallest (160 ft) “Samadhi” stupa of the Lord Buddha in Sri Lanka. A visitor can climb the stairway behind the statue, leading to the very apex, which offers a magnificent view of the surroundings. At the top, upon making a small donation to the temple administration, you might be presented with a tiny “1×1″ ceramic tablet as souvenir, which are exact copies of the actual tiles that have been used to build the saffron robe of the Enlightened One. The attractions of the temple do not stop there however. If you wish to explore the different types of punishments one would get for various misdeeds in “hell”, the murals and statues in the “model of hell” would give you a vivid if not amusing idea of whats in store. It is a good idea to stay away from misdeeds in any case!
About 2 km from Waligama junction close to Matara, Kotikagoda Raja Maha Viharaya is among those ancient temples that has preserved their temple art very well over the years. Tracing back to the Anuradhapura era, the temple was renovated during the 19th century with Kandian art. Set in vibrant colours, the breathtaking murals will captivate you to a trance, as you walk within the “Budu Medura” or the statue house.
Last but not least, about 25 km further south, past Tangalla and closer to Nonagama, lies Ussangoda – a vast block of land where nothing much seems to grow. To the scientific minded, Ussangoda was possibly the site of a meteor strike some millions of years ago. Legend links the place to Ravana. Some believe that it was the airstrip for Ravana’s infamous “Dandu Monara” airplane legend. The site which looks burnt and infertile is said to have been torched by Hanuman, the monkey god who supported prince Rama against Ravana, the epic ruler of Lanka. The terrain here is truly barren in nature. The only flora that has conquered the reddish earth (which is unusually high in iron concentration) is the ground creeper called Vishnu Kanthi, with a tiny purple flower. This plant is said to have medicinal qualities and is used in Ayurveda treatments. Shrub jungle surrounds the infertile plateau which is bordered by the Indian Ocean on one side.
Where to Stay
The Paradise Beach Club Mirissa is a privately owned resort hotel situated down Gunasiri Maahimi Mawatha (Reverend Gunasiri Road) in the Mirissa Bay area, and is a prime property for a relaxing stay. As the Mirissa bay is renowned for its white sandy beaches and ample surf, and The Pearl crew decided to stay over at this resort and explore the environs of Mirissa.
The hotel crew were very courteous and helpful, and the rooms clean and spacious. An array of food ranging from western to Sri Lankan to suit an palette are served in the spacious dining area with a magnificent view of the ocean. There is a superb relaxing view of the beach, which one can directly step onto from the ground-floor rooms. A full sized swimming pool on the beach caps the experience. If you wish to go surfing, whale-watching, Big game fishing, kayaking, a wild-life safari or just sight-seeing the hotel crew would be only too pleased to assist you.
Story | Nilu Rajapakse. Photography | Danushka Senadheera (Surfer, Tourist and Catamaran, Whale, Weheragalla, Wewurukannala, Paradise Beach Club) Nilu Rajapakse (Mirissa fishing trawlers, Weherahena, Kotikagoda Vihara) Ruwan Rajapakse (Stilt fisherman, Ussangoda)