When the rains come to Sri Lanka, they come hard and heavy. We knew we were visiting the southwest coast at the beginning of the monsoon season but we had no idea how wet it can get. We were fortunate though. We left the area just before the big rains arrived. It rained as we traversed the country to Arugam Bay, but the heaviest rains hit the places we left behind. We were told they received 30-days worth of monsoon rains in 2-days. We were devastated to read the news and see images of all the people affected by the rain, flooding and landslides. It really hits home when disaster strikes a place you’ve just been.
Sri Lanka is pretty unique in that it’s a small island but has distinctly different seasons from coast to coast. As the monsoons deluge the south and west, the east coast enters its dry season. Still, this storm was so big that no part of the island escaped it. We arrived to Arugam Bay and spent two days waiting out the rain. The wifi was down as a result of the storm, power came and went, our roof leaked and our kids had a bad case of cabin fever. Still, we felt lucky to be somewhere safe. We spent the time catching up on homeschool and work, and when the sun came out we were ready to hit the surf and explore this fascinating area.
We spent 9-nights at the Hideaway, a lovely family-run hotel in the heart of Arugam Bay with an excellent restaurant, bar and cafe. It was recommended to us by Surf Stay Ceylon and we could not have been happier. The hotel is beautiful, bohemian and understated — a little oasis of good vibes and great taste along a bustling stretch of backpackers, surf lodges and rice and curry shops. What we loved the most about this special place (beside the food) was its people. Everyone was warm, relaxed and friendly. They made us feel welcome from the moment we arrived and we soon found ourselves moving to the laid back rhythm that permeates this place.
Within a day we had become friends with everyone – from the owner, Sharon, who went out of her way to ensure we were always happy, to the waiters, the cleaners, the handymen, Sharon’s nephews, Yanik and Yhevin, who run the café and bar, the other guests and even the two resident dogs. Everyone was happy to be here and their joyfulness was infectious.
Arugam Bay is famous for great surf this time of year and it did not disappoint. There are multiple breaks on offer, some within a five-minute walk, and all within a half-hour tuk-tuk ride. We explored those matching our abilities and Michael and Easton even tried the main point reef on their final day. What we loved most about this area though was the rawness of it. This little stretch of ‘surfiness’ sits in rural Sri Lanka. It is surrounded by miles of untouched jungle where elephants, leopards, crocodiles, monkeys, buffalo, peacocks, mongoose, snakes and even bears roam free. You can surf all day and then have a barbeque on top of a huge rock amid a jungle full of wildlife in the evenings. We did not know this until we arrived but we took full advantage of it. While there we went on one jeep and two tuk-tuk safaris. We saw all of the animals above and more, except the bears.
We hope to return to this magical place in not too long. In the meantime, we’ve written down our favourite things and a list of words that will forever evoke good memories of Sri Lanka.
Highlights from Arugam Bay:
- Evening Elephant Safaris (in a tuk-tuk!)
- Surfing at Peanut Farm – small enough waves for Marlow to learn!
- Surfing at Whiskey Point – big enough waves for Easton and Michael to be scared
- Surfing the reef at Main Point once they worked up the courage.
- Tuk-Tuk safari with Jaya – up to Buddha Rock
- Jungle BBQs with Sudu from Surf East Cabanas
- Flat Whites and ‘Milos’ from the Hideaway Blue café every morning
- Delicious meals from the Hideway restaurant
- Collecting peacock feathers in the jungle
- Drinking King Coconuts and eating as much spicy Coconut Sambol as we could take.
Words to describe Sri Lanka:
Tropical, Colourful and hot. Curry, Hoppers, Elephants and Crocodiles. Jungly, Muggy, Happy, and Friendly. Spicy, Fruity, Balmy and Surfy. Peacocks, tuk-tuks, surfboards and smiles. Wild, free and so inviting.