The Kalpitiya Peninsula is a strip of land that extends northward from Puttalam and runs parallel to the mainland for approximately 40km. To the west of the peninsula is the turquoise blue Indian Ocean with the picturesque Puttalam lagoon to the east. It is renown for encountering large pods of acrobatic Spinner Dolphins while pods of migrating Sperm Whales are also seen intermittently. Rarely seen pelagic seabirds which are seldom spotted on the mainland maybe encountered on whale and dolphin watching expeditions. e Bar Reef Sanctuary has some of the most vividly coloured coral reefs in the country and o ers ideal conditions for snorkeling. On the mainland, feral donkeys are a common sight across the peninsula and a variety of birds adapted to the dry arid conditions such as the Black Kite, Grey Francolin, Black Drongo and Long-tailed Shrike can be encountered in the shallow lagoons and patches of mangrove.
One of the best ways to explore the region is to go on a scenic boat journey through the Puttalam lagoon. As you traverse through these pristine waters, you can see numerous sand dunes and salt pans and will pass through local shing villages residing on the border of the lagoon and the ocean. Visiting the lagoon in Kalpitiya, you can observe shrimp farms which are now a booming business for the locals in this region. You wll pass through vast tracts of mangroves and a variety of avian species including terns, gulls, herons, bitterns and waders can be encountered. e highlight of the journey would be an encounter with the endangered Indo-Paci c Humpback Dolphin also known as he Pink Dolphin which resides in the Puttalam Lagoon and is intermittently seen.
If based at the Dutch Bay in the northern part of the peninsula, you can go on a boat safari to the Kala Oya, which takes you through a pristine mangrove forest that lies along the edge of Wilpattu National Park. Closer to the Dutch Bay lagoon and the Gangewaadiya village, you can also see the local shermen in their canoes casting their nets, but heading further in the wilderness takes over. Gigantic Kumbuk trees line the river bank and there are small streams along the river, which takes you to the heart of the mangrove forest. Bengal Water Monitors can be seen basking in the sun or swimming through the water with the fully grown specimens reaching seven feet in length. A large number of water birds including numerous species of King shers, Herons and Bitterns, Grey-headed Fishing Eagles, Brahminy Kites and White-bellied Sea Eagles are abundant in these sh rich waters. It is also possibly the only boat ride through the mangroves where one has the chance to encounter elephants who feed by the water’s edge and occasionally can be seen swimming across these waterways.
Between the months of November through to April, Kalpitiya is regarded as the prime location for dolphin watching, where Spinner Dolphins are seen on almost a daily basis. Occasionally Spinners can be seen in super pods numbering over a thousand individuals. ere is never a dull moment when watching the Spinners as they surf the waves at high speed, bow ride the boats and occasionally as their name suggests leap out of the water in spectacular displays of aerial acrobatics. Heading further out to sea, Sperm Whales can be occasionally seen predominantly between February – April, while encounters with Blue Whales, Bryde’s Whales, Killer Whales, Risso’s Dolphins, Whale Sharks, Manta Rays and Green Turtles are also infrequently seen in these waters. Going whale and dolphin watching also provides an opportunity to observe rare pelagic seabirds such as the Bridled Tern, Sooty Tern, Brown Noddy, Lesser Noddy, Flesh- footed Shearwater, Long-tailed Skua and Brown Booby which are seldom seen in the mainland.
The shallow reefs of St. Anne’s Reef off Talawila and the Bar Reef Sanctuary are among the best snorkeling sites in the west coast with vast tracts of pristine coral reef and an abundance of marine life. Over 150 different species of coral and 283 species of fish having been recorded at the Bar Reef, making it one of the most significant coral reef eco-systems in the country. Reef Sharks, Manta Rays and Hawksbill and Green Turtles may also be occasionally seen when snorkeling.
The Kalpitiya Peninsula has been listed by the government as one of the key areas to be developed for tourism. Sadly the area has seen much destruction, the Bar Reef Sanctuary has been threatened by dynamite shing which has destroyed vast sections of this once pristine coral reef. The large pods of dolphins found nowhere else in the country are threatened by unregulated shing. e development activities of hotels and resorts should be undertaken with minimal impact on the natural environment. Kalpitiya is a destination which is bountiful in natural treasures and unique habitats which should be preserved at all costs so it can be enjoyed by future generations.