Far from the madding crowd
Kalpitiya located in Sri Lanka’s north-western province is a safe haven for sun-seekers and kitesurfers
There comes a time, every now and then, when you want to slow down the breakneck speed of life, go to the banks of a water body and meditate there like a heron. With me, this time comes every two weeks. Even if I can’t travel that often, I’m always on lookout for that perfect getaway. The real challenge is coming back once it is all over.
One such place in Sri Lanka is the Kalpitiya peninsula, a flab of land slashed away from the island’s tapering side on the western coast. Barely four hours away from Colombo, the drive will take you through small towns, lazy rivulets, open fields, long-limbed coconut plantations and glittering lagoons. Once you’ve entered the peninsula, you see giant chakris, those windmills going chop, chop, chopping the wind, flanking your sides. The colourful boats of fishermen anchored on the shore bob their heads in a slow, rhythmic dance.
The palms sway to the wind’s tantrums but it is the mangroves, that first line of defense for land, which stand stoic and unimpressed. It is not just the windmills and the palm trees that you see enjoying the wind. It is also the kite surfers, those reckless beings who want to ride the waves. Kalpitiya is a kite-surfing heaven, supposed to have the best kite-surfing conditions in South Asia.
The wind here sometimes sings and at other times it howls. It is the howling that makes the surfers’ heart thump with undiluted thrill—especially during May to October, the monsoon months that rouse the wind gods. The sheltered waters of the lagoon are ideal for beginners. Kalpitiya is much more than a weekend getaway. Tourists, especially from Europe, like to spend weeks there, some even months, surfing with the waters, waves and wind.
Apart from the kite surfers, there is another mammal that is quite partial to this coast. Dolphins! You get up early, have a cup of tea on the sands, embark on a fisherman’s boat and even before you’ve had time to lament on the blissful early morning sleep you’ve missed, you see a flash in your peripheral vision. And then another, followed by splashes all around us. You’re in the midst of a super pod of dolphins! Hundreds and hundreds of these acrobats of the sea splashing all around, corkscrewing in the air, swimming like a blue arrow so close to your boat that you feel the urge to dip your hand in and feel its streamlined body. December to March is the best season for Dolphin watching in Kalpitiya; during this time, you can chance upon a Sperm Whale and if you’re incredibly lucky, a Dugong too! On your way back, befuddled yet happy about the close encounters, you can stop at one of the reefs and jump down in the waters to see the underwater magic.
For those like me who want to avoid the kite surfing crowds, switch off, lounge and daydream about the vastness of the universe and forget about the speed of the internet, the better place to stay is some of the other beaches a few kilometres away from Kalpitiya on the peninsula, like Talawila. With lagoon on one side and serene beach on the other, the Elements Watersports and Nature Resort can be one such perfect retreat. Spread over a large area, each of the rustic and spacious villas have a private deck on the lagoon. There will be hardly anyone to eye you as you relax on the deck except the crustaceans in the waters below or a few feral asses on the other side of the bank or a flock of partridges crossing your hut, taking cover in the bushes like soldiers on a mission and calling to the odd dreamer lagging behind.
With the government trying to develop this peninsula as an “attractive tourist destination” complete with a Race Course, Golf Course, an underwater amusement park (it’s going to be environmentalists’ nightmare!) and a domestic airport, now is a good time to visit Kalpitiya, before the tourism circus begins. The peninsula should be visited by those seeking dolphins, kite surfing and solitude. With a tendency towards overpricing for accommodation here, and much better beaches available on the east and west of the island, making Kalpitiya a grand tourist destination is not exactly a brainwave of the government. One wishes that the government did not always assume it is headed in the right direction. Only dolphins are.
The writer is an author of fiction and non-fiction books, and Ex-Hon. Wildlife Warden, Udaipur