A Night on the Shores of Nilwella (Camping on Blue Beach Island)

Phase 1- Excitement

When on a relatively unexciting day at work, a friend of ours told us about this beach camping place near Dikwella  we went in to a trance of excitement, to say the least and couldn’t wait to get on the next train heading out to Matara, the nearest town to Dikwella. So without even thinking twice we called up the host and booked the closest available date, which was two months away! A much longer wait than we were hoping for! Sigh!

Phase 2-  Anxiety Crept in

As time passed by phase 2 start to set in! Do we really know this place? Is it safe?  Would we be able to come out with our limbs still attached? How trustworthy was the host? were just a few of the doubts that crept in slowly but steadily and paralyzed the excitement that was bubbling inside of us.

Following many late nights and long hours of research on the place by extensive reading of reviews, scouting out the location via google earth and contacting people who have had been there before phase 3 finally came about just in time for the big day!

Phase 3- Might as well do it!!

Ohh well! We only live once, and we’ve already booked the place so…might as well do it!!

 

So after a roller coaster ride of emotions I found myself at 5 am on a Saturday morning on a train bound Down South of Lanka. After a 6 hour long bumpy ride and a change in back drop from lush green mountains to picturesque sea side, we reached the city of Matara around 1 pm. And after begging a “Matara-Hambantota” bus conductor who was taking his job way too seriously we hopped on to an overly crowded bus which would take us closer to our destination.

Let me tell you something about mother Lanka, even though it’s one of the tiniest countries in the world and has a similar culture and language spread throughout, the dialect of language used may differ in the smallest possible way from area to area. These changes are no more than a few syllables long, a small difference in the pronunciation or wording here and there. But to the trained ear it may feel quite different!

On that crowded bus, surrounded by people talking in a slightly different way than I’m used to, in a different climate than I’m from, for a split second I was teleported to a place where I felt foreign. And in that moment I thought our overly packed bags or the countless bottles falling from the sky (yes I accidentally placed a bag full of water bottles in the overhead bin and bottles started to fall on to the heads of the passengers sitting bellow..one by one with painful to watch poses in between! cringe!!) will be choked up to mistakes by poor, lost travelers. But thanks to the unnecessarily pushy conductors’ screams, I was dragged back to the reality that I’m just in another tiny corner of my beautiful island and that yes both the bags and bottles bothered other.

So a “Fast and the Furious” sequel of a bus ride, a screaming overly ambitious conductor, a moment where we thought that one of our backpacks were thrown out of the bus and a frightful episode of getting down later we reached the off road that leads to the picturesque little seaside village of Nilwella, where we were to spend the night on a nearby private island known as Blue Beach Island.

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Nilwella, a picturesque little seaside village adorned by its own little Jetty

We met our host, Mr Suneth near the sand bar that connects this tombola island to the main land and since we had reached there quite earlier than the given time he took us to his home which serves as the base of operation.  Here visitors get to take a bath, charge their phones and indulge in all the homey comforts before giving them up for the night. The mother of our host, a kind lady who can make a mean ginger milk tea-the best of its kind I have ever had, is more than willing to assist you in anything you need. And meeting her triggered the lingering  feeling of anxiety to evaporate drop by drop.

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Blue beach island. One of the only two Tombola islands in Sri Lanka

Once we had settled down and acclimatized ourselves to the surrounding, we made our way to the sand bar where we initially met our host to have some beach time. When I say “some” I mean a few long hours of rolling in the sand and crashing in to the waves like children gone wild. I must say we might have been the most bothersome group our host has had to handle when it came to dragging us out of the water.

Laying on the beach as the sun sets behind us and the waves crashing near our feet, feeling the sand give away beneath us was what we needed to put our minds at ease and embrace this experience full heartedly.

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As the nightfall approached we made our way to the camp site nested on a side of the island hidden away from the common world. Since we had spent too many hours in “beach time” we lost the chance to explore the island beforehand and now due to low visibility we had to wait till the morning to see the island in all its glory. –Bummer!! We made our way up the rocky shores and in to the depth of the island with the help of our touches not knowing where we were going, to reached the camp site.

The camp site was quite the fancy affair with Tiki torches lighting the area and at the center was the most coziest looking tents surrounding a roaring camp fire.

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Ain’t that a cozy sight!!

Surrounded by the sound of the waves crashing against the shoreline, enveloped in the darkness of the hour, we truly felt like we were cocooned in a different world, truly disconnected from the outside world, in our own small little bubble, lost on an island of solitude away from the highs and lows of the world outside. It felt nice..even for just one night..

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Once we had picked sides in our tents and settled down dinner came next. Food wise, while booking the package you get the option of choosing your hearts desired menu, ranging from vegetarian, chicken to seafood. But the host also caters to your special dietary requirements that are not part of the menu. For instance if one of your fellow campers is a vegetarian as was in our case, they make sure to add plenty of vegetarian options so that no one feels left out. Fresh produce sourced locally, grilled in front of you makes the whole dining experience extra appealing to the taste buds.

 

Once our monstrous apatite was tamed by the never ending supply of food, we gathered around the fire place to stroke a few vocal cords (rather try to!). And while we were busy trying to figure out the lyrics to a song, the moon decided to pay us a visit and show us its majestic ways.

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By far the moon that I saw that night was the biggest and brightest I have ever seen in my entire life. It looked like it was right out of the imagination of thousands of artists who have painted the quintessential image of a golden moon glistering over the vast ocean with a lonely boat battling the waves in the far off distance and the silhouette of the lush coconut palms peeking in to the frame from one corner- Noting less than the work of an master artist.

As the night crept deeper and as our silhouettes made dancing shadows on the beach against the roaring fire, I felt at “home”. Accompanied by the moon and the stars I felt a calmness wash over me that was quite new to me. So different from the tick-tock of the ever moving clock of life that we had left behind. Even after a month or so I still feel my heart threads yearn for that peacefulness to envelope me again in its wonderful embrace.

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Not many get to experience nights like this sleeping under the stars, listening to the nights highs and lows of the sea. The tent setup was quite comfortable in terms of camping standards, with a rubber mat as the base accompanied by basic plush pillows. Falling asleep listening to the heartbeat of the ocean grow at times restless and at times calm,only to be disturbed by the occasional sound of a trailer boat passing by, was a feeling that no words can describe.

And if you’re feeling adventurous enough and want to feel the wind blow on our skin as you pass in to the world of dreams, you can opt to sleep under the stars, but keep in mind you might get a visit from a friendly mosquito once in awhile.

Following a rather dreamy night, we woke up around 5 am in hopes of witnessing the sun raise that oh so many have praised. With a hot steaming cup of ginger milk tea in our hands we patiently waited for the sun to make its grand appearance over the horizon.

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The wait

As the wait continued, we were captivated by the scenes and sounds of the arising fishing village in the distance. With its many trailer boats bobbing around the water, fishermen battling with the fishing nets and fighting with all might against the beating waves, some returning back to the comfort of the jetty after a long and hard night while some just starting to face the first rays of the upcoming day.

Slowly the sun started to raise above the horizon pouring the surrounding with thousand shades of color.

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Once the sun was way above the horizon we ventured in to the unknown parts of the island. With the landscape ranging from the lush green island to the rocky shores and large rock boulders raising against the mighty waves, we were pleasantly surprised to see and be on such an amazing island, which is undoubtedly a treasure trove for any nature lover.

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There are two main camp sites on the island, one more towards the inland of the island, which we used and the other perched on the rock formations which can only be used during a certain period of the year since during the rest of the year the waves crash high above, splashing water in to the camp area.

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The other camp site

 

As the day went on and the sun climbed higher and higher in the sky and bathed the surrounding with rays of gold and white we venture deeper and deeper in to the heart of this new found wonderland. Along the way we encountered many forms of sea life and at times just the remains of these magnificent creatures laying around the beach adding more beauty and value to the backdrop.

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Back at the camp site a typical Sri Lankan breakfast of bread, Indiyappan, Kirimalu and Polsambol was waiting to greet us after our small expedition.

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Once we were done with our breakfast and all packed and ready we left the camp site to make our way back to the sand bar where the snorkeling lessons take place. All the necessary equipment are provided by the host along with a thorough lesson on how to use them. After you’re all geared up and in the water he teaches you the basics of snorkeling and lets you worm up to the idea of floating in the sea. If you’re a beginner at snorkeling just the idea of letting go of the power to move at your command or the new found ability to breath while underwater may be scary but once you get a grip on how to maneuver yourself around you will feel quite at home.  And if you’re not much of a swimmer the host himself drags you around to places where he’ll himself point out the fish to you- Catering to all levels of swimmers.

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Even just a short distance away from the shoreline you will be greeted with the sight of an array of colorful fish and marine life including sea urchins, angelfish and many other fish of different colors and shapes.

Once the snorkeling session was over we made our way back to the hosts house where you can take a shower, shake off the sand and get ready to face the buzz of the real world again.

Things to look out for if you find yourself on  Blue Beach Island

Safety first

Pay attention to the safety briefing the host gives, first when you arrive at the camping site and while snorkeling. The host and his crew takes extra measures to make your stay as safe as possible. But without your cooperation it will be hard on them to provide the safety you require.  So even thought we have full control and freedom of what we do on the island, please be mindful and don’t make the hosts job any harder than it is.

Don’t litter

For once this island and its surrounding beaches are completely garbage free!!!! This is all thanks to the host and his team who according to him goes around the island once a month to collect garbage that is washed ashore by the waves. So let’s not add more to their monthly task shall we?

Prickly little critters

Coming back to the safety aspect again, only get in the water where the host tells you to!!. Because most of the rocky areas around the island is inhabited by sea urchins, little critters with spiny needles, trust me you don’t want to step on one of those!

Cold and wet at times

Pack a blanket and cloths that cover you well. Because even thought the tents are waterproof it can get a little chilly at times, specially at night! Be prepared.

The bathroom situation

Wondering how your going to answer the call of nature in the middle of nowhere? Fear not.. the host has got you covered.

During the day you have access to the hosts home washrooms, to freshen up and to take a proper bath before you leave for good. And while on the island you get to experience bathroom commodities in camping style. With a tent bathroom set in the most picturesque of backdrops just a few feet away from the camp site.

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Book in advance.. way advance

This place even without being advertised much, gets filled for months at a time! So if you do plan to visit book in advance. way advance!!

Currently you can do bookings through their Facebook page Or by calling the host Mr. Suneth.

Contact Number-077 810 2557

No trespassing please

The host island is privately owned so you don’t get to just walk in as you please like you would in to other beaches. So just be mindful of this and don’t just drop by. Make proper reservations and help them to maintain the serenity of this island.

All in all I must say that if you’re heading down to Sri Lanka or searching to do something new in the island the “Blue Beach Night Camping” experience is one not to be missed. The attention to details given by the host makes this a unique adventure safe and comfortable in every aspect possible. As mentioned before quite dramatically safety was one of the biggest questions we had while researching this place, and now we can say with confidence that you do not need to worry at all!

The hospitality extended to us by the crew was quite heartwarming. From the moment we arrived at the host’s house they went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and at home. The opportunity to wrap ourselves around the beauty of this island and having the chance to explore the island to our hearts content was without a doubt the highlight of the trip. Thank you Mr. Suneth and crew for organizing such a unique experience in such a positive and eco-friendly way.

It has been a few weeks since I left the shores of Nilwella but the sights and the sounds of the waves crashing, the feel of the sand beneath my feet still lingers in my heart  and makes me yearn to feel  that mystifying calmness wrap around me one more time. There are so many places hidden in the nooks and corners of the island of Lanka that are worth experiencing, and Blue beach island is one such place that if you find yourself searching for things to do on paradise, you should definitely look out for.

Until next time,

Safe travels.

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