Safaris, yoga, surfing, swimming, sunbathing, getting drunk…: There are so many things to do in the picturesque Sri Lankan south. Please take me back to this happy place!
Surfing in South Sri Lanka
Surfing is probably the first thing that pops to your mind when you think of Sri Lanka, and for now I can surely not think of a better place for my first surf adventure. I have not been to one of the world’s most legendary surfer spots – Arugam Bay in the east of the island – due to rainy season, but the south coast alone offers more than a gazillion beautiful spots for all levels (full list here).
You can either check in to one of the surfcamps (read all about my stay at Talalla Surf and Yoga Retreat) or hit the waves on your own. Another option which I highly recommend – especially if your surf skills are as ridiculous as mine – is to take private lessons with a local coach. There are numerous surf shacks on Weligama beach, and you can take lessons or hire a board whenever you need – no reservation needed.
I enjoyed surfing with my coach Loco so much that I actually ended up hitting the waves there every morning and evening for almost an entire week. Loco is the nicest guy on earth – he even helped me send my overweight stuff back to Austria by post, which sounds so much easier than it actually was! – and I was more than sad when it was time to say goodbye. Not before sharing a beer and cigarettes on my last evening and a hearty breakfast in a local teashop before it was really time for me to leave, of course.
After a week of surfing with my awesome coach April at Talalla, the private sessions with Loco in Weligama were the perfect way to improve my skills.
Travelling South Sri Lanka – Good to know
The towns are all relatively close to each other, so in my opinion it does not make sense to constantly move all your belongings from town to town. Staying in Mirissa is probably the best option, especially if you don’t have tons of time. It’s very easy to make day trips by bus or tuktuk to the neighbouring villages and Mirissa also has a decent amount of beach bars, restaurants and spas to offer. There are numerous excursions starting from Mirissa as well, such as whale watching or safaris.
Busses go regularly between Matara and Galle, and you could even take the train to get around (even though highly unrealiable so probably not the best option).
If you know how to drive and are not scared of the crazy Asian traffic (watch out for the high speed busses in the middle of the freaking road!), then renting a scooter is a very good idea as well.
Two places I can really recommend – not exactly for their perfect locations, as there is not much to do in these towns, but rather for their welcoming hosts and delicious food, are Asanka’s guesthouse in Midigama and Buddhika’s guesthouse in Matara (read all about my wonderful first day in Sri Lanka with Buddhika and his family here). We were lucky to stay in Sri Lanka during Buddhist new year, and Asanka and his family kindly invited us to celebrate the traditional festivities with them in their house. This involved a lot of food and my newfound Swiss friends and I were very full, yet very happy afterwards.
I can’t believe that my stay in a surf camp on the south coast of Sri Lanka, which marked pretty much the beginning of my seven week adventure, through Sri Lanka and Myanmar is already two months away. I also still can’t believe that I managed to stand up on a surfboard and to poorly ride a small green wave. My week at the Talalla Surf- and Yoga Retreat was really everything I could have hoped for.
As the gates opened and I caught my first glimpse of the resort, I knew that I had arrived in paradise. The pictures on their website were already really promising and all my friends were very jealous when they showed them where I was going, but the place looked even more beautiful in real life.
The retreat is situated in a gigantic garden, where they also organically grow most of the fruits and veggies used for the meals. And oh my, were the meals delicious!! Fresh salads and fruit, curries of all sorts, fish grilled to your liking, homemade papadam… But my favourite, of course, was breakfast (rice pancakes with pineapple jam – need I say more?). Drinks were not included in the package and were pretty pricey, but the freshly prepared smoothies and lassies were well worth their money.
Talalla resort also has it’s own private beach access, leading the way to the most breathtaking beach I might have seen in my entire life. The beach it suited for swimming and paddle boarding and it was so nice being able to hop into the ocean after the sweaty Yoga classes. There is also a private Ayuvedic spa, in which you can get a well deserved massage. And watch out for the crazy little monkeys living in the Talalla gardens, as they might feel like messing up your room and stealing your food…
As the weeklong camp was already expensive enough, I opted for the cheapest accomodation: the dorm. Luckily, my fellow dormmates were all really sweet and we hit it off right away. The dorm, however, was really basic indeed and I kind of regretted not getting one of the semi open-air private rooms, where you can watch the lush gardens from your bed.
Shortly after checking in to our rooms, all the surfers got together for the introduction meeting. We got to know our guides and the schedule for the upcoming week before we headed out to our first surf lesson straight away. So exciting. Oh no wait a minute. SO HARD!! I knew that surfing was going to be hard, but I didn’t expect it to be that difficult.
Luckily, I had a really great coach and fellow teammates and I managed to stand up on the board already during the second lesson. There were only four of us in the group, meaning each and every one of us could get the most out of every surf lesson. Our coach April took the time to work with every one of us individually and to set new goals every day for everyone, according to our own progress.
Additionally, every session was filmed by a member of the Talalla media crew. Watching the videos of the surf also helped a lot – even though it’s kind of frustrating to see how small the waves look on video and how scary they feel in real life and how you ridiculous you look trying your best not to fall of the board. ;)
As the beach right in front of the Resort is not suitable for surfing, we drove to different spots every day – all according to weather conditions and surf skills. We would usually drive out with the other beginner’s group and always had so much fun in the back of the big surfer van.
The camp often did feel like a real camp indeed, especially when squeezing into the back of the van and bringing conversations back to high school level, or when those of us staying in the dorm all brushed their teeth together in the shared bathroom. We were about 20 surfers of all different levels and from all over the world – from Norway to Australia, from the United States to Dubai. Every evening, we all would have dinner together and discussions focused mainly – but not exclusively – on surfing. What else?
I really enjoyed the surfing, but I guess I won’t ever be a real surfer babe. It’s more of a “I like you, but I don’t love you” thing. But I still feel the urge to give it another try and work on my (still poor) skills and (still non-existing) style.
However I not only discovered the fun of surfing, but also the joys of yoga. I guess being instructed by a particularly good looking guy who teaches yoga classes over Indie music helped a little, especially as it was completely not what I was expecting a yoga class to look like. I have to admit that the schedule was pretty intense, with two surf sessions almost every day followed by the late-afternoon Yoga class. But I really felt how I did something good for my body and soul and it was so, so satisfying to fall into bed tired as hell, knowing that you worked hard and really deserve a good night’s sleep.
The retreat is pretty pricey, especially for Sri Lankan standards, but I do not regret having treated myself to this wonderful week. The surf and yoga coaching was top notch, the food was fantastic (most of the time) and the resort really is a paradise on earth. Bonus: Most people at the surfcamp were around my age (mainly between 25 and 35) and I was really glad about it, as I am no longer into getting drunk with 18 year olds or talking about school.
The only downside: While most of the staff was really nice and friendly, I didn’t find the local staff at the front desk particularly helpful and nice. Also make sure to carefully check your bill when checking out – most of us found several items we didn’t order on it.
And even though we all really enjoyed our time at Talalla, we all agreed that one week there is enough: The resort really is in a very remote area of the Sri Lankan south coast and there is not much nothing to do in the immediate surroundings. Even though the front desk can organise excursions (stay tuned for a post about whale watching!), you tend to get cabin fever after a few days.
Yet, I could not have wished for a better place to start my travels, as it was the perfect way to disconnect from everything I left behind in Europe and to focus on new adventures.
PS: Here is our video, in case you are interested in seeing my progress (so sorry for my lack of style haha).