…to Arugam Bay ?
Copyright © David Graham
Tours offers an affordable way to get here: $5 for a one-way ride between Colombo and Arugam Bay. Its Colombo-Pottuvil bus leaves the main Pettah bus terminal daily at 9:00pm (the trip takes eight or nine hours, depending on road and traffic conditions), while the Pottuvil-Colombo bus (seen here parked in its usual spot near the Sri New Dilshan Guest House on Arugam Bay’s main drag) leaves Pottuvil for Colombo at 6:00pm daily (see contact information below).
Ambrose Bierce may have said that war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography, but I’m assuming you already know where Arugam Bay is (OK, OK, it’s a tiny fishing village two miles south of Pottuvil on the east coast of Sri Lanka, a proudly independent 25,000-square-mile island nation off the southern coast of India; the 33-mile-wide Palk Strait separates the country from the Indian subcontinent).
For a place that’s only 200 miles (320 kilometers) from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, Arugam Bay can seem hopelessly remote. Some surfers may think that’s a good thing, but the area’s handful of hotel and restaurant operators are glad that getting here is getting easier—and in some instances more affordable—for surfers, birders, nature lovers and anyone else who’s looking to spend a few days or weeks in the sun.
The perception is that coming to Sri Lanka is the easy part of your trip—there are daily flights to Colombo from all over the world—and that getting to Arugam Bay from the airport is the hard part. That perception is at odds with reality. Because now there are many more ways to get here. Most area hotels will be happy to pick you up at the airport and whisk you to Arugam Bay for around $160. You can also get to Arugam Bay in a rental car, taxi, three-wheeler scooter taxi, train, air-conditioned bus or air taxi.
Fred Netzband-Miller thinks traveling part of the way to Arugam Bay by train is an often overlooked option: “Ella and Badulla are well known rail destinations in Sri Lanka,” he says. “But Batticaloa is not, although with overnight sleeper trains, it’s the most convenient.”
Fred points out that Batticaloa is just 60 miles (about 100 kilometers) north of Arugam Bay, adding that there’s a pretty good bus service between Batticaloa and Pottuvil on the A4 coastal road. You can also arrange to be picked up by a shuttle bus or taxi on arrival in Batticaloa. (Fred is proud of the luxury bus service he envisioned back in 2007, and that now operates between Colombo and Pottuvil.)
Sri Lankan Airlines operates a chartered air taxi service for those who’d prefer to skip Colombo altogether and get here directly from the airport. The flight time for the air taxis—Twin Otter planes with straight floats and seating for 15 passengers—is 90 minutes. You can email Sri Lankan Airlines at email@example.com to make your own arrangements. Incidentally, you only need to punch four digits (1979) to call the airline’s 24-hour contact center from anywhere in Sri Lanka (01194777771979 from the U.S.).
It wasn’t always this easy. It used to be that getting to Arugam Bay from Colombo would take you all day. Sometimes you’d sit in your jeep with the engine idling while a wild elephant stood swaying gently in the middle of a jungle road, blocking your way. In fact, you can still see elephants on the way to Arugam Bay, depending on the route you take and the time of day.
The first time my brother Tyrone and I were in Arugam Bay was in August 1963, on a hunting trip to Okande with our Dad. We came back in April 1964, again on a hunting trip. Back in those days the only way to get your jeep across the bay was on a ferry—a platform of wooden planks lashed to oil drums—with an old man hauling away on a rope to get you to the other side. Later in 1964 a box girder bridge, built with aid from the German government, put the ferry out of business and finally made it possible to drive nonstop from Pottuvil to Arugam Bay, Panama, Okande and the Kumana Bird Sanctuary.
Anyway, here’s contact information for car rental companies, taxi, rail and bus services that I know you can use to get to and from Arugam Bay (I’m sure there are many other taxi services and car rental companies; I’ll add them to this list when I learn about them):
Copyright © David Graham
Earlier, this page was titled:
Arugam moves on
Civil Engineering firm Maga is ‘rehabilitating’ the main roads.
In, to and from Arugam Bay.
The entire approach of this Company looks impressive.
They are also the firm which is constructing the tallest building in Sri Lanka, at Galle Road, opposite the Cinamon Grand hotel, for Ceylinco Insurance Co.
The Nation’s beloved’ el Presidente came in a few helicopters and opened the new USAIDs so-called ‘high tech’ prefab. bridge.
Now, after 10+Mill $ were spent we at last have a two lane bridge linking PottuVille with AbaY!
No great progress really. Because the old, strong, also two lane bridge did the same thing since the 1960’s.
(And it was NEVER really damaged in the Tsunami as claimed!!!)
Both, old and new, have a life expectancy of 50- 60 more years.
No local people benefited from this investment.
But no doubt, somebody, somewhere made a fortune out of the great US gift to the island Nation
At last there are a few developments in the Bay!
The new bridge is nearing completion, a water tower is being build and small guys like UK Paddle4Relief are doing excellent jobs. We will keep you posted!
October, 2007: The main problem is that the famous Bay has NOT moved on at all.
To some recent visitors, the poor state of many dwellings and guest houses feels like the Christmas waves of 2004 have just receded.
If anything, Arugam Bay has developed backwards of late, due to the political situation, interferences and the lack of visitors and investment.
For years, the Bay had been left to its own devices – and we all got on rather well with that.
Instead of help and assistance, so far, nothing but interference by bungling NGO’s have destroyed most of the Community feeling and local cooperation. Jealousy is ripe, because a few benefited from the huge sums – others, and certainly the most affected received not one single cent from any official source.
Of late, a giant tourist master plan drawn up in distant Colombo is hotly discussed. Again. Authorities, such as tax inspectors (what tax? there is NO income!) and Excise Dept. raiders certainly come and put huge pressures onto the poor population and many wonder what their true motives are.
In September 2006 local unrest sadly spilled over into peaceful Arugam Bay.
An exodus of visitors followed and the event is seen as yet another set back to our Community trying to recover from many lean years and the Christmas floods.
Much needed discussion has already erupted.
All concerned parties are looking for a solution and we all hope to find a way to prevent similar experiences, ever again.
Many modern people feel that the Bay is in many ways much closer connected to liberal lifestyles of the South and West – rather than North and East and wonder if Arugam Bay as well as PottuVille would benefit from moving the Bay closer to the thinking of a concerned DS of nearby Lahugala:
Is it going to be an Arugam Bay – PottuVille ‘Friendship’ Bridge?
Or a By Pass? Via Panama?
(The idyllic village of Panama, Kumana & Okanda can only be reached through PottuVille and via Arugam Bay so far)
Speaking to the Government Official Website, the Divisional Secretary of Lahugala Mr. G.L. Ariyadasa said, “….People need some assistance to construct the alternative route from Panama to Lahugala, which the villagers have already done up to five kilometres”.
Lahugala, Panama and Hulannuge areas are administered as one division. The Government senior officials fear if another riot occurs in and around Potuvil, Panama being the mostly populated area of this division will be isolated without basic facilities. “If such incidents take place people are unable to take even a sick person for treatment,” Mr. Ariyadasa said.
The local communities, with the leadership of the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman, Village head priest and Grama Sevakas, initiated constructing and alternative route towards Lahugala.
see the original article:
Everyone in the entire area has been hurt or suffered, mentally as well as financially by the recent sad events.
AbHa is concerned and would like to avoid similar expressions of “Friendship” in future.
Our only wish is to avoid any future confrontation!
What can we do to please everyone?
AbaY does not want to be caught in the middle of any conflict again.
Photo: USAID ‘Friendship Bridge’ location. September 2006
The home page of AbHa (Arugam Bay Hotel Association) moved from a bland Tourist promotion site into the first and only self-help web site within hours on 26th December 2004.
The then web master Wolfgang managed to transform the old fashioned Promomotion Site into a live, ever changing source of information about survivors and casualties.
At once a spontaneous self help program was launched which enabled AbHa to assist many flood victims on the spot; at a time when no other help was forthcoming.
Indeed, many recall that the no strings attached cash received from our mini appeal was the ONLY real money local survivors ever managed to get. From any source.
Other organizations wasted Millions on administration, travel and luxury vehicles.
Only very few decided to hand out often dubious goods.
Which of course were sold for a fraction of the value. Because people know how to help themselves best; if they have the funds available to them.
Whatever, all this is history now and we have decided to make further changes.
The part result you see here.
We feel that the front page is a main page.
And as such it should be live, active and always up-to-date.
Please participate in postings, blogs; submit your photos and let us have your comments, in the threads concerned for now.