Author Archive for Fred

FB Group (update)

The brand New, 2023 Group on Facebook has already attracted 350 New Members.
Join us!
To spot where YOU (or your friends) fit in, into our Arugam Bay Community.
There are loads of most amazing offers and opportunities posted on this Group.

Historic Footage – SVH @ AbaY

The BoC Branch @ The Old Siam View, 2002

Twenty Years ago.
There was a branch of the State Bank of Ceylon located under the popular Siam View Restaurant.
The moderate rent was paid directly from the BoC Head Office to the rightful land owners.
Unknown to everyone, an outrageous fraud was already committed 5 years earlier.
By the same Bank manager who had stolen the land documents in 1995 and had the premises transferred into his own, private name!

Only now, after 25 years, with the support of the Hon. East Province Governor and the panel of experts, the Divisional Secretary and the C.I.D. are investigating those serious matters.

AbaY Opportunities, Rents, Stalls, Shops

Please Click here. To open most amazing Offers!

A successful Food Court / Events park

Arugam Bay is getting ready for the 2023 High season!

Q.: Who?

Wants to:

1.) Work with us? – Run our New Nomads Center and/or:

2.) Start your own little business.

3.) On the brand new AbaY Food & Adventure Court

3.) Rent (part of-) long existing premises

4.) 100m direct Oceanfront access land is waiting for YOUR purposes

5.) Rent one of 7 already existing Shop Units on the Main Road

6.) Be your own Boss – Run your own outlet / restaurant

7.) All with having Full permits & approvals already

8.) Ability & Skills are more important than Investment

9.) Only the most suitable, honest people will be considered.

Ask us anything! – Every message will be answered.

+94702042271 (Whats Up)

Join the Group below for full details!
It’s a new, 2023 Facebook Group:

MRIA to be promoted as an ‘exotic tourism destination airport’

Matala Rajapack Airport at Christmas 2022

Airport and Aviation Services yesterday said it is keen on promoting Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) as an “exotic tourism destination airport”, so that its full potential can be realised. 

Airport and Aviation Services Chairman Major General G.A. Chandrasiri said that the efforts towards that goal would be rolled out by promoting hotspots such as Ella, Yala, Arugam Bay and Udawalawa, which can easily be accessed via MRIA. 

He stressed that MRIA is an “attractive” airport for tourism, as it provides easy access to wildlife parks, beaches and cultural and religious attractions. “This route development will boost the tourism industry in Sri Lanka, especially in the post-pandemic period,” said Chandrasiri at the ceremony that was held to welcome the first charter flight by Russia’s Red Wings.With the landing of Red Wings, MRIA resumed international operations after nearly two years. The last international flight that arrived at MRIA was in 2021.

Arugam Dan.
@ MIRA in 2022
Arugam Dan & Father at MIRA 2022


Leader of the Panama Pattuwa Land Struggle

Gnanamuttu Kusumawathi

Photo courtesy of Samanthi J. Gunawardana

Gnanamuttu Kusumawathi, known as Kusuma akka, passed away five years ago. We remember her rebellious spirit and strength with admiration and gratitude. Kusuma akka was a leader in the Panama Pattuwa (Pattuwa refers to an identified area of land in Sinhala) land struggle from August 2010 until the day she died of a heart attack on December 23, 2017. We reflect on her contribution and leadership in the land struggle and on where it is at present, especially in light of the vibrant social movements that emerged in 2022. Her contribution marks a long unrecognized tradition of leadership among rural women in Sri Lanka.

Kusuma akka, like her parents, husband and children, was born in Panama in 1973, a coastal town in Eastern Sri Lanka. Before the emergence of the prominent land struggle the area was understood through the lens of an era-defining separatist war between the LTTE and the armed forces. Panama was an intermediate area in the landscape of contested territory where Tamil and Sinhala communities had a long history of intermarriage, kinship and ritual. Caste was the major source of social division rather than ethnicity. Panama had religious and spiritual significance. The two ethnic communities were connected through cross religious ritual and worship involving the god Murugan (Tamil Hindu) known as Kataragama deiyo (Sinhalese) and Hindu goddess Pattini (Kannagi in Tamil) and god K?valan. Pattini in particular is worshiped in Panama across all social categories and is seen as protecting the villages and giving its people strength.

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New Years’s Eve Event

New Years Eve Get-Together
@ The Old Siam View Hotel.
Arugam Bay.
Everyone is welcome.
As Always:
Gents walk Inn FREE – Ladies Pay Double

Doors will open at 5pm as always.
There will be mellow music, good drinks, nice people.
Every Non Drunk / Non Aggressive Person is Most welcome!

FiFa Low Budget Package Tours.

Come to Arugam Bay.
To watch every single FiFa Qatar game in style.
Basic All-in Transfers from Colombo are only:
Rs./ 12,500 (or 35$) per person
Local accommodation is now very, very cheap in AbaY

Siam View Sports Pub

We are inviting All Low Budget Travelers and Football Fans.
To enjoy every single game with us in Arugam Bay.
A.) NO Power Cuts
B.) Lowest possible room rates
C.) 3 Huge Screens & 2 TV’s
D.) 500++ Channels
E.) Backup Systems
F.) Security
G.) Open all Night

Because we are offering December Specials:
“Come to AbaY to watch the World cup Tours”
We will:
1.) Meet our groups in a Colombo Sports Pub
2.) Watch afternoon games. Like in “Cheers”)
3.) Enjoy their amazing Happy Hours (up to 7pm)
4.) Transfer to Maradana – Madonna Bus stand
5.) 3 Luxury air-con sleeper coaches to chose from
6.) Save hotel costs by overnight trip to Pottuville, E.P.
7.) 4am Transfer to say, Nomads (or similar being open) for a Coffee
8.) Early check in to any of our participating hotels / guest houses
9.) Lunch / Dinner to be arranged
10.) Watching Every single Game on Siam View Sports Screens (FREE)

This offer will be valid for December up to 20th .
Watching those games in Good Company creates a great atmosphere.
Transfers back are also arranged of course.

Those entire packages are aimed at LOW Budget people.
With a very, very basic price tag.
Once here, add ons, Safaris, local spending, Surf Lessons, Swimming.
National Parks etc. are always on offer.
It’s THE best time of year (for non surfers) to visit the East:
Mild, Not Hot, Sunny, No rain!

Reservations / Inquiries:
Every one will receive an answer.
Whats App:

For daily News and offers Join our popular Groups:

SURFER’s Night

Monday 10th of The 10th Month 2022
Everyone is most Welcome!

Admire this Year’s Best Drone Videos in HQ (High Definition)
On The HUGE Screens at the Old Siam View !

1.) Authentic Thai Food
2.) Real German Oktoberfest Beers
3.) Great Music & Performances

As Always:
Gents Walk Inn Free.
Ladies Pay Double

The AbaY Mauer (Wall)

On the Anniversary of the better known Berlin Wall, 13th August remote Arugam Bay has an equally outrageous Mauer Construction event to be reminded of.

The Arugam Bay = SVH Mauer Bau.

The wall the ALIYAR build around the Old Siam View Hotel

The local architect was not a politician like Herr Walter Ulbricht.
It is a now disgraced, but formerly (wrongfully..) somewhat respected manager of a State Bank.

Knowing that the property owner is abroad, to collect his Sri Lankan born daughter from her Boarding school.
What did he do?

He instructed his henchmen and loco building troops to construct a Concrete wall around the Siam View Hotel premises.

In order to take possession and claim the property.
WITHOUT – of course – any agreement.
Or indeed having paid even one Cent !

This is the Original Walter Wall Architect.
“Nobody has the intention to build a Wall”
The Famous Lying Statement of Last Century
(see and listen to the unique famous video below)

This AbaY Wall Architect at Work.
“I am your Best and most trusted local Friend”
Another famous false statement by a greedy, fraud planning, land grabbing man.
Abusing his position of trust
(wait for our upload of just discovered famous CCTV recordings!)

Below is the master of it all:

Nobody has the intention to build a wall
Nobody has the intention to steal your land..

This is the Vehicle they use.
If you see it, ask them about that case and why they are usually hiding

Surfing hotspot Arugam Bay

….to come under fresh spotlight this World Tourism Day

Sri Lanka’s surfing hot spot will come under fresh spotlight this World Tourism Day, as plans are afoot to host the Arugambay Tourism Day programme with the global event.

A meeting with the key stakeholders of the tourism sector and the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) this week decided to highlight the picturesque beaches of Arugambay for promotions during the upcoming World Tourism Day 2022, to lure international visitors to the country.

The Arugambay Tourism Day event will be held on
September 27.   
The meeting was held with Ampara District Secretary J.M.A. Douglas, Chamber of Tourism and Industry Sri Lanka President A.M. Jaufer and SLTDA Chairman Priantha Fernando.  Several non-governmental organisations of the Ampara district and stakeholders related to the tourism sector engaged in the discussion.

During the discussion, opinions and suggestions were sought from the officials with regard to special activities, security and infrastructure arrangements to be included in the Tourism Day programme.

The meeting was organized by NGO Coordinator I.M.L. Irfan, Senior Inspector General of Police J.R. Senadheera, Ampara Additional District Secretary V. Jegadeesan and Pothuvil Acting Divisional Secretary Anuruddha Sandaruwan.

“Arugam Bay” – The Israel Movie

Mira Tzur is excited to announce her recent involvement with her company One Circle Productions, as Actress/Exec Producer in the feature film “Arugam Bay” Directed by Marco Carmel, that just wrapped in Sri Lanka, a country under bankruptcy. The experience she had is worth telling

NEW YORK, Aug. 2, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Being an Israeli/American actress, producer, author, former counterintelligence officer & a french countess from the Theraube lineage among other titles she collects as a renaissance woman,  plays the role of Brooke, an American actress who escaped her comfortable vain lifestyle in Hollywood to explore a spiritual lifestyle in the surfing exotic oasis “Arugam Bay”. 

Mira Tzur

The film tells the story of three Israeli soldiers serving the military during the Lebanon War. One of the boys gets killed, having made a pact to surf together after their service, they convince the girlfriend of the deceased friend to join their journey. The three travel from Israel to the magical southeast coast of Sri lanka – Arugam Bay. A well-known destination for professional surfers. The bay is located a 10-hour car drive from the main airport of the largest city, Colombo.

One of the soldiers, played  by Maor Schwitzer an Israeli well known film star, started a romance with latest friend’s girlfriend, played by another Israeli moviestar – Joy Rieger. They meet Brooke, played by Mira Tzur who portrays the social chief of the Island ,who with her spiritual lifestyle, now secretly sells psychedelic drugs to cure PTSD among other mindfulness hardships she believes she can cure.The Dynamics between the Israelis and Brooke are insightful on many levels. It is a winning combination flaunted by; extreme surfing abilities,meaningful friendship,healing, trust & travel to exotic locations that makes the plot relatable on many levels to all international  audiences.

Given the growing economic struggles of Sri Lanka, that have recently led the country to a bankruptcy and political upheaval filming conditions were extremely difficult during the shoot.

Not having electricity, fuel and experiencing food shortage was just some of the obstacles the cast and crew needed to overcome. They established a strong bond with some of the local people and businesses as filming on location obviously helped bring economic prosperity to many of them.

The Italian Footwear company P448 is one of the film sponsors – a sneaker brand that focuses on Sustainability to keep our environment pure. They recycle their soles and use vegan products. They use mix leathers from lion fish and surfers especially wear their brand to keep our Oceans purified. 

For more information on Mira Tzur current projects; 
check out  her Instagram @mira.tzur 
And award winning guide book “Anonymously Famous” (Amazon, Barnes & Noble…)

LIVE Music @ AbaY

And before Arugam Bay was connected to the main Power grid:
There was no
Come & see My Laptop “LIVE”

But a few gifted Musicians entertained our guests.
The Old Siam View however has kept that concept throughout.

As from August 1st. – tomorrow – new bands will perform every week:

Things to Do in Arugam Bay

This list is about the Best Things to Do in Arugam Bay. We will try our best so that you understand this list Best Things to Do in Arugam Bay. I hope you like this list Best Things to Do in Arugam Bay. So lets begin:

Best Things to Do in Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka is known as a surfer’s paradise and one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka. It is one of the areas of the world that you must visit at least once in your life. With the world famous Yala National Park as its neighbour, Arugam Bay is fortunate to be surrounded by a variety of wildlife such as monkeys, elephants and crocodiles. The bay is trendy and a great place to spend at least 3 days. Use this Arugam Bay guide to plan your visit. Located on the east coast of Sri Lanka, Arugam Bay is a lively seaside town known for many things, including its beautiful palm-fringed beaches, lively surf scene, and laid-back vibe.

However, because Arugam Bay is somewhat off the traditional Sri Lankan route, this underrated gem is often overlooked by travelers and backpackers. However, we firmly believe that a trip to Arugam Bay is well worth it. Arugam Bay embodies much of what makes Sri Lanka so popular, it is a tropical beach town with many interesting attractions nearby: the fascinating Kudumbigala Monastery, the picturesque Elephant Rock and the adventurous Kumana National Park to name a few. . Of course, there are plenty of other amazing places to discover in Sri Lanka, but there is something magical about this laid-back fishing village on Sri Lanka’s relatively unspoiled east coast.

Kumana National Park Safari

Kumana National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s hidden delights. It is a very special place with lots of wildlife and stunning scenery! Also known as Yala East, many tourists opt for a jeep safari from Kumana National Park. It is certainly one of the best things to do in Arugam Bay if you are interested in rare wildlife. This 357 square kilometer park is much less visited than its busy neighbor, Yala National Park. Consequently, it’s not as crowded and much less of a zoo-like experience. This is true even during peak season. The density of animals in the park is lower than in other national parks in Sri Lanka, but it is not uncommon to see a leopard and other amazing animals. Like elephants, crocodiles, turtles, white cobras, wild buffalo and many birds.

go surfing

One of the most popular activities in Arugam Bay is surfing, which is why it had to be number 1 on this list. The area is full of surf shops offering lessons and surfboards for rent. The bay is considered the best surf spot in Sri Lanka and attracts surfers from all over the world. It is good to know that it is a great place for amateur and professional surfers. Some of the most popular surf spots in Arugam Bay are Main Point, Whiskey Point, Peanut Farm, Pottuvil Point and Elephant Rock.

Relax on the beach at Arugam Bay

Arugam Bay Beach is a great place to relax where everything moves in slow motion. The beach is a moon-shaped curl of soft, golden sand and is home to some of the best surfing in the country. Although there is a lot of fun in and around the area, such as shopping and surfing, one of the best things to do in Arugam Bay is to visit the beaches and relax. Grab a coconut, apply some sunscreen and take some time to enjoy life on the beach. Arugam Bay is just a small town with a few hundred inhabitants. Everything is scattered along a path, parallel to the coast. So even if it’s not on the beach, everywhere in Arugam Bay there’s a laid back beach scene and that’s what first drew surfers and sun worshipers to Sri Lanka.

Yoga in Arugam Bay

It is well known that surfing and yoga go hand in hand; This is probably due to the calm and relaxing environment that both activities offer. As such, Arugam Bay is a top yoga destination; If you walk down the main street, you will see many yoga centers. After a long drive up the East Coast, a yoga class is quite invigorating. And yes, the trip to Arugam Bay is highly recommended to enjoy all the splendor along the way. A small and highly diverse nation, Sri Lanka offers a wonderful collection of experiences that are best enjoyed on a road trip. Join any rental car Sri Lanka has to offer and enjoy the joys of driving along the beautiful coastline.

see the fishermen

Fishing has been a large part of the economy in and around Arugam Bay for many years. If you visit Pottuvil beach in the morning, you will see the fishermen pulling their nets onto the beach. The nets are attached to hundreds of meters of rope and take about two hours to pull out of the sea. You will also find many colorful fishing boats lining the beach at Arugam Bay. If you pass by in the morning you will see how the fishermen classify their catch before selling it.

Tuk Tuk to Peanut Farm Beach

There are plenty of other coves and beaches just a short drive from the main road, so strap your board to the roof and hit the road. Peanut Farm Beach is another epic surf spot south of Arugam Bay. This was our favorite place of all. It is a great unspoiled place with a beautiful white sand beach, rock formations, trees and thatched roof huts. It is popular for swimming, sunbathing and surfing. Not only that, they also have an amazing beach shack that serves fresh food and smoothies. There is only one guest house in the area and it consists of tree houses. It’s around the corner from Peanut Farm Beach.

Visit to the Kudumbigala Monastery

Kudumbigala Monastery is a 45-minute tuk-tuk ride from Arugam Bay. It is a place that you will love if you are a history buff! It is estimated that this Buddhist monastery was founded in the year 246 BC. It was built during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa. It was used by monks who wanted to escape the city and follow a path to enlightenment. Don’t forget to explore the nearby hiking trails and caves, and climb to the top next to the monastery for beautiful views of the area. The climb to the highest viewpoint takes about 1.5 hours, so the best time to do it is in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat. Once you arrive, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the jungle, rocks, and coastline.

Shop till you drop

As for the tourist spots, Arugam Bay has some great shops. It is home to some authentic local brands and local bikini tailors. So if you need a dress made or want to replace your bikinis, you’ve come to the right place! Sitting directly parallel to the shoreline and attracting surfers and sunbathers, this hippie town is a great place to stock up on all your unique, locally branded clothing. From cute logo t-shirts to flowy, boho dresses, it’s the style hub of Sri Lanka. There are other quirky pop-up shops that also sell beach towels and handmade seashell souvenirs.

Time to visit Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a tropical climate with warm temperatures throughout the year. However, there are two monsoon seasons on the island. On the east coast, where Arugam Bay is located, the monsoon season runs from November to January, so avoid this period. The best time to visit Arugam Bay if you want to surf is during the months of June to September. This is also the high season and the best time for snorkeling and diving. However, if snorkelling and diving are not activities that interest you, you can also visit Arugam Bay between February and May.

Hang out at Hideaway Arugam Bay

If you are just looking for a relaxing night, Hideaway Arugam Bay is a great place to unwind. There are loungers spread out on the floor, as well as a happy hour between 6:00pm and 8:00pm. The Hideaway is a boutique guest house on Arugam Bay opposite the main surf beach with a lovely laid back vibe. It is a family friendly guest house set in 6 acres of lush tropical gardens in the heart of the city. So if you’re looking for a great way to end a day at the beach, be sure to add Hideaway to your list of things to do in Arugam Bay. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more lively, we’ve heard good reviews about Whiskey Point.

Final words: Best Things to Do in Arugam Bay

I hope you understand and like this list Best Things to Do in Arugam Bay, if your answer is no then you can ask anything via contact forum section related to this article. And if your answer is yes then please share this list with your family and friends.


Lahugala Magul Maha Vihara: steeped in history

After visiting the Mudu Maha Vihara at Pottuvil, we came to the Pottuvil bazaar passing Arugam Bay – the sun-drenched and palm fringed coastal paradise. We had a glorious view of the deep blue sea and the sea spray was most welcoming. A number of colourful guest houses and homely cottages stood on both sides of the road which were once occupied by windsurfers.

From Pottuvil, we turned left on the Siyabalanduwa – Moneragala road, beguiled by the panoramic views of the serene rural landscape. Lush green paddy fields that run as far as eye can see and the shade of Kumbuk trees beside the road protected us from the late afternoon sun.

Having driven around 12 kilometres from Pottuvil, we emerged into the wildlife country of Lahugala-Kitulana and reached the jungle village of Lahugala on the edge of the sanctuary where we were greeted by some villagers who were drying maize on the side of the road.

Royal marriage

At the edge of the jungle, the nameboard of this ancient place indicated to the Magul Maha Vihara. The name of this sanctuary literary means ‘the wedding temple’, an unusual title for a Buddhist place of worship. But, history narrates a tale of the royal marriage between Princess Viharamaha Devi, daughter of King Kelanitissa of Maya Rata and King Kavantissa (205-161) of the Magam Ruhunu Kingdom.

The Magul Maha Vihara is believed to be a temple complex with a vibrant history dating back to the times of King Kavantissa who ruled the Ruhuna Kingdom. However, varying sources claim that King Dhatusena (453-473 AD) built the complex, while various other monarchs renovated it through the centuries. From all the legends that surround the Vihara, the most arresting is the story of King Kavantissa and Princess Viharamaha Devi.

Youth Observer

Lahugala Magul Maha Vihara: steeped in history


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16 July, 2022

The Dagaba at the Magul Maha Viharaya

The Dagaba at the Magul Maha Viharaya

After visiting the Mudu Maha Vihara at Pottuvil, we came to the Pottuvil bazaar passing Arugam Bay – the sun-drenched and palm fringed coastal paradise. We had a glorious view of the deep blue sea and the sea spray was most welcoming. A number of colourful guest houses and homely cottages stood on both sides of the road which were once occupied by windsurfers.

From Pottuvil, we turned left on the Siyabalanduwa – Moneragala road, beguiled by the panoramic views of the serene rural landscape. Lush green paddy fields that run as far as eye can see and the shade of Kumbuk trees beside the road protected us from the late afternoon sun.

Having driven around 12 kilometres from Pottuvil, we emerged into the wildlife country of Lahugala-Kitulana and reached the jungle village of Lahugala on the edge of the sanctuary where we were greeted by some villagers who were drying maize on the side of the road.

Royal marriage

At the edge of the jungle, the nameboard of this ancient place indicated to the Magul Maha Vihara. The name of this sanctuary literary means ‘the wedding temple’, an unusual title for a Buddhist place of worship. But, history narrates a tale of the royal marriage between Princess Viharamaha Devi, daughter of King Kelanitissa of Maya Rata and King Kavantissa (205-161) of the Magam Ruhunu Kingdom.

The Magul Maha Vihara is believed to be a temple complex with a vibrant history dating back to the times of King Kavantissa who ruled the Ruhuna Kingdom. However, varying sources claim that King Dhatusena (453-473 AD) built the complex, while various other monarchs renovated it through the centuries. From all the legends that surround the Vihara, the most arresting is the story of King Kavantissa and Princess Viharamaha Devi.

According to legend, Viharamaha Devi, daughter of King Kelanitissa volunteered to sacrifice herself to the sea. She was safely carried over the ocean waves, reaching ashore at a place near Pottuvil, not far from Lahugala, where the encounter between King Kavantissa and the princess led to their marriage. The legend tells that the marriage ceremony was conducted on the grounds of the Magul Maha Vihara where the King had later built the Temple to celebrate the auspicious event.

The Magul Maha Vihara, according to the inscription, was originally known as the Ruhunu Maha Vehera. The Vihara appeared to have fallen into ruin for 200 years and lay abandoned in the jungle. At the beginning of the 14th Century, the temple was brought back to former glory by Queen also of the name Viharamaha Devi, wife of Buwaneka Bahu IV of Gampola and Parakramabahu V of Dedigama who renovated and donated many acres to the temple.

Ornamental moat

Shading our eyes against the late afternoon sun, we first saw an ornamental moat with lotus blossoms, with wide stone terraces leading down to it which showcases the style of the Anuradhapura period. Rectangular in shape, the Vihara was bordered by a moat in ancient times.

Having crossed the moat by a causeway, we entered the main entrance. We were thrilled by gazing at the marvelous antiquated ruins. We were surrounded by four ceremonial gateways, each one of them carved from stone and adorned with moonstones, balustrades and rows of pillars. Each gateway is aligned with others. The compound is laid out in straight lines. In this compound, one can see the remains of magnificent structures on stone platforms. It is a monastic complex, with an image house, a Dagaba, a Bodhigara, numerous guard stones and a chapter house. Surrounding the central quadrangle is vast area with walkways and numerous stone structures.

The magnificent tank which once gave it life, now strangled by creeping vegetation, runs along the Eastern side of the Vihara.

On the Eastern side of the temple is a renovated Dagaba in the temple ground. The four entrances to the Dagaba are well preserved. Each such entrance is flanked on either side by stone carved seated lions perched on stone slabs of the stone railing encircling the Dagaba.

To the West of the Dagaba is the much famed Bodhigara – the Bo tree shrine – known among people as the Magul Poruwa (marriage podium) of King Kavantissa and Queen Viharamaha Devi. It is believed that the Poruwa was later converted to a Bodhigara that housed the Bo Tree within the circular structure that is similar to a flower.

Pohoya Seema Malakaya

The surrounding platform has carvings with a frieze of lions and flower vases, which are thought to have been constructed during the middle of the Anuradhapura era. Proceeding to the Left where the ruins of what is thought to be the Pohoya Seema Malakaya (Chapter House) stood, we stopped to inspect the moonstone, the carved stone steps and the balustrades that have been marvelously preserved.

The moonstone engraved here is held in much prominence as this is the only one in Asia that has the mahout astrid the elephant. Consisting of many half circles engraved with designs such as Liyavel; an intricate design incorporating vine like patterns, lotus petals and animals, the moonstone is deemed as a portrayal of the cycle of birth.

Finally, we came across a massive image house around nine feet in height with a standing torso of a Buddha statue erected in the middle and upright stone pillars around it. The statue is believed to have been broken into pieces in the past. It has been restored by the officials of the Department of Archaeology.

The entrance has a plain moonstone and two guard stones depicting the figures of Bahiravaya (guardian demon).

With the sun setting into the far horizon, we had to end our journey at the Magul Maha Vihara. We came back to the car park contemplating that we have only managed to scratch the surface of the hidden treasures. After having a refreshing cup of Beli Mal, we proceeded to Kotiyagala in search of many archaeologically important places.


Frightening experiences with elephants at Lahugala

by Lal Anthonis

Lahugala is a magic word that never fails to stir a tingle of excitement and bring a thrill to all those who know and love our jungles and their denizens. It is a little village with two fairly large wewas or tanks, one known as Kitulana and the other by the name of the village itself. It is situated 14 miles inland from the little town of Arugam Bay in the south-east coast of Sri Lanka. Both these tanks are overgrown with a kind of grass, now known as Lahugala grass. It is referred to in Sinhala as beru, which reaches well up to the height of an elephant.

As for me, Lahugala tank holds a special, precious memory. It is now over 50 years since, yet I remember it as if it were only yesterday. I stood on the verandah of that dilapidated circuit bungalow at the edge of the tank, with my parents at my side and with a pair of over-sized binoculars in my seven-year old hands. I gazed across the grass of Lahugala at my first pair of wild elephants.

It was at that moment that the ‘jungle bug’ first bit me and the feelings grew in me like a spreading illness. Many are the jungle jaunts I have done and many are the occasions I have visited Lahugala tank since then. Yet on that day long ago I never ever imagined that Lahugala tank was to give me some of the finest moments with wild elephants.

Midway in the afternoon one day in August 1974, Mervyn Gunasekera and Chandima Karunaratne, two of my friends and I arrived at the Lahugala lodge for a three day stay. At about 4 pm the first herd of elephants broke cover across the tank, almost at the very same spot that I had seen my first wild elephants many years earlier.

The bungalow keeper Samuel, who was called Sam for short, and I decided to approach the elephants by jeep. Leaving my friends in the lodge and keeping as close as possible to the edge of the jungle, we drove up slowly on the pockmarked lunar-like surface of the dried tank bed.

About a quarter mile from the lodge, the edge of the jungle goes round a bend and when we drove up to this point the sight that met our eyes was unbelievable. The entire area from the water’s edge to the jungle was a mass of elephants. The next moment they heard or saw us, and they all made off into the jungle in a swirling cloud of dust.

I switched off the engine and waited quietly. A few minutes later they came out again, all 87 of them. We watched them at very close quarters until the late evening light started to play tricks with our vision. In the greying dusk, the elephants moved like spectres against the darkening undergrowth of the forest.

A close call

It was on the second day at Lahugala that I had one of the most frightening experiences in the wilds. It was a warm but breezy noon and we were about to sit for a chilled refresher when I spotted an elephant on the bund some distance away. Very soon there were five of them and as they were some distance off, I decided to approach them on foot to do some photography.

Sam and I set off along the bund. The breeze was in our favour and we were confident that we could approach the animals without being detected. By the time we were within 50 yards of the elephants, the entire herd (about 60 of them) came out into the open and was feeding on both sides of the bund.

It has been a habit of mine when doing photography in the jungle, to turn around every now and then to find out what was happening behind. This practice had prevented many a sticky situation for me. But on this day, fascinated by two young elephants playfully fighting, and another young one rubbing her giant bottom on the bund trying to get at an itchy point with an irritated look on her face, I entirely forgot about the rear. It was then that I thought I heard the familiar ‘flop’ of an elephant’s ear flapping behind us. I turned round slowly and looked down at the bund.

For 250 yards the bund stretched away and there was nothing on it. In the hot afternoon it looked desolate and little whirls of dust rose from it, like tiny ghosts rising from this dusty path to dissolve in the wispy breeze.

I could see the lodge far away and the figures of my two friends that seemed to float in the heat waves that raced across the wewa, as they stood on the rock in front of the lodge.

The only other signs of life were a few grey langurs that sat on the branches of a large tree that grew just below the bund. I turned back to the herd and was just beginning to enjoy the scene when I heard my name being called in a loud and clear voice, which was Mervyn’s. It was one short shout, but I noticed the tone of urgency in it. I whipped around, and there, barely 20 yards behind us, on the bund stood ‘jumbo’. He was a magnificent beast, a very large bull.

Sam’s bravery

He was looking our way, with his trunk half lifted and its prehensile tip drawing little designs in the air. His ears were outstretched. For a moment time seemed to stand still, and in the deadly silence, I could hear the drumming in my chest like the beat of an engine. The breeze caressed the nape of my neck and sent a chill down my spine, while my knees were feeling weak. After my initial shock, I whispered to Sam, who was still watching the herd, that there was an elephant behind us. In a moment he gathered the situation and making a gesture with his hand, he wanted me to follow him.

Watching Sam walk towards the bull with an air of confidence and absolutely no outward sign of fear took away that feeling of helplessness from me, yet it was with leaden feet and a sweaty brow that I followed him. The bull stood still with his ears still out. His trunk was now lowered, but its tip was still curved slightly upwards. It was a grand sight. He looked intently at Sam with a quizzical expression on his face. Then a deep rumble came from that cavernous belly, and he gave a throaty growl that seemed to shake the very bund that we stood on.

Not for a moment did Sam falter but kept walking towards the elephant. Then an ear-splitting squeal rent the air and the elephant gave way. He turned around, yet with that air of dignity these beasts possess and slowly walked down the bund. Then turning round again at the edge of the jungle, he watched us. At this point no more than fifteen feet separated the bull from the bund. Sam, that brave man, stood on it and wanted me to get past him. My involuntary quick strides brought trumpeting from the bull. I turned round expecting him to be coming after me, but Sam was behind me with a wide grin on his face.

It was with a sense of relief, now that our path of retreat to the lodge was once again clear, that we sat on the bund and waited for the bull to come out. Within minutes he obliged by coming on to the bund and walking towards the herd. He then got into the wewa and started to feed on the luscious grass. I noted then that I was thirsty, and once again looked into Sam’s grinning face. He then said, “Sir, your beer must be getting warm”.

Mock fight

There was another incident that was pleasing to watch as long as it lasted and then left delightful memories after it was over. Just after a 20-minute shower of rain that left as suddenly as it came and made the evening damp but sunny, two young bulls came on to the bund and started pushing each other and banging foreheads in a playful wrestling bout. This went on for some time till they got down from the bund and entered the jungle from where we could hear them. The din however was getting closer and we waited expectantly.

They broke cover just in front of the lodge, bursting out of the undergrowth, with one bull chasing after the other. The first one in a hurry did not notice the large pool in front of him, just below the anicut. Before he could stop himself his forelegs crumbled, and as if in slow motion, slithered head over heels into the water. He was up in a flash and stood watching his companion at the edge of the pool with a bewildered, almost human, expression on his face.

Largest herd

The climax of our stay at Lahugala came in the morning before we left. The enthusiastic voice of Mervyn woke me up, and was almost pleading with me to get up as I loathed to leave the comfort of my cozy camp bed and face the morning chill in order to see what he was looking at. When I responded I saw, right across the wewa, almost stretching across our entire field of vision, the largest gathering of elephants I had seen till then.

We gave up our count at 200, as the centre section of the herd had already started making their way into the jungle. By 8 am they were all back in the forest. Once the elephants had gone, an indescribable feeling of loneliness and desolation pervaded the place.

These incidents took place in 1974 and at that time Lahugala was not declared a national park. The lodge was leased from the Department of Irrigation and run by Wildlife and Nature Protection Society for its members. It was handed over to the Department of Wildlife once the place was declared a national park. Visitors were then not allowed to walk along the bund.

However, in the 1980’s when I was Honorary Secretary of the Society and consultant and adviser to the then Director of Wildlife, I had the privilege of traversing the bund, when I had some excellent experiences with elephants. I also had some exciting footage from the bund when filming for national television.

In 1974, when I did not have much experience in the wilds, the incident on the bund as related here, was terrifying. In the 1980’s, when I worked extensively in the field in an honorary capacity for the Director of Wildlife, I had more nerve-racking experiences, but I still consider the incident on the bund a ‘sticky moment’.

Chandima Karunaratne and Mervyn Gunasekera made many more jungle trips with me and shared many an exciting event. Sadly in 1996 Mervyn passed away. Though no longer with us, his memory, like that of the herd at Lahugala, will always remain with us. The bungalow keeper Samuel was employed by the Society, and when the bungalow was handed over to the Department of Wildlife, he left the Society and I have completely lost contact with him.

(To be continued)

(Excerpted from Jungle Journeys in Sri Lanka edited by C.G. Uragoda)

Captivating new TV series searches for Drive to Survive impact on surfing

Make or Break’s behind-the-scenes look at the World Surf League engages fans and non-fans alike even if some hard questions remain ignored

Seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore features in the new Apple TV+ series Make or Break. Photograph: Tony Heff/Apple TV

There is a moment early in the first episode of Make or Break, a new series from Apple TV+ about the World Surf League, when Tyler Wright neatly encapsulates the tension at the heart of professional surfing. “We come from a sport of, ‘aww we’re hippies’,” says the Australian surfer, a two-time WSL champion. “We’re not. We’re competitive little assholes.”

Surfing has long grappled with this bipolar identity; a sport initially beloved by the counter-culture movement that grew popular, some would say too popular, on the back of booming commercial and competitive success. Make or Break, an entertaining seven-part series, is the latest attempt by the surfing elite to capitalize on its popularity. Given the show has already been renewed for a second season – before it even went to air – they will most likely succeed.

It seems that no high-performance sport can flourish in the modern era without its own behind-the-scenes show on one or other of the rapidly-multiplying streaming platforms. Drive to Survive, the Netflix hit about Formula One, is perhaps the best example – now into its fourth season, the show has expanded the ranks of motorsport fans, including in the lucrative American market. Even before Drive to Survive, English football teams and US sporting franchises were experimenting with access-all-areas docu-series.

The success of these shows has sparked a content gold rush. In recent months, Drive to Survive equivalents have been announced for tennis, golf and the Tour de France. Surfing is already on the wave, with this new series developed by Drive to Survive producers James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin (the former is also known for his sporting classics Senna and Maradona).

Make or Break is captivating television. Professional surfing is a director’s dream – the WSL sends a small crew of male and female surfers around the world to compete at idyllic surfing locations. The editors have made liberal use of high-definition competition footage, as surfers charge heavy barrels and pull off gravity-defying aerial maneuvers against beautiful coastal backdrops. There is eye-candy galore.

But the show’s real triumph is its ability to engage surfing fans and non-fans alike with well-told stories. Make or Break gently explains and explores the complexity of professional surfing in a manner that makes it accessible for non-surfers, without alienating long-time WSL watchers. The show is unafraid to explore the gritty reality of life on tour, with heartfelt and revealing interviews.

“I’m tired to be on the road – I just want to be home,” admits an emotional Filipe Toledo. Another episode charts the challenges faced by the rookies, who live a precarious existence seeking to consolidate their WSL ranking and bank balance. “It’s only once you get results on the tour that you start earning the bucks,” says one. (Professional surfing is a top-heavy sport – the big stars sign million-dollar endorsement deals, while a few bad results can spell competitive and financial doom for others). Now-retired Australian surfing icon Mick Fanning, presented as some kind of wise owl of the surfing world, adds moments of levity throughout the series.

Drive to Survive has been criticised for glossing over Formula One’s shortcomings – its history of sportswashing, gender inequality and significant climate impact. Given Make or Break was produced in partnership with the WSL, it is surprising that the first season engages more fully with some of surfing’s own pitfalls. The first episode is particularly gripping, as the WSL confronts a longstanding inequality that has historically seen the women compete at Maui, while the men surfed at the more consequential and iconic Pipeline, on the Hawaiian leg of the tour.

“Surfing is sexist,” says a no-nonsense Wright. But a shark attack at Maui during last season’s event saw the women forced to finish the event at Pipeline, a famously-heavy wave. “It would be a moment in women’s surfing history … but at the same time, farrkkk it’s Pipe,” laughs Wright while weighing up the switch (she ultimately won the event). Pipeline now permanently hosts both the men’s and women’s competition, a positive development – albeit the sport’s lingering gender inequality remains evident in Make or Break, which focuses disproportionately on the men’s competition across the series.

Jack Robinson walks along the beach in one of Make or Break’s stunning surf locations.

Jack Robinson walks along the beach in one of Make or Break’s stunning surf locations. Photograph: Tony Heff/Apple TVAdvertisement

Make or Break may well elevate surfing to new heights. The sport’s inclusion in the Olympics last year was another step towards the mainstream; Wright’s brother, Owen, won bronze for Australia. By humanising the world’s best surfers (the frequent expletives suggest unfiltered footage), and accessibly explaining the sport’s vagaries, Make or Break will attract a wider audience to the WSL, just as Drive to Survive has done for Formula One. From the WSL’s perspective, the partnership will likely prove a shrewd commercial decision. In the new sporting era, content is king.

But it does leave a wider question unanswered – at what cost? What does commercial success and greater popular recognition, propelled by a new international TV series released by one of the world’s biggest technology companies, mean for the soul of surfing? Is the sport’s growing mass-appeal an unalloyed positive?

Midway through Make or Break, the WSL season heads to inland California, for an event at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, a wave pool. This artificial competition setting is depicted as a pure test of surfing ability. “There’s nowhere to hide,” says one observer of the format, in which surfers compete individually on identical waves, ranked against the whole field, rather than in heat-by-heat contests subject to the whims of the ocean. Left unremarked is the profound philosophical shift prompted by wave pool surfing for a sport and past-time founded on a deep, even spiritual connection to the sea.

It may be too much to expect a glossy streaming series to explore such existential questions. The evolution of the sport, from its hippy roots to wave-pool competition broadcast around the globe, continues unabated. Make or Break will only give this trend greater momentum. But, at the very least, it is compelling viewing.

Make or Break premieres on 29 April on Apple TV+