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Dive Review of Unawatuna Divers in
General Travel/Other Locations/Sri Lanka

Unawatuna Divers: "expected more", Jan, 2017,

by Michael Joest, Kehl, DE (Top Contributor Top Contributor 39 reports with 24 Helpful votes). Report 9447 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments There never ever started a vacation with that many calamities than this one. First Air Sri Lanka stopped it´s service out of Frankfurt, had to go via London to catch the direct flight. Heathrow had a foggy day, no flights out or in, they changed my booking onto Emirates with a 6 h lay over in Dubai, reached my destination at midnight. The Aggressor cancelled it´s cruise only 2 days prior to my departure, had to find some alternative in the last minute. On my way home, a foggy day in Abu Dhabi (the first they said), 2 h delay, my train home was long gone reaching Frankfurt. Shit happens it seems question or meaning stop your traveling?
One would think a destination in the neighborhood of the Maldives would provide the same abundance and variety of coral and fish life than the Atoll. This however proved to be a wrong idea.
I spent my first week at Rockside Cabanas Unawatuna, a sweet small familiar run place right at the beach 2 h away from Colombo to the south. A nice garden area with Cabanas gives you the chance of awesome sunsets. I got a big room on the 2 nd floor with huge terrace on the sea view side. The restaurant offers lovely local curry specialties but also some more westerly tuned dishes. Their staff is very friendly and will help you with all kind of advice for sightseeing or doing things around. At night a ready bed with mosquito net entry is waiting for you. Dreamlike awesome beaches stretch along to the north and south. Right in front is a place for surfers, next to it a protected bay, where no surf reaches the beach, ideal for kids to play in. To Unawatuna dive center it´s only 2 km, they arrange free Tuk Tuk transfers. It´s run by a German Hans, who operates a neat and efficient business. Dive guides from all over the world work here and I very much enjoyed my dives with these guys.
My very first impression when I hit the water, was ups, more rocks. There was some fish life around, small schools of baby barracuda, octopus, surgeons, angel, vis less than 10 m water temperature 29 degrees. Second dive was a wreck which was ripped apart and scattered all over the place, vis worse here, the area more a field of rubble. Next dive we found one electric ray and a small turtle rushed away from us. On Galle ship wreck we found better fish life and good coral growth, sweetlips were hiding beneath the structure, a small bunch of snappers floating around. After 40 min the dive guide shrugged his shoulder, nothing else or more to offer and inflated his smb. Next day started a rather busy day at the dive center where hurly burly reigns, students, open water course, discover scuba guests, was a bit crowded when everybody looked for his/her gear, started assembling tanks etc. Boats are waiting on the beach, we load them and in a common effort turn these around and push them into the sea. Dive guide this time was Pavel a Tschech, the first who mentioned oxygen on board and lost diver procedure. All guides were excellent, each had his idea how to approach items and address things. Portugese Gulliermo did the best job blowing bubble rings under water he easily managed 3 5 in a row, which slowly rose to the surface. I envy this, often I practice it, when a dive starts to get boring, but I only managed a big one once in a while. We mostly had small groups of six divers in one boat, but it still was a bit crowded with all gear and second tanks waiting for us, so most of our group geared up in the water. On Rangon Wreck we had some bat fish, one sting ray, schools of different snappers and 3 cuddle fish where I got real close and managed to get some nice footage video with my Hero 3. I love to watch these animals. Often I turned around like I always do in the hope to spot something big in the blue water. Nothing however turned up and it was more greenish brown than blue water dive. Sometimes I imagined myself in one of our gravel lakes, so bad were the conditions. Most dives were around 15 to 25 m. One afternoon I was the only customer and offered to skip the dive or do some exploratory thing. So we went out straight for 2 km, then dropped down into the dark. I passed 30 than forty, than 50, nothing. At 52.4 m I touched sandy bottom, strange so, vis definitely was better here than closer to shore. I had booked a 10 dive package from home for 275 .
My second week I chose the peninsula Kalpitiya as this would have been the route and turning point of the Aggressor. I thought this would promise some good diving and on the Internet things sounded good. It´s further away from the sometimes crowded tourist places around Colombo and Negombo and rather secluded or still not that much developed for tourism. From Colombo it took us 3 h to reach it all through Christmas shopping folks everywhere and no expressway reaching up. On the Internet I had found Ruwala Resort which looked nice. Ruwala is a lovely place in a beautiful setting among huge palm trees on the lagoon side of the peninsula. I had asked for a cabana, I just love to have my own space around me. This might not have been the best idea, it looked rather run down with lots of things to fix inside, fan, electricity, mosquito net, tap, toilet and shower installation. The whole place calls itself eco and rusty, where I absolutely agree on the latter. Eco I couldn´t find, AC and fan running all the time, plastic bottles everywhere. I had one full week without cleaning or room service so maybe this is one way to interpret eco. A fishy smell often blew in from the lagoon, same as out of the tap. They mostly cater to Indish or local clientele, so meals where for these guys taste buds even in the morning with rice and some curry lentil soup, which I just couldn´t stand. Mosquitoes were a severe and bad nuisance during dinner time. Burning coils or insect repellent did not help much. My web research had shown Kalpitiya Disovery Diving on the other side of the peninsula. With Keira the manager I booked some two tank dives for the following days. A 15 min Tuk Tuk ride brought me to their place. It looked primitive what they had built here. In 3 rusty containers I found dive center, shower toilets rinsing tanks and accommodation for dive guides. Same procedure here again, the boat is loaded and pushed in. Single weak engine and small boat with shades took us to the dive site which needed some time, as 2 x the engine died on us and was a bit tough to start again. They had trouble with GPS and had to turn around a couple of times to find the right spot called Davey. We dropped into brownish soup, vis worse than in Unawatuna, sometimes around 5 m only and water temp only 27 which you noticed in a strong wind after the dive. Fish life however was much better but you just couldn´t see. There where Napoleon around, schools of snapper, surgeons different kind of jacks and others, a bunch of triggers, near the surface jellyfish and some strange transparent creatures like a chain we call Salpen in German. Dive 2 Nisha Rocks same here, you just desperately long for some blue water dive with awesome vis diving in this soup. There was part of a fish net hanging on rocks, but I guess nobody so far cared to remove that. Climbing up into the boat on a small ladder managed to tilt the thing so much, it got steeper to get into and with the boat men coming onto my side to help did nothing to improve things quite the opposite. The dive guide Steve a Portugese gave a good briefing, underwater too often asked how much air I had more than he should recognize experienced divers and let them do their thing. They charge 80 for a 2 tank, which I found a bit steep. His explanation, the dive center still needs to develop, where I totally agree with him, things have to be transported in from far away, which is expensive. Steve is doing a good job with his girlfriend there but you can only work with things you get. You wash your gear in an open area outside of the containers and leave everything packed in a dive bag. Next morning however I found nearly everything was covered with sand. Next day we went further out into the open ocean. A really huge school of dolphins were passing by. This was the only wouh moment so far on this trip. Dive 3 found us on a good sort of reef patch with nice variety and quantity of fish around. This we covered in 15 min then Keira swam along with compass looking for a next patch it seemed. This he never found and even turning back to the first was not possible, so we spent 30 min on a sandy bottom with some scattered rubble around. I got a headache on this dive, did not save air, so it might be bad air in the tank. On dive 2 I nearly threw up under water only gulping down some sea water helped to avoid that. Opening my tank for that dive pushed the button of my inflator hose right out and the tank was empty in seconds. Could not fix it and did the dive with a new tank without the inflator connected. Dive 2 was the same place as yesterday, so a repeat already after just 3 dives, puh. With the bad vis and the incident with my inflator I thought these are enough sings telling me to stop diving here, it´s not really worth it. Maybe I chose the wrong season for this vacation. The Aggressor I learned had done some survey here before starting their operation. I wonder if it will ever come to that. I doubt this cruise will be very much sought after. Maybe the whale watching or tech diving trip will attract more guests. I would have loved to dive the famous wreck at Colombo, a British aircraft carrier H M S Hermes however not in this vis. The next few days I spent with sightseeing walking along the beach, kayaking in the mangroves. The birds around here are amazing and the squirrels cute to watch. Kalpitiya area is known for good kite surfing and so far was more backpacker country. It needs to slowly grow to make it possible for a dive center to spend some money in building some nice place and develop all necessary infra structure. Asking for money but only offering the bare naked essentials is not the way to do things. I spent my last half night at Jetwing Blue, Negombo, a wonderful place with an impressive service and attitude. Due to an early red eye flight I only had booked a room in the annex across the street. This proved totally sufficient, no windows there to the outside but a nice room with all amenities of a good hotel. Rather touristy the surrounding but a beautiful pool and beach. In Colombo I learned that it was not the first cancelled trip of the Aggressor here. The reason was not maintenance on the boat which they told me but it seems they still need to obtain an official document and permit for this cruise. A real disgrace to the name of Aggressor what happened here.
Websites Unawatuna Divers   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving worldwide
Closest Airport Colombo Getting There 2 h transfer

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 29-°F / -2-°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 5-10 M / 16-33 Ft

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 2 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Report currently has 1 Helpful vote

Subscriber's Comments

By Dasarath Gunasekera in CA, US at Aug 03, 2017 18:56 EST  
Kalpitiya and Unawatuna both have quite boring diving. The Aggressor focused on the wrecks in Colombo and rightly so. You would have been better served diving those, even with low vis most of them are very interesting dives.
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