Bentota, a gem on Sri Lanka's southwestern coast, weaves a magical tale of sun, sand, and culture. Framed by the turquoise embrace of the Indian Ocean on one side and the meandering Bentota River on the other, this coastal town offers a harmonious blend of relaxation and adventure. From its golden beaches that echo with laughter and whispers of ancient temples to its conservation centers protecting marine life, Bentota beckons travelers with a promise of memories waiting to be made. In this travel guide, we'll go over the top 10 things you can do in amazing Bentota.
1. Bentota Beach
At the heart of Bentota's attractions is its signature beach. Stretching over a considerable length, this coastal haven is known for its fine, sunlit sands. You'll find families making memories: building sandcastles, playing cricket, or simply lying back and soaking up the sun. There's always a friendly beach vendor nearby with fresh coconuts to quench your thirst. As the day winds down, the beach offers some of the most breathtaking sunsets. Grab a local snack, find a comfortable spot, and watch the horizon – it's a simple pleasure that leaves a lasting impression.
2. Water Sports at Bentota
Adjacent to the beach, the watersport centers buzz with energy. For those unfamiliar with water sports, there's always a friendly instructor nearby, ready to guide you through the basics. Jet skiing, for instance, might seem intimidating at first, but with a little guidance, the thrill of speeding over waves becomes irresistible. For those looking to soar, parasailing offers a bird's-eye view of Bentota's coastline. The centers are equipped with modern gear, ensuring safety while you indulge in your chosen activity. And if you're looking for a shared adventure, group activities like the banana boat rides often result in the most memorable Stories, filled with laughs, minor tumbles, and exhilarating speeds.
3. Bentota River
The Bentota River, winding its way through the town, presents a stark contrast to the lively beach scene. Embarking on a river safari here is akin to stepping into a world where time slows down. The calm waters reflect the blue of the skies and the green of the mangroves. Birdwatchers would find this journey especially rewarding, with sightings of kingfishers, herons, and maybe even a rare species if you're lucky. Fishermen can be seen casting their nets or angling for a catch, continuing a tradition that has been passed down generations. Some boat tours also offer a chance to dock at small, lesser-known villages along the riverbank. Here, you can interact with locals, learn about their way of life, and even enjoy a home-cooked meal, making the river journey not just scenic but deeply cultural.
4. Lunuganga Estate
Lunuganga Estate is where nature meets the visionary designs of Geoffrey Bawa. Originally conceptualized as a weekend country retreat, the property evolved over the years under Bawa's masterful touch. With its terraced areas, reflective water bodies, and a diverse range of tropical flora, Lunuganga feels like a labyrinth of discoveries. Every path you take leads to a different vista or a quiet, secluded spot, making it evident that each placement, be it a tree or a statue, was meticulously planned. The estate is also dotted with art pieces and sculptures from Bawa's personal collection, adding layers of artistic depth. Guided tours provide an in-depth perspective, shedding light on Bawa's inspirations, his architectural philosophies, and the stories behind certain design choices. However, one can equally enjoy a self-paced exploration, taking in the sights, sounds, and the calming aura of Lunuganga.
5. Kosgoda Sea Turtle Hatchery
The Kosgoda Hatchery is more than a mere tourist attraction; it's a beacon of hope for endangered sea Turtles. From the moment you enter, the mission of the hatchery is clear: protect, preserve, and educate. Protected sandy pens dot the area, safeguarding eggs from predators. As you explore further, you'll come across tanks with turtles of various ages and sizes, each with its own story. Some were rescued from poachers, while others are recovering from injuries. The staff, deeply passionate about their mission, eagerly share stories about each turtle's journey. They'll guide you on the life cycles of different turtle species, the challenges they face, and how the hatchery's conservation efforts play a pivotal role. One of the highlights for many visitors is the chance to release baby turtles back into the ocean – a small but meaningful act that reinforces the importance of conservation.
6. Kande Viharaya Temple
The imposing Buddha statue at Kande Viharaya is a beacon, visible from a distance. But up close, the temple reveals more of its treasures. Delicately painted murals narrate tales from Buddhist scriptures. There's a palpable sense of peace in the air, further accentuated by the soft chants and the fragrance of incense. The temple complex houses intricately designed chambers and halls adorned with vibrant paintings depicting scenes from the life of Lord Buddha and tales from the Jataka stories. Devotees and monks can be seen engaging in daily rituals and chants, creating an aura of spirituality. The temple grounds, with their Bodhi trees and smaller shrines, offer pockets of tranquillity, making it an ideal place for meditation or quiet reflection. It's a spiritual haven, welcoming both the devout and the curious.
7. Galapatha Raja Maha Vihara Temple
With a history spanning centuries, the Galapatha Temple is a repository of local legends, ancient scripts, and religious art. Here, the walls have stories to tell – of kings, of monks, of times gone by. The temple grounds, with their old trees and stone structures, add to the aura. The air carries the subtle fragrance of incense sticks, and the soft sound of bells resonates, giving visitors a sense of calm. Strolling within the temple complex, you'd come across locals lighting lamps, offering flowers, and seeking blessings – a gentle reminder of the temple's significance in their daily lives. Don't rush through this one; every corner, every stone has a tale to share.
8. Cinnamon Island
Cinnamon Island provides a fascinating glimpse into Sri Lanka's age-old cinnamon trade. The moment you set foot on the island, the aromatic scent of fresh cinnamon envelopes you. Local families, with skills passed down through generations, demonstrate the intricate process of harvesting cinnamon - from peeling the bark to drying and rolling. Their dexterity and expertise make it seem effortless. Before leaving, make sure to pick up some cinnamon sticks or oil, a fragrant reminder of your visit.
9. Brief Garden
A little away from Bentota lies the enchanting Brief Garden, once the residence of Bevis Bawa, Geoffrey Bawa's elder brother. This five-acre garden feels like a living canvas where Bevis expressed his love for art and nature. As you wander through, you're treated to a variety of experiences, from dense jungles and open lawns to surprise clearings adorned with sculptures. The garden paths often lead to spaces that reflect Bevis's eclectic taste, showcasing Balinese statues, Sinhalese art, and even European-inspired fountains. Hidden amongst the greenery, you'll find the artist's residence, a space that seamlessly blends with the outdoors. The interiors, adorned with murals, paintings, and sculptures, give insights into Bevis's life and his circle of artist friends. While the beauty of Brief Garden is evident at first glance, its true magic lies in the stories, histories, and inspirations that are intertwined with every leaf and stone.
10. Induruwa Sea Turtle Conservation Project
A short drive from Bentota, the Induruwa project is a sanctuary for injured or sick turtles. Large tanks house turtles recovering from injuries, each with its unique story of rescue and rehabilitation. Here, the emphasis is on education, understanding the threats these creatures face in the wild, and the collective responsibility of ensuring their survival.
To sum it up, Bentota isn't just a destination; it's an experience. From its sun-kissed beaches and adrenaline-packed activities to its cultural treasures and conservation efforts, every moment spent here adds a page to your travel diary.
As your journey in Bentota draws to a close, you'll carry with you more than just photographs. The town's blend of serene landscapes, rich history, and warm-hearted locals leaves an imprint on every traveler. While the waves and sunsets might be a recurring theme across many coastal towns, it's the moments, stories, and experiences that make Bentota truly special. Until next time, Bentota remains a chapter in your travel story, waiting to be revisited.