Situated 1km off the coast of Nilaveli, a coastal town in the Eastern province near Trincomalee, Pigeon Island National Park is unique as it is one of the only marine national parks in Sri Lanka. It gets its name from the vast number of Rock Pigeons that call this island home. In the past, Pigeon Island was used as a shooting range by the British who had colonized Sri Lanka at the time. Today, Pigeon Island contains some of the best remaining coral reefs in Sri Lanka.
Sea at its calmest
To get here, you will first have to make your way to Nilaveli; a journey of around 278Km by car. Once there, the island can only be reached by boats. You will find that there are plenty of boat services along the beaches near Trincomalee. Usually, these boats can accommodate around 6 to 8 passengers. The journey by boat from Nilaveli takes roughly 10 minutes and they operate from 7am to 5pm. Keep in mind that the best time to visit would be from April to September as this is when the sea will be at its calmest.
Coral, sharks and turtles
As Pigeon Island is best known for its reefs, it isn’t advisable to visit unless you are the kind of person that likes being in water. If you are, there is no place you’d rather be for the reefs around the island are home to about hundred types of coral species and 178 species of fish. Black tip reef sharks are also seen around the reefs, while they may look intimidating, they are harmless. Hawksbill, Green, and Olive Ridley sea turtles are known to make appearances as well.
The best way to observe all this life would be by snorkeling around the reefs or if you are a serious adrenaline junkie, try your hand at scuba diving. Once you’ve had enough of the water, climb up the rock of the island through the nature trail; bring your camera along so you can take these views home with you.
Be sure to wear footwear as the rough edges of dead coral are unforgiving when they cut your feet! Since there are no shops on the island, so you need to pack enough water and food. Last but not least ,wear enough sun cream or a t-shirt when you go snorkeling since the sun is merciless.
Pigeon Island is the best place to have a swim in tropical waters while observing some of the best spectacles that Sri Lankan coral reefs have to offer. It sure is worth a visit!