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Hikkaduwa – A Tourist Paradise in Sri Lanka
The Coral Reefs that Adorn this Resort
Drive along the Southern Highway from Colombo, for a distance of 98 KM towards Galle and 14 KM before Galle, you will arrive at one of loveliest beaches in the country. This beach was discovered in 1960. It has earned fame for Diving and Snorkeling in the crystal clear waters swarming with colourful fish, and large turtles. It is reputedly the second best surf spot in the country, making the reason why both local and foreign tourists do not fail to include Hikkaduwa in their Itinerary.
The Hikkaduwa National Park is one of the two marine National Parks in Sri Lanka and contains a fringing coral reef of high biodiversity; and was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in May, 1979; and later, in August 1988, it was upgraded to a Nature Reserve. The increase in the inflow of Tourist Traffic during the next quarter century caused the degradation of the coral reef; and, to reduce the effects of the ecosystem, the reef was proclaimed a National Park, in September, 2002. The reef off Hikkaduwa has an average depth of about 15 to 16 feet, reducing the coastal erosion and forming to a natural Breakwater, having a narrow coastal belt – depending on the prevalent climatic conditions – Scuba Diving is very popular here.
The Hikkaduwa National Park is situated in the Wet Zone of Sri Lanka – receiving an annual rainfall of 2,000 millimeters – or 79 inches during both the monsoons, the best period to visit the park is during the inter-monsoon period. The temperature of the water fluctuates between 28.0 and 30.0 C whilst the annual mean temperature of the atmosphere is recorded as 27 degrees Celsius. The entire inshore area is flush with a variety of corals – e.g.: Staghorn, Elkhorn, Cabbage, Brain, Star and Table; together with over 170 species of reef fish belonging to a multitude of genera.
Dugong and Sea Turtles thrive on the lush Seagrass and marine algae found in the depths; whilst prawns too thrive on the seagrass and other species that inhabit the waters are crabs, shrimps and oysters. The Blacktip reef shark can be found along the outer slope of the reef. The Hawksbill turtles, the green turtle and the Olive Ridley are among the ‘endangered’ species.
Despite being categorized as a ‘Protected Area’ the coral reef has been frequently exploited – including the removal of ornamental fish, for breeding for commercial purposes.
By a stroke of good fortune, the tragedy of the 2004 Tsunami had no major effect on the two marine National Parks of Sri Lanka. However, they were subject to secondary impacts like terrestrial debris being deposited on the reefs. A massive clean-up campaign was carried out.
The cleanliness of the beaches and the reefs depend – mainly on the persons making use of them.
The beach being a Tourist attraction has to be kept in a clean and sanitary contrition – not only by the local authorities, but also by the local population.