Kitesurfing in Kalpitiya

Located in the Puttalam District, between the Puttalam Lagoon and the Indian Ocean, Kalpitiya is no longer the isolated backwater it once was. The windswept peninsula and its outlying islands are now at the forefront of tourist development. However, the area, fringed with idyllic white-sand beaches, is largely unspoilt for the time being and makes for a superb gateway.

The peninsula has become a prime kitesurfing destination and also offers dolphin and whale watching in season; spinner dolphins are abundant in the waters here. In addition, it is a good place to observe pelagic birds and waders, owing to the range of aquatic habitats that include mangroves and saltpans. Birding enthusiasts should take a boat trip on Puttalam lagoon and it is also possible to spot the Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins – an elusive in-shore species-while out on the water early in the morning.

Many of the boutique resorts found along the coast facilitate other exciting activities such as fishing, snorkeling and windsurfing for guests. Among the most popular resorts are those at the alluring Alankuda Beach on the western side of the peninsula. About 10 km (6 miles) north from Alankuda is the village of Talawila, where the 19th-century St Anne’s Church attracts thousands of pilgrims for the annual feast day in August. Some 20 km (12 miles) further north lies the small town of Kalpitiya. The Dutch constructed a fort here on the site of an older Portuguese fortification. It was built at the entrance of the lagoon to control King Rajasinghe’s trade with India. The fort is currently occupied y the navy. Another reminder of the area’s Colonial past is the rustic St Peter’s Kirk, with gravestones dating from the Dutch occupation.

The government’s development plans for this beautiful and diverse area have been fraught with controversy. There have been accusations of land grabbing, as well as concerns of the local fishermen. There is also the added risk to the large coral reef off the coast of Kalpitiya, which is under threat from fishing, pollution and human interference. If the transformation of this area of rich biodiversity into a tourist centre is sensitively managed, it will help preserve the livelihoods of those who have lived here for generations. more