Jungle Beach: The hidden paradise of Unawatuna

10th Feb 2014
Photo of Jungle Beach: The hidden paradise of Unawatuna 1/2 by Chhaya Methani
Sunset at Unawatuna Beach
Photo of Jungle Beach: The hidden paradise of Unawatuna 2/2 by Chhaya Methani
Jungle Beach

Unawatuna Beach in Southern Sri Lanka, known for it's biodiversity and corals, was once listed among the top ten best beaches in the world; until the recent Tsunami in 2004 destroyed much of the corals and beach side restaurants.

A lot has been done to restore at least the commercial activity since then, and Unawatuna is once again a bustling tourist attraction. Crystal clear waters and a gentle wave make it ideal for splashing about in the water. It's popularity attracts tourists in huge numbers.

However, if you are the type to escape the crowd just like me, you could head for a more hidden cove of a beach, called the Jungle Beach. Like all good things in life, reaching the jungle beach doesn't come easy.

You gotta hike up a small distance on Rummasala hill and then behold! You are greeted by a beautiful beach line richly lined with coconut trees, dotted with lazy clouds admiring the whole scene from above.

It is said that Unawatuna closely resembles the paradise beaches described in Valmiki's Ramayana. According to the epic, when Hanuman was asked to get specific herbs needed to treat Laxman, he carried the whole mountain since he was unable to differentiate between the many herbs growing atop. On his flight back, a small part of the mountain 'dropped' down to earth, and is believed to now lie as a small hill close to the Unawatuna beach, called the Rummasala hill. The beach thus got it's name, Una-watuna, literally meaning "fell down".

Rummasala hill now also acts as an excellent vantage point providing excellent views of the beach. It also acts as a crowd filter, since only the few who really crave for a secluded experience, venture out for the hike down to the beach. And aren't we glad for this natural filter! ;)

Getting there: Unawatuna is a suburb of Galle district in Sri Lanka, located at the south eastern end of the town. To reach Jungle Beach one has to continue further down the road after Unawatuna; you can ask the locals for directions to Rummasala hill. At some point, you gotta take a right cut from the main road. It is a small turn and is easy to miss, so I would recommend asking for frequent directions. Once you take the turn, you should see a small colony of houses behind which lies the forested hill.

It used to be a 2 kms hike from the base, but now a proper road has been made that takes you up the hill. You need to follow directions taking you to "Peace Pagoda". This is a Buddhist monastery that is set up atop the hill. A few sharp turns and high angled roads will lead you to the monastery, which is also worth visiting. This is as far as the road takes you, and you need to continue the rest of the journey on foot.

The hike down for a km or so is of moderate intensity, but certainly an endeavor that can be undertaken in flip flops, proper caution being exercised. The road quite literally less traveled goes through a forest, winding down the hill onto the beach. Be wary of the bushes and the loose gravel. The road will soon lead you to a clearing. A pristine blue beach dotted with trees and a few beautiful fishing boats in the distance greet you. Isn't this the stuff that tropical beach holidays are made of? Other than us, we counted barely 10 people at the beach. There is a small restaurant on one side, with more variety of food & beverages that can be expected in a secluded spot. They even rent out snorkeling equipment at a very moderate price. You can now sip into your favorite cocktail, and prepare to settle in here for a cozy day away from the crowds.:)

We reached there in the afternoon so we decided to just relax on a beach chair, reading a book and just lazying around. Come evening, we rented out snorkeling gear and went straight into water. There are beautiful corals just a few meters in, which means a chance of seeing a lot of active sealife. Corals are usually where the fishes hangout. We spotted multi-hued fishes and urchins that were waiting to hunt on smaller fishes in stealth mode. Looking up at eye level on water surface, we saw shoals of flying fishes. The water was still and clear, and we just kept floating around looking at the amazing activity right underneath on the ocean floor.

The restaurant has an open air shower facility and some make shift changing rooms. Come dark, and they start to shut shop and it is advised to start heading back well before lights out since the hike up after a beach day can be quite tiring. We used phone lights which are quite handy, but being prepared and carrying a torch is useful.

This is one of the most relaxing and gorgeous beaches that I've been to. I would highly recommend taking the off beat path to reach there.

Beautiful beach, with good food and snorkeling options

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