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|Author:||Nissanka [ Sun Aug 28, 2005 11:33 am ]|
Beauty of Baththalangunduwa
Baththalangunduwa is a small island about 10km off the West Coast of Sri Lanka, off Puttalam and Mannar. The island is scarcely 4km long and less than 1 km wide, housing about 3000 fisher families who live in basic palm-frond huts, with little fresh water, basic sanitation, no health facilities and no power grid. The local lifestyle consists of fishing in the early mornings, then preparing and drying the fish, and repairing nets in the afternoon and evenings, limited by the lighting available from kerosene lamps or small generators. There’s one school, a church, a mosque, and a store.
Sea shells on the sea shore!
Lankika de Livera discovers the colourful beauty of Baththalangunduwa one of the few inhabited islands off Puttalam and Mannar
@ Sunday Times
In the sea to the west of Puttalam and Mannar lies a string of islands, about 13 in number. They are in the Dutch and Portugal bays. Some are inhabited and the others not, being completely wild. Our trip was to the thirteenth island of Baththalangunduwa.
To go to this island, one can hire a fishing boat for about Rs. 4,000, but this is negotiable. The other alternative is to go by ferry, which costs just Rs. 100 a person, but takes three hours. The fishing boats do the journey in about one and a half hours, but permission has to be got from the nearby Navy base, which we did. Fishing boats (motor boats) are available on the public jetty at Kalpitiya.
We started our journey from Kalpitiya on a bright and sunny day. The sparkling blue waters looked beautiful as our boat bounced up and down on the dancing waters. The sea spray and sometimes gushes of water gave us little showers, so we had to immediately close up our cameras and keep them safely inside their cases.
From the time we cruised out through the Dutch Bay, each island we passed looked green and inviting, so picturesque in the blue waters. To our east was the deep green of the Wilpattu National Park, also mysterious and alluring.
We were riding the waves and the morning sun beat strongly down on us, making us glad of our hats. As we cruised along at great speed at times I felt as though I was in an aircraft speeding with the wind. At times the boat slap-banged on the surface of the water and the turbulence and vibrations that came with it were exhilarating. It gave one a tremendous sense of wild joy, freedom and exciting adventure which cannot be described fully in words, but has to be experienced.
We passed the islands of Mattathivu, Nandativu, Palmbativu, Iramathivu, Salliyan Pillai, Sinna archchi, Periya arachchi, Ippanthivu, Uchchamuniya, Wella, Palliyawatte, Sinna Gunduwa and finally reached Baththalangunduwa.
Baththalangunduwa is a 38 km journey by sea, 20 nautical miles from the shore. Fishermen’s huts were visible, little makeshift dwellings of cadjan, used by the fisherfolk whose main business on the island is to make dried fish.
pparently the fishermen are wealthy and some even have mansions in Puttalam and Negombo. As we walked through the little island we saw reed mats spread out in the sun with heaps of fish on them for drying. There is a little church on Baththalangunduwa, a school with just two classes and the Sri Lanka Navy has their post here too.
But the loveliest discovery we made as we stepped out from the boat was the abundance of sea shells of different colours, shapes and sizes on the shore. Huge conch shells were just rolling around in the waves by the shore. There were beautifully coloured star fish galore lying in the shallow waters.
Piles of dead star fish caught in the fishing nets were thrown into heaps from place to place. It seemed such a waste of these beautiful creatures.
A little boy who told me his name was Saliya was washing some fish to be dried and happily posed for a photograph, but the moment I asked him whether he did not go to school, he slunk away. Apparently, the inhabitants of this island only live here during certain periods. When it is “Warakan” – when the seas are rough and fishing is difficult, they go back to their homes on the mainland and return when it is the fishing season.
Twelve-year-old Saliya reminded me of my school days when we were told stories about children being abducted and taken to “wadiyas” to dry fish, never to be heard of again. If a child were to be brought to this island, there is no way he could escape. But Saliya was a child of a fisherman no doubt and probably would have never gone to school.
The island which is around four acres in extent mainly has coconut palms and the vegetation that grows on sandy soil. There is no fresh water and we were glad of our precious drinking water as we had our picnic lunch and relaxed.
After lunch we got back into our boat and adventurously decided to go near the fringes of Kudiramalai Point in the Wilpattu National Park. From the sea, Kadirmalai Point looked picturesque, but the waters between the island of Baththalangunduwa and Kudiramalai were very choppy. Our boat was bobbing up and down, because we were really more out in the open seas in the Gulf of Mannar.
Though our proposed journey to the “Bar reef” (home to many corals and fish to the west of Baththalangunduwa in the Gulf of Mannar) had to be cancelled due to rough waters and wind conditions, nothing could take away the thrill of adventure and the sight of the star fish at Baththalangunduwa.
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