Sri Lanka is an island country located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal, to the southeast of the Arabian Sea, and separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. Its history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of prehistoric human settlements dating back at least 125,000 years. It has a rich cultural heritage and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pali Canon, date back to the Fourth Buddhist Council in 29 BC.
According to Hindu mythology, a land bridge existed between the Indian mainland and Sri Lanka. It was and is still called Ram Setu since it is believed that Lord Rama and his monkey army constructed the bridge to cross over to Sri Lanka in order to rescue Lord Rama's wife Sita who was kidnapped by Ravana the Sri Lankan king. The land bridge now is only a chain of limestone shoals remaining above sea level. It is said that the bridge was passable on foot up to 1480 AD, until cyclones deepened the channel. Portions of the "bridge" are still as shallow as three feet.
Save water, save the Earth
Sri Lanka has 103 rivers, 45 estuaries and 40 lagoons. The mangrove ecosystem spans over 7,000 hectares and played a vital role in buffering the force of the waves in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Sri Lanka is one of 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Despite its small size, Sri Lanka has the highest biodiversity density in Asia, with 27% of flowering plants and 22% of mammals endemic to the country. There are 24 wildlife reserves, which are home to the Asian elephants, leopards, sloth bears, the small loris, deer, the purple-faced langur, the endangered wild boar, porcupines and Indian pangolins.
Being an island country surrounded by sea on all sides, Sri Lanka has to depend on its limited fresh water resources for drinking, irrigation, cooking, washing, etc. These water bodies have to be preserved, protected and their usage managed. Like in many other parts of the world, Sri Lanka too is water scarce.
After the bloody civil war ended in Sri Lanka in 2009, tourism has boomed in this wonderful island nation. And thanks to that, so has the amount of garbage, much of it plastic. The seas and oceans know no boundaries, and many of the wonderful beaches can be seen littered with trash that has flown in with the tide. Uncontrolled sewage disposal, and the growing problem of plastic trash is slowly poisoning humanity.
A Slow Boat Around Sri Lanka will raise the issue of climate change, reducing water resources and reducing the use of plastics. Water management is a must with the increasingly growing demand for water. Water needs to be recycled, rainwater and flood water needs to be harvested, grey water needs to be used for secondary purposes. There is a lot that needs to be done, and many of the solutions are individual-based, emanating from conscious Government policy. Water scarcity and plastic pollution are both worldwide crises, and if not addressed quickly, can cross the threshold and become a calamity.
To start with, A Slow Boat Around Sri Lanka is a Zero Single-Use Plastic expedition. During the journey we hope to co-opt businesses located in some of the beaches and visiting tourists to spend some time picking up trash.
If not us who? If not now, when?
Chandan Lahiri leads the team on this expedition. A record holding adventurer, survival instructor, author and videographer, Chandan has recently actively embarked on a spiritual journey by training to become a certifies sound healer cum meditator. He is also certified by FEMA and has written a few books on various subjects. You can read more about Chandan here.
Timm Kruse joins the team from Germany. His day job is as a reporter for the German TV station zdf, the biggest TV station in Europe. H is pretty famous in Germany and around the world, not so much for his vocation as a reporter but as an intrepid adventurer and bestselling author. He has written five books so far, in topics that range from the spiritual to the adventurous: (1) 40 days of fasting, (2) Roadtrip with Guru, (3) Meditating my ass off, (4) Neither stirred nor shaken, and (5) One man, one board. The last book records his journey stand-up paddleboarding down the Danube in 2018. His next adventure ... and next book ... is on his 800km walking adventure from France to Santiago di Compostella. You can buy his books here.
Sri Lanka is a land of tremendous diversity, but what interests me as a paddler is the awesome coastline, with its pristine beaches and the many wonders there are to witness all around the almost 1,500 km coastline. Sri Lanka's beaches are famous the world over and though it is the western beaches that are more popular, more and more beaches on the eastern coast are being discovered every day.
In addition to beaches, one can enjoy scuba diving, skin diving, deep sea fishing, hot air ballooning, whale watching and swimming with dolphins, all of which I plan to experience during this amazing expedition.
The German Oskar Speck kayaked from India to Sri Lanka in 1935 and the Australian adventurer Sandy Robson did that in 2014. This will possibly be the first time an Indian will be making the human-powered journey after Lord Rama did that many millennia ago!
A Slow Boat Around Sri Lanka starts on the Indian mainland, at Rameshwaram, circumnavigates Sri Lanka in a clockwise direction, to end at Pamban, 1,500 km (or thereabouts) and a couple of months later. It is difficult to be on a human powered canoe, and enjoy all the sights and sounds of this beautiful country in a matter of two months. But the plan is to savour as much as is possible.
The plan is to camp on a different beach every evening, meeting people, hearing stories, eating local food, drinking the local beverage and getting immersed in a culture diverse from my own.
Things to see and experience
Sri Lanka is rated among the top holiday destinations in the world, and yet is relatively unexplored compared to the more popular beach holiday destinations in the world. A Slow Boat Around Sri Lanka hopes to bring beautiful Sri Lanka, its wonderful people, and its gorgeous beaches a little closer to you, hoping you will want to go there for your next vacation.
Apart from the journey around the coast of the Emerald Isle, there are many wonderful sights and sounds that are a must for any visitor to the country ... Sigiriya Rock Fortress, the granite statue of the Buddha at Polonnaruwa, the Portuguese, Dutch and British influence in Galle, the cave temple at Dambulla, the Temple of the Tooth Relic at Kandy, the Central Highlands including Adam's Peak, the floating market in Pettah, the turtle hatchery in Hikkadua and Bentota, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Yala National Park, the ruins of Anuradhapura, and so many other wonderful things that the expedition itself will take much longer than just paddling from start to finish.
The feature-length documentary of the expedition might take a few weeks to produce and upload for all to see. It may not be possible to wait to share the wonderful experiences for so long and the plan is to upload periodic video blogs so you can see for yourself the wonders of this incredible journey on a slow boat around this gorgeous pearl of the Indian Ocean.