Sri Lanka is an island country located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea, and separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. It's history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of prehistoric human settlements dating back to 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.
Raising awareness about water scarcity
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.
A Slow Boat Around Sri Lanka will raise the issue of climate change and reducing water resources. 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 is a worldwide crisis, and if not addressed quickly, can cross the threshold and become a calamity.
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.
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 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. I may not be able to wait to share the wonderful experiences for so long and I plan 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.