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.
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.
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 Canoe Stories expedition.
Canoe Stories: 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. Canoe Stories: Sri Lanka hopes to bring Sri Lanka and its gorgeous beaches a little closer to you, hoping you will want to go there for your next vacation.
I may not be able to wait to produce the feature-length documentary of the expedition. With so much to see and so many experiences every day, I plan to upload a daily video blog so you can see for yourself the daily wonders of this journey.
Watch some videos on the beaches of Sri Lanka