A prominent historic feature in Galle is the Fort, first built by the Portuguese and later fortified by the Dutch since the 17th century. This remains one of the best preserved sea fortresses in South Asia. Surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean, It occupies 36 hectares of land and resembles fortifications in the coastal areas of Portugal. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Fort is an ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Another archaeological wonder in the area is the Yatagala Raja Maha Vihara which is a rock temple with a 9m reclining statue of Buddha. The walls of the temple are adorned with paintings from the Kandyan era, and it is here that the first sapling of the revered Mahabodhi tree was planted. The temple is believed to be built approximately 2300 years ago by King Devanampiya Tissa.
Hopping to little islands around the area by boat could be an adventurous escapade. Jetwing Lighthouse Club is equipped to arrange facilities to visit quaint and beautiful islands such as Madol Duwa, Kurundu Duwa (Cinnamon Island), Spice Island and Temple Island. Made famous by Martin Wickramasinghe’s novel in 1947, Madol Duwa in the Koggala Lake teeming with prawns and mangroves is an ideal retreat to watch birds. Temple Island too is on the same Lake, and is especially inviting on a full moon day. Kurundu Duwa, along with 64 other little islets, sits on the placid Madu River and contains 2 acres of fragrant Cinnamon plantations.
The Museum of Folk Art and Culture – Maritime Museum within the Galle Fort could be an interesting stop to take a glance into the fascinating past of Galle, especially to learn about the many influences brought about by European invaders. For the more artistically inclined, the Ariyapala Mask Museum in Ambalangoda could be a worthy stop, affording a glimpse into the mysterious world of dance, legend and exorcism behind the plays and ritualistic performances wearing masks. Lace making is another craft popular in the area. Galle lace, Beeralu lace, Portuguese lace are some of the varieties hand made in workshops that welcome visitors. A legacy of Portuguese colonization, lace making has long been considered a traditional craft of Sri Lanka
Galle is a lesser known gateway to rainforest tourism. One of the most beautiful stretches of rain forest in the country is the one bordering the Hiyare Reservoir, about 18 kms from Galle. Endemic species spotted here include the Sri Lankan Green Pigeon, Ceylon Rose, Two-spotted Threadtail, Black Ruby Barb, Sri Lankan Green Pit Viper and the Sri Lanka Purple-faced Leaf Monkey. Alternatively, the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a much larger national park with a rich and diverse complexity of vegetation. Some of the large mammals found here are the elusive Leopard, Sambar, Fishing Cat, Rusty-spotted Cat, Barking Deer, Mouse Deer, Jackal and Wild Boar. With around 170 identified species, the Kottawa Rain Forest and Arboretum on the North-East of Galle could be another interesting spot to stop by. In addition, 2 ½ hrs away, the Udawalawe National Park, with its herds of Elephants, Wild Buffalo, Sambar and Leopards is perhaps Sri Lankan’s savannah, and the best place to watch Elephants. Just about 50 minutes away from Galle, the Handunugoda Tea Estate uniquely bordering the sea is one of its kind and makes for a gorgeous spectacle. On a fascinating note, Rumassala is a massive hill oddly out of place, just outside the Galle harbour. According to Ramayana, legend has it that this is a fragment of rock dropped by Hanuman, when he was carrying a medicinal mountain from the Himalayas. Trekking in this area too can be arranged by the hotel.
5 Kms away from the Galle Fort, the Unawatuna beach with its clear, turquoise waters is an ideal location to scuba dive. The Diving School in the area provides necessary training and equipment to launch on a variety of escapades including Reef diving, Wreck diving, Deep diving and Night diving. Located North-West of the beach at Unawatuna, Jungle Beach is a hidden bay surrounded by jungle. It is home to small marine life including vibrant Reef fish, Crab, Moray eels, Trigger fish, Parrot fish, Barracudas and sizeable Turtles, and makes for a pleasant snorkelling stop. Alternatively, with its impressive coral reefs and abundance of brightly coloured tropical fish, Hikkaduwa too is one of the best places for snorkelling and diving. The snorkelling spot here is fondly named ‘coral gardens’.
Jetwing Lighthouse Club could arrange a host of other activities ranging from Whale watching in Mirissa, deemed to be home of these giant sea mammals including Blue whales, Bryde´s Whales, Sperm Whales, Fin Whales, rare Killer Whales, Common Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins, Spinner Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins and Striped Dolphins. A fishing trip deep into the ocean, or a boat safari up the Mahamodara River that begins at sea, and gradually proceeds upstream, affording sights of varying flora and fauna could be a relaxing expedition. A visit to the endangered sea turtle hatchery in Habaraduwa could be a fulfilling trip; alternatively, a tour around Cinnamon peeling centres could be an informative journey, revealing trade secrets about this treasured spice. A stop at the imperial Dutch Reformed Church inside the Fort, originally built in 1640 would be a lesson off history books, as well as a welcome shady pause during the many other Galle escapades.