The National Geographic Traveller declared Sri Lanka as the No 1 spot to offer “A better all-round travel experience “on the ‘Cool List 2018’

The National Geographic Traveller ‘Cool List 2018’ released earlier this month, declared Sri Lanka in the number one spot to offer “A better all-round travel experience”. This experience touches on wildlife to cultural tourism, but one of the most untapped sectors in the country is Adventure Tourism.

This niche market whilst being practised on a small scale throughout the island has the potential to develop into a very lucrative industry, given the right policies and infrastructure.

If the available natural resources are properly exploited, Sri Lanka could become the hot spot for Adventure Tourism in South Asia, reveal adventure tourism operators.

Even though not branded as an Adventure Tourism destination, the majority of tourists arriving in Sri Lanka consciously or unconsciously engage in one form of Adventure Tourism or the other.

Tourists enjoy jungle and river safaris, scuba diving, snorkelling, water skiing, surfing, kite surfing, mountain cycling, mountaineering, rock climbing, white water rafting, canoeing or wind surfing and all of these outdoor leisure activities available in Sri Lanka come under the Adventure Tourism Sector.

Requirements in promoting Adventure Tourism

According to the International Adventure Tourism Development Index, countries which maintain the essential requirements such as ( a.) Sustainable Development Policy, (b) Safety and Security, (c) Tourism Infrastructure, (d) Natural Resources, (e) Cultural Resources, (f) Adventure Activity Resources, (g) Entrepreneurship, (h) Humanitarian and (i) Health, qualify as sought after Adventure Tourist Destinations in the world.

In addition, those who plan to be engaged in an Adventure Tourism venture should

possess thorough experience and specialist knowledge on the specific type of Adventure Tourism Industry.

Bungee Jumping – Dangerous form of Adventure Tourism

David Kirke and Chris Baker founded the Dangerous Sports Club of Oxford University, England and introduced modern day Bungee Jumping and the first jump was done on April 1st, 1979 from Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, England which was followed by numerous other Bungee Jumping events.

Since 1990, Adventure Sports have been institutionalized and gradually Adventure Sports enter the sphere of Tourism Industry catering to the requirements of Adventure Sports enthusiasts visiting other parts of the globe seeking outdoor leisure activities.

As a direct consequence of globalization, every country depends on the hospitality trade for income generation and has to pay greater attention in adjusting to the ever changing needs and trends of the modern day tourists.

The decisive environmental factors relevant to the Adventure Tourism Sector are weather and terrain of a country. In addition, the Adventure Tourism sector depends on the condition of wind, snow and water which are considered as environmental variables of uncontrollable nature.

Thusal Gunawardena the owner of Sunshine Water Sports Centre, Aluthgama started his carrier as an enthusiast in Adventure Tourism at the age of 17 amidst numerous hardships.

As a direct result of dedication, enthusiasm and hard work he became an expert in the sphere of water sports in Sri Lanka recognized both nationally and internationally.

Thusal was ranked among the Top 10 at the World Windsurfing Championship of 1992 and won the 8th place out of 92 contestants when he took part in the 2009-2010 International Stand-up Paddling Competition, held in Hamburg, Germany.

He also won a Silver Medal at the South Asian Beach Games held at Hambantota recently. He trained hundreds of foreigners and locals in water sports and some of his employees having been trained thus, have migrated for better employment in the Middle East.

Global market for Adventure Tourism

“We live in a globalized world and compete in the world market with limited resources and the consumers of our products today, whether it is a product in the Tourism Industry or any other trade, are demanding and focused,” said Gunawardena as he stressed on the necessity to change according to the growth and novel trends in the global Adventure Tourism market.

He added that all those who were involved in every aspect of the Tourism Industry should have to change with the times and be creative in the ways they offered education on Adventure Sports found in Sri Lanka.

The present day traveller is keen on adventure and interested in exploring weird and wonderful places and opportunities should be made available for such tourists visiting Sri Lanka, he said.

He further explained that the untouched corners of the natural world were getting smaller and smaller and the situation in Sri Lanka was turning from bad to worse on a daily basis.

“Relevant authorities should take note of this situation and take action to protect such environmentally sensitive areas, if the Adventure Tourism Sector is to be developed,” said Gunawardena.

Water Sports gear

Costs also play an important role in deciding the viability of the sector. According to Gunawardena, the price of a Jet ski (Water Scooter) is around Rs. 2.2 million and he hired five Jet skis. The exorbitant prices of equipment affect the expansion of water sports and he further asked that steps be taken to reduce the import taxes for the equipment required for water sports and other items necessary for the Adventure Tourism Industry.

No Adventure without a pristine environment

Sri Lanka is considered a paradise for water sports and surfing can be done throughout the year, either in Arugam Bay in the Eastern Coast or at Hikkaduwa and Mirissa on the South Western Coast.

R. K. Somada de Silva, Director of International Diving Centre (Pvt.) Ltd. , Hikkaduwa is one of the most senior divers in Sri Lanka having more than 30 years experience in the field. He had undergone training in numerous International diving Institutions such as PADI (Asia Pacific ), UDI, CMAS (Germany) and Pro Dive (U.K.)

He is also an environmentalist and for many years was directly involved in replanting corals on the sea bed of the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary. In 1998, corals bleached due to the El Nino effect and in recognition of his dedication to the conservation of the marine environment he was felicitated with a Certificate of Recognition by a German Travel Association . (Deutscher Reise Verband).

De Silva provides practical and theoretical lessons on diving at the International Diving Centre located near the Under Water Marine Sanctuary ( Coral Gardens).

He said it would not be an exaggeration to say that the Tourist Industry of Sri Lanka originated at Hikkaduwa on the Southern Coast mainly due to the existence of Coral Gardens which were full of rare species of multi coloured corals and coral fish.

For more than a century, Coral Gardens had enticed foreign holiday makers to Sri Lanka.

Hikkaduwa gradually became a sought after beach destination by internationally renowned marine biologists, naturalists, conservators and scientists, for its breathtaking beauty and scientific importance. De Silva said that some foreigners compared the Under Water Marine Sanctuary to a live marine biology laboratory.

When it came to Adventure Tourism, De Silva said the availability of the abundance of ship wrecks on the sea stretch from Akurala to Galle could be considered as a treasure trove to promote Wreck Diving – an aspect of Adventure Tourism.

De Silva said that in addition to ship wrecks there were several under water rocks identified as popular diving sites. But illegal methods of fishing using dynamite and other explosives however, have become a threat to promoting diving, he further said.

The Chairman of the Ocean University, Professor Ranjith Senaratne addressing a media conference held at the Ocean University in Tangalle recently, observed that the unique natural beauty and serene atmosphere on the ocean bed around Sri Lanka could be exploited in a sustainable manner to promote Adventure Tourism.

He pointed out that tourists around the world took a keen interest in enjoying underwater safaris and they spent hours under water in glass cabins watching the beautiful fish.

On land, people tour sanctuaries or wildlife parks, but in the ocean bed much more diversity could be seen when compared to the terrestrial environment.

Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara, the Head of the Department of Oceanography and Marine Geology, University of Ruhuna however, first stressed on the need to protect Coral Reefs in the sea off the South, including Coral Gardens at Hikkaduwa. He said there was great potential in the ocean around Sri Lanka in promoting Adventure Tourism.

SNUBA – A mixture of Scuba and Snorkelling

“Mongoose Adventures”, one of the leading adventure sports companies in Sri Lanka

has its centres in Hikkaduwa, Trincomalee, Kalpitiya, Bentota and Habarana and has already

started its operations in promoting Adventure Tourism. For the first time in Sri Lanka, Mongoose Adventures has introduced “Snuba” a novel method of diving known as the tamer cousin of scuba and distant relative of snorkelling – a mixture of both types of diving.

Snuba is an easy and safe way to explore the diverse marine life around the seas of Sri Lanka for those who want to go beyond snorkelling. Snuba facilitates exploring the underwater world at deeper depths than snorkelling, even if you do not possess prior diving certification, Ishani Ranasinghe of Mongoose Adventures revealed.

In snuba most of the equipment used in scuba diving is used but the compressed

air tank is made to float on the surface rather than on the diver’ s back. Snuba diving has already been introduced at Hikkaduwa, Trincomalee and Mirissa, Nishan Silva, Managing Director of Mongoose said.

Nilaveli Beach and Pigeon Island in Trincomalee are ideal locations for Snuba where

there is amazingly rich and colourful marine life, he added.

He further explained that since its introduction 20 years ago, over 5 million people across the globe have successfully completed Snuba diving with no reports of serious injuries.

Kite surfing

Michael Walter an expert on Kite Surfing has trained several Sri Lankans on Kite Surfing as an Adventure Sport. Dilsiri Welikala happened to be one of his first trainees and now he conducts training classes on Kite Surfing to both foreign and local enthusiasts.

Kalpitiya and the North West Coast of Sri Lanka up to Jaffna have been identified as windy locations in Asia. Welikala said Kiters from many parts reached Kalpitiya since 2006 but due publicity was not given. Now Kalpitiya is on the kitesurfing map. Even though Kitesurfing is an extreme sport, for learners, lessons could be conducted on the flat, shallow waters in the lagoon, he added.

There are many Kite Surfing points at Kalpitiya and Kite Surfing could be promoted as a form of Adventure Tourism at Kalpitiya because the wind blows at an average speed of 18 – 20 knots, 24 hours a day, throughout the week, from May to September, according to Walter.

The opportunities and places to explore are plenty but one thing all those involved in the Adventure Tourism sector agree is that they do not receive much cooperation from government authorities to promote these sectors or to develop it.

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