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Nilaveli & Uppuveli

The adjacent beaches of Nilaveli and Uppuveli north of Trincomalee, together 6km in length, are the most favoured by visitors to the region. Nilaveli, especially, has one of the finest beaches in Sri Lanka - the expansive stretches of the island’s typical soft white sand are an ideal location for swimming and sunbathing. From here you can hire a boat to take you to nearby Pigeon Island – so-called because it is home to the rare Blue Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) - which is good for diving and snorkelling.

A more attractive alternative is Coral Island, a few kilometres north of Nilaveli, which unlike Pigeon Island cannot be landed on, but which has a well-preserved reef containing the beautiful cabbage coral and a marvellous variety of dazzling tropical fish. Coral Island is considered by many to be Sri Lanka’s best snorkelling spot. However, the water over the reef becomes quite shallow at low tide, so precautions must be taken not only to avoid cuts and scrapes but also ensure no coral – nowadays so vulnerable – is damaged.

The Kanniyai Hot Springs are 8km from Nilaveli. There are seven springs, which are more like wells in a small compound. The water is indeed warm and if large crowds are there it can be a fight to get your hands on the bucket to dip into the well. It is a public mixed bathing area - a sarong, shorts or swimming costume is required. There are several Hindu legends surrounding the creation of the wells. Some believe it was due to Vishnu, others that it was legendary King Ravana of the epic poem Ramayana. Many Sri Lankan pilgrims – regardless of religion –visit the hot springs early in the morning to bathe before proceeding to worship at the Tirukoneswaram kovil in the fort of Trincomalee. It is also believed the waters have therapeutic value especially for those with body aches associated with conditions like arthritis and rheumatism.

Another site of interest is the carefully maintained Commonwealth War Cemetery at Uppuveli. Buried at this memorial are Allied service personnel who lost their lives during the Japanese aerial attack on Trincomalee in April 1942. If the caretaker or his wife is around they will show the register that lists all those buried there, including members of the crew of HMS Hermes, the firat purpose built aircraft carrier that was sunk by Japanese planes north of Batticaloa.

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