Kalpitiya – a perfect getaway
BY Cassendra Doole and Kavindya Chris Thomas
Off the west coast of Sri Lanka, lies a peninsula with the town of Kalpitiya sandwiched between the lagoon and the sea. This quaint little place is fast becoming a tourist hotspot with activities like whale watching and kite surfing on offer. Located around 35 km from Puttalam, it was originally known as Kav Putti and is an area that is made up of 14 different islands and a land mass of 16.73 km2.
Seeing as it is an upcoming tourist destination, Travelling Chaos visited this picturesque town expecting hordes of tourists and the bustling life of a tourist destination. Instead, we came across a town as rich in its history as it was in wildlife and beauty. Long before the Portuguese invaded Sri Lanka, Kalpitiya - then known as Kav Putti - was a popular hub for Arab merchants. When the Portuguese invaded Kav Putti in 1544, they renamed the area Kardiv Island. When the Dutch seized it from the Portuguese in 1659, the name changed from Kardiv Island to Calpentyn or Calpetty.
It is known today as Kalpitiya. The strategic importance of Kalpitiya was established due to the interest the Dutch East India Company took in the area. As such, they were able to control the external trade of the Kandyan Kingdom by controlling the Arab trading community.
The town has a rich history and some of its famous historical landmarks include the Dutch Reformed Church, and the Fort.
At the time Kalpitiya was under Portuguese control, the King of Portugal presented the territory to the Jesuits of the area who built a chapel and installed a small garrison to defend it. However, the defence was hardly sufficient because the Dutch conquered the area and built a fort in 1667. The construction took nearly a decade to complete, and it stands solidly to this day.
The Dutch Fort is famous mainly because reports claim that the yellow bricks that were used to build the arch at the entrance were brought exclusively from Holland. Even the British used the Fort for military occupation up until 1859.
Kalpitiya – a Tourist Hub
Travelling Chaos met several remarkable individuals in Kalpitiya, including 18-year-old Sarith who was perhaps the most interesting. Aspiring to someday have his very own seafood restaurant, Sarith said that the future, especially in tourism, is in his hometown.
"I have lived my entire life in this town, and unlike some people, I do not wish to leave. This is a beautiful town with a rich history and a lot of tourists come during the season."
According to Sarith, there are three major attractions on offer: Water Sports, Kite Surfing and Wildlife.
"Everyone who comes to Kalpitiya in search of these three things, need food. That is why I will become successful!"
Things to Do
Wildlife in Kalpitiya is unique in character, from wild donkeys that can be seen wherever you go in the area, to gigantic whales that can be spotted out at sea. Whales are quite a famous attraction on the peninsula. Several establishments, mostly operated by locals in the area, regularly take tourists off the beach at Alankuda to the sea, in order to spot these magnificent creatures.
While Sperm Whales are the most common species in the area, Blue Whales too, occasionally show up to delight the sightseer.
The season for whale watching is between December and mid-April.
Dolphins, on the other hand, are almost a daily sight in the Kalpitiya area. According to Sarath, dolphins are as common as the locals in the area. Kalpitiya is the best place in Sri Lanka to observe large pods of Spinner Dolphins.
For adventure enthusiasts, Kalpitiya offers a variety of activities, including, but not exclusively, kite surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking and water skiing.
Ibn Battuta once said, "Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller" - and this is what we experienced in Kalpitiya. It is one part of our country that has gone unnoticed for centuries, never the centre of attention but always special. It is a hidden gem in the treasure trove that is Sri Lanka, and it is certainly worth a visit.
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