Trip Start Feb 23, 2009
29Trip End Mar 18, 2009
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Jae was certified in scuba but hadn't done it in 30 years, and Miles and I were beginners, so we needed instruction. I had sent multiple emails advising of our arrival and asking for a specific instructor I had been told about, but when we were met at the Unawatuna Diving Center they seemed to have no recollection of us. Nevertheless, the instructor available was the one I wanted, Indiga, with another instructor named Suri. Miles had been uneasy with the concept of going into deep water right away, but Indiga and Suri were very reassuring, and once Miles started trying on the equipment he got quite excited. We did some shallow water exercises, and then rode in a boat out toward some shoals where we could spend time diving in deeper water with coral and interesting fish
This was very elementary diving, but we all had a blast. The water was warm, it was very clear, and the instructors were great. We spent about 45 minutes underwater, wandering around among fluorescent fish, picking up brightly colored star fish and sea cucumbers, and posing for our disposable underwater camera (which we'll get developed when we get home, but my experience tells me not to expect too much.) At the end of the dive, they brought us around to a surprise. The instructors were pointing in the gloom and we were trying to make out what they were pointing at, and it's so exciting when you recognize that it's a shipwreck! (This was a cargo ship from the 1800's, I think they told us later.)
When they brought us back to the diving center, Miles had had such a good time that he thought about doing another dive with them. But we had swallowed enough sea water to feel a little uneasy, so we decided not to continue that day. I was happy it was a good experience, and wanted to leave it that way.
That afternoon, Hasantha drove us into the historical walled Galle Fort. This gave us a chance to learn from him about the colonial past of the area, first under the Dutch and then the English. There was recent history too. Hasantha could point out the places that were devastated by the 2004 tsunami, where estimates of the Sri Lankan death toll are as high as 70,000 people. Galle was hit hard, but the areas inside the ancient walled fort were very well protected and suffered almost no damage...the waves just washed around it and destroyed the city outside of the walls.