Pigeon Island – Sri Lanka is a diverse country, with a vast array of landscapes & cultures. Many travel to experience Sri Lankas National Parks such as Yala and maybe even take a wilderness Safari!
However, Sri Lankas Marine National Parks such as Pigeon Island offer an even more unique experience & are often overlooked. Pigeon Island was officially named a Marine Sanctuary in 1963 and a National park in 2003.
The Pigeon Island Marine Sanctuary spans over 470 hectares, of which only 9 hectares are on land and the rest of the area consists of stunning & colorful coral reefs! Perfect for a snorkelling or diving adventure!
Why is it called Pigeon Island?
Pigeon Island is named such after hundreds of blue rock pigeons, which are endemic (native) to Sri Lanka decided to colonise the land & make it there nesting/breeding grounds. These blue rock pigeons can be photographed by visitors & are on the endangered species list.
Fun Fact: Pigeon Island was used as a shooting range during the colonial era.
Fun Fact: Pigeon Island Marine Sanctuary is actually made up of two islands the large & small pigeon islands in addition to it’s vast coral reef!
Pigeon Island Coral Reef:
The Large Pigeon Island, has a 200m long by 100m wide coral reef! With a spectrum of over 150 species of magical & colorful coral types!
The Marine National park is widely regarded as a delicate ecosystem of biodiversity which is of vast importance to mother nature.
The Breeds of Marine Plane life consist of mostly: Acropora Spp, Faviddae, Poritidae, Montipora spp and Mussidae Coral Species. In addition to very soft corals such as Lobophyton, Sinularia, and Sarcophyton.
Marine Wildlife on Pigeon Island?
As you might of guessed the bio-diverse array of corals, has created the perfect breeding ground, for over 300 types of tropical reef fish. Some parts really do look like a scene from finding Nemo! As a variety of colorful & endangered species can be seen weaving in & out of the coral reefs.
Popular Marine species you can spot include, Raggedfin Parrot fish, Mellon Butterflyfish, Black Wedged Butterfly fish, Angel Fish (Blue Ridged) and Emperor Angel fishes.
You can also spot Juvenile and adult black tip reef sharks, which can even be spotted by snorkelers around the shallow coral areas.
But relax, there are generally NOT DANGEROUS, to humans. Still it’s best to keep a safe distance to observe even the baby sharks. If you waddle your feet near them (Stupidly) you could get a little bite, by mistake.
A creature which is a little more cute! Many cute sea turtles & massive ones, can be spotted around Pigeon Island. Species include: green sea turtles, Loggerheads, Leatherbacks and the Hawksbill sea turtles.
Snorkelling & Diving on Pigeon Island:
Such exquisite Coral reefs and diverse ranges of Marine wildlife make Pigeon Island a Snorkelers & divers heaven!
The crystal clear waters make snorkeling hear very easy and the water allows a smooth increase in depth from 1ft to 7ft. Giving you a high chance of spotting parrot fish, angel fish and blacktip reef sharks!
You can snorkel right of the coast at first just to get a feel for the waters, but after I suggest renting a boat & some proper snorkelling gear to really have a memorable experience & give yourself the best chance of spotting some unique creatures!
Also, Pigeon Island is not as hidden as it once was so the costal beaches can get a little crowded.
I also suggest asking for a guide to accompany you on your boat trip, there vast amount of local knowledge will reveal the best places to see what creatures & also help you to avoid restricted areas.
Deep Sea Scuba Diving:
If you really want to just Dive right in…literally then I suggest booking a deep sea dive.
Pigeon Island Resort offers the best range of packages, with safe dives for children/families, night dives and even underwater photography (Great for Facebook/Instagram!) . All with the assistance of a certified professional diver.
Other Water sports:
If you would prefer to stay on top of the water, then you could try a speedboat ride (Great fun!) fishing, windsurfing or even good old fashioned normal surfing.
Pigeon Island Beaches:
Whether your on the small Pigeon Island or Large, the beach is stunning & with a coral fringe around, you have plenty of opportunities to spot a diverse spectrum of sea creatures right from there.
Check out the rock pools surrounding the coral, these offer a variety of places to catch a sneak peak into the life of the underwater sea creatures & tropical fishes.
Wear Water Pumps or Slippers as the coral can be sharp. This also makes it a more comfortable experience when wading through the rocks.
Best time to visit Pigeon Island?
Pigeon Island Marine National Park is suitable for travel all year round. However, I would say the best time to visit Pigeon Island is in the summer times between the months of May-October. My Favourite time is June/July, the locals also agree!
Winter at Pigeon Island:
If you would like less crowds, & lower prices than definitely head to the Pigeon Island Marine National Park in the Winter (November-April), the climate is still warm. However, be aware that the sea may be slightly rougher.
How do I get to Pigeon Island?
Pigeon Island Marine National Park is located just of the East coast of Sri Lanka, north of Trincomalee and just 1km off the Nilaveli coast. Nilaveli Beach is one of the most beautiful in the whole of Sri Lanka.
By Train (Fort Station – Trincomalee Station):
From Colombo (On the west), Pigeon Island National Park is 312km away & can be reached from the Puttlam-Anuradhapura-Trincomalee Highway, by car this takes around 6 hours!
You can also catch a domestic flight from Colombo (Diyawanna Oya Airport) (DWO) to Trincomalee. Then Pigeon Island is just a short tuk tuk ride away.
I would highly suggest when traveling to Sri Lanka to stay in a few places each night and also work your way down Pigeon Island from Colombo. For example, on the way you could stay at Kandy, Dambulla, Minneriya etc. For more info see:
Do I need tickets for Pigeon Island?
There is an entrance fee like with most National Parks. You must head to the Pigeon Island National Park ticket office, located on the beach in the front of the Anilana Hotel.
Opening times are between 8.00am-5.00pm, 7 days/week. Contact telephone numbers are: tel: 026-320 3850 or Tel: +94 112426900 (Sri Lanka Tourism Head Office in Colombo) for details.
Pigeon National Park Sri Lanka: Entrance Fee:
There are a multitude of costs which can add up. For example, locals pay 350 LKR, but for tourists it costs 2000 LKR, (10-15 USD).
Snorkeling Gear Rental Costs: 600LKR ($3-$6)
The Boat rides vary massively for example, I paid only 2000 LKR (10-15 USD) for 5 people. Whereas I spoke to some people who had paid three times this! At 6000 LKR (32-35 USD)!
The local boat owners association Nilaveli Private Boat Service, has a hut next to the national park ticket office.
To save time & money I would suggest booking a hotel which includes boat rides & snorkelling gear etc. You can get direct pickup & drop off from the hotel & don’t have to spend time searching around.
Want a great Hotel on Pigeon Island?
Check out these Fantastic Hotels in Nilaveli on Booking.com/VIP-Search
Attractions near Pigeon Island:
Before or after Pigeon Island there are some great attractions nearby to check out especially at the eastern city of Trincomalee.
Kanniya Hot Springs – Trincomalee
The first is Kanniya Hot Springs, just half an hours drive from Pigeon Island. These hot springs consist of 7 warm natural water wells, each with it’s own properties & varying temperatures designed to cure illnesses, aches, pains and relax your entire body. This is a fantastic place to relax & mingle with the locals if you wish.
In Sri Lankan Mythology, King Ravana constructed the wells for his mother as a gift.
The Koneswaram temple is located just 40 minutes drive away from Pigeon Island National Park. It is an ancient hill top Hindu temple, with giant statues of gods, and ancient inscriptions engraved in the walls!
Be aware that you have to walk barefoot inside, so bring some shoes you can easily slip on & off. Great tours offer this trip & end with a nice walk offering breath taking views of the indian Ocean.
Do I need a Visa to Travel to Sri Lanka?
United States citizens need a visa in order to be able to visit Sri Lanka. This will give them 30 days to stay. If you are staying longer you can apply for an extension. For more info & to apply see the link.
How much does it cost?
The fee for a Sri Lanka visa for US citizens is $35 for a standard 30-day visa with double entry and $40 for a Business 30-day multiple entry.
Want a great Hotel on Pigeon Island?
Check out these Fantastic Hotels in Nilaveli on Booking.com/VIP-Special-Search.
(The best ones can sell out fast especially in June/July, so be sure to check out the availability asap).
I use Booking.com, to book all my trips especially because they do a Book now, Pay later option, which is great for budget travellers who don’t get paid till the end of the month & big groups of friends.
Fancy some Luxury? Check out:
(Includes Kandy, Colombo, Dambulla, Sigirya & more!)