As the main beach in Unawatuna is quite big, crowded and full of waves, we wanted to find a nicer, less-crowded beach especially for swimming and snorkeling. I had done my research and found that there was a little beach in a nearby jungle (hence the name). Although it is now a very well-known beach, it is still worthy of visit if you’re looking for calm swimming.
The owner of the guesthouse we were staying at was a tuk-tuk driver and so were his brothers who all lived in the house next to our room. We asked one of them to take us to the Jungle beach one morning. He told us of a herbal garden nearby and convinced us to stop for a visit. We stopped at the garden and were met by an official from the garden. He was friendly and would be our tour guide. I smelled something fishy when he told us that 90% of tourists visiting Sri Lanka stop by in this herbal garden. That was obviously a lie.
He showed around the little garden, stopping at each plant/tree and explaining its natural, medicinal value. At the end of the tour, he took to a little shop in the premises where we could purchase items that he showed us at the garden. I was interested in coconut oil and asked him to show me the price list. The prices were in thousands! I could easily tell that the prices were unjustifiably expensive. He told me that I could use my card, send the money to the tuk-tuk driver or come back and pay tomorrow. I told him that I did not think a 250 ml bottle of coconut oil could cost 3k LKR, and of course he was willing to give me 1k discount. We gave him some tip for showing us around and left. AVOID herbal gardens in Sri Lanka, unless you don’t mind paying ridiculously high prices for natural creams. As we left I noticed the disappointed look of exchange between the tour guide and our tuk-tuk driver.
We went uphill for some minutes and were dropped off at a Japanese peace pagoda on the top of a hill. We were ushered inside by the temple priest who gave me a sarong to cover my shorts-clad legs. There was a “No photo” sign inside the temple but the priest actually told us that he could take photos of us. We weren’t so enthusiastic about it but agreed and gave him the phone. He took about a million photos of us and then took us to the “donation” section. We left a modest 100 LKR note but he asked us to leave 1000 LKR! I often felt that people in touristic areas of SL acted fake and just wanted to extort as much money as possible from tourists. Well this is a global phenomena, especially in poorer countries, I guess.
We followed the dirt road downhill from the pagoda and reached the beach within minutes. There was a small cafe and a very small beach. But the water was so calm and perfect for swimming. The sand was also very natural whitish, unlike the reddish one in Unawatuna which was apparently added later. I can imagine that Jungle Beach can get crowded in peak seasons, but we were there during March and fairly early during the day. We spent hours swimming and snorkeling. We saw some colorful fish near the rocks but the visibility wasn’t as great as in Hikkaduwa. It was such a nice change not having to survive the high waves like in Unawatuna while trying to stay afloat to swim.
We had decided to visit nearby fort city of Galle for the evening, so we left after spending a couple of hours there. The beach had started to get crowded anyway. We took a nice jungle path downhill and enjoyed nice views of the ocean and village while enjoying fresh coconut juice. We were surprised that it wasn’t a long walk to the main beach, especially downhill. We could have even walked to the Jungle beach in the morning, but we wanted to save time and strength for visiting Galle in the evening. We got back to the guesthouse, took a refreshing shower and talked to our host with tuk-tuk to take us to Galle.