Hikkaduwa: hippy heaven or polluted beach hell? 

Luscious valleys, breathtaking mountains and more stunning waterfalls than you can shake a stick at; Sri Lanka certainly has it’s fair share of natural beauty. Outside of the hustle and bustle of big cities, like Colombo, this small island just south of India is the closest you’ll find to a living showcase of how beautiful and diverse planet Earth truly is.

But it’s Sri Lankas beaches – with their clear blue waters and sweeping white sands – which draw thousands of people to the island every year for surf, sun and copious amounts of rice and curry! 

Hikkaduwa in the South has been a firm favourite for over 5 decades, ever since it became a top hippy hangout in the 1960s. With coral reefs packed with tropical fish and turtles, and a laid back surfer vibe free from stress or worries, you can see why it’s still a top destination for tourists to Sri Lanka.

But upon arrival to this hippy heaven I was alarmed and disappointed to discover just how much both tourism, and possibly climate change, has effected this once idyllic beach town.

Dead coral, beach debris and floating plastic waste all peek just below the surface in Hikkaduwa, as masses of half naked bodies lie across the beach with their cocktails and bottles of coke. Beach bars across the coast pollute the sand with broken glass and food waste, and we tripped over unidentified scraps of plastic numerous times.

Having lived in Cornwall for a number of years, I’m certainly not naive to the effects of touist on beach pollution, but this seemed to be a steady build up of years of mistreatment. The dead coral, however, told me this wasn’t simply a result of disrespect from an influx of holiday makers, but a much wider problem based on the changing ecosystem on the island itself.

Like many beaches on the island, Hikkaduwa was badly effected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake which hit Sri Lanka hard and caused great devastation to it’s coastal villages. The effects of this can still be found under the surface of the brightly lit bars and shops. And with tourist numbers increasing yearly in Sri Lanka, it’s clear the natural beauty of the beach will continue to change.

So what’s the solution to save the once hippy paradise from total destruction? Stop visiting The island and boycott Sri Lankas beaches? Ban single use bottles on the beach? The issue, I imagine, is more complex than a bit of recycling and attitude adjustment, but a little respect can go a long way. As with any conservation of beaches, taking care of your waste and getting involved in beach clean up projects can make a world of difference to the preservation of their natural beauty.

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