Sri Lanka is a tropical island where some people call it the pearl of the Indian ocean. This tiny island consists of many hidden places to see where mother nature will reveal only to the bravest of the brave hearts.. Mannar is one of the hidden beauties in the country and it has many places to see for an adventurous photographer.
Mannar is a small district in the Northern province of the country. If you are going to Sri Lanka and planning to do a road trip around the country, write down the following places to see in Mannar.
Sri Lanka has been called as the ‘Pearl of the Indian ocean” from ancient times. Apart from the reason that this beautiful island takes the shape of a pear, ancient Sri Lanka has been famous for its superior pearl trading. If you want to witness how pearl hunters dive deep without any scuba gears and fish for pearl, you must go to Mannar. Although the new generation pearl fisherman uses scuba gear to dive, still there are veterans in the area, who would hold the breath under water and go on pearl fishing. Tell you lodge manager that you want to go and see pearl fishing and he will use his network of contacts to arrange it for you. Take your Go-Pro with you and plenty of water as this area is extremely humid and diving can dehydrate you a great level.
So, you noticed those trees with a huge trunk on your way to the beach…? Those are called Baobab trees and you won’t see much of those trees and what’s remining can be seen only in Mannar. Some history books tell that ancient Arabian traders have brought this tree to the country so many centuries ago. Well, some of these trees have cavities in its trunk and you might want to go inside and capture a photo or two.
Mannar Dried Fish
Fishing is the main business in Mannar. Due to extreme sun light and warm weather, Mannar produces some of the best dried fish in the region. Most are domestic businesses where one would catch fish in its own boat and dry it in the front yard of the house and sell it to a whole seller who would ultimately sell it to the end customer for a very high price. Poverty among these families are common and you may find their houses dirty and unhygienic but they have warm and friendly hearts. Many local tourist buy lots of dry fish from these domestic fishermen as the prices are cheap when you buy from the place of manufacturing. Remember to tell your lodge manager to prepare you an authentic dish with Mannar dry fish for you lunch next day.
Image – Mannar Dried fish
Mannar is primarily an area with lots of Christian Tamils. Thus, you will find lots of churches around. But little further to the town, there are some Hindu kovils (shrines) where most Hindus in the country go as pilgrimages. These Hindu Kovils have unique architecture which is very colourful. Every piece of the building represents some story in the Hindu culture and it is a paradise for photographers who love to create photo stories. All you got to make sure is wear decent clothes and have a good camera. Just to be sure, ask the head priest for permission to take photos because inside the Kovil remains the holiest chamber of the kovil and only the head priest is allowed to see.
War torn buildings
Sri Lanka suffered from a civil war for a long time and remnants of it remains in some Northern province areas such as Mannar. Do not be disheartened but be aware of what people here must have gone through when their schools and houses get bombed right front of their eyes. Although some of those buildings provide you great photographic opportunities to show case what war is about to the rest of the world, it still is a very sensitive subject for any Sri Lankan. So, never ever discuss war with Sri Lankans as you wouldn’t know what that person must have gone through and which side that person was in.
Tired and thirsty…? You got to try the glass of traditional toddy from this area. Toddy is an alcoholic drink extract from palm trees. Toddy is a very famous Sri Lankan alcoholic drink and you get coconut toddy and palm tree (thal tree) toddy. In Mannar, what you mostly get is Palm tree toddy. Toddy tapping is a very dangerous job and needs extensive skills and experience. Toddy tappers climb very tall palm trees without any safety harnesses and sometimes even cross among trees using a very thin rope and with absolutely no safety harness around. Ask you tour guide or lodge manager to take you to a place to see how they do this. These are one of a life time photos and you won’t get these shots anywhere in the world. However, I must insist that you should not try to attempt toddy tapping as it is a very dangerous act. Have a glass of freshly extracted toddy for yourself. Have it with some fried sea crabs under a palm tree after your tiresome photo journey.
Long shore line
‘Talei-Mannar’, the corner of Mannar district has a beautiful shoreline that stretches towards infinity. Go for a stroll in the evening. If the day is clear, you might even see Rameswaram which is the Southern end of India. Sand is gold and water is warm. All you would see is the horizon where clear blue sky touches the clear blue water.
Before you head back to Colombo, visit the Wilpattu national park where you would capture leopards if you get lucky and have stop at Chillaw where you would see more pearl fishing and can do ship wreck diving.
Mannar is one hidden pearl in the island of Sri Lanka. It is a small miracle that contains vivid cultures, natures, and traditions in a small geological area. If you want to capture some awesome photographs where other travellers haven’t captured in Sri Lanka, then I say you should go to Mannar. Most people go to Jaffna, the prime city in Northern province and stop from there. But I tell you, there are so many hidden places to see in Sri Lanka that are worthy to be seen and photographed.
Hope to see you there soon…!!!