7/2/18: Swimming With Sharks (Pigeon Island, Sri Lanka)

I went for a tempo run at 6:30 am around our guesthouse in Trincomalee.

On my way back toward the guesthouse, I saw Adrian, who was in the beginning half of his run, running toward me. We said hi to each other and went on our ways.

At breakfast, Adrian told me he had seen a couple peacocks and monkeys, but I didn’t see any of those things! I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Breakfast was 4 slices of toast with eggs. I gave Adrian my egg and ate my bread with almond butter, some jam, and a banana.

Our snorkeling guy came to pick us up at 8:45. He took both of us on the back of his motorbike to the beach. I was in the middle and Adrian took the very back. It was questionable at times, but we thankfully made it to the beach without any incident.

Next we got into the speedboat to Pigeon Island, which is a tiny island about 15 minutes away from the mainland.

Once we were there, the guide showed us where we should go to snorkel and then left us on our own.

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Pigeon Island

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We started on the far end of the front beach. I ducked my head under water pretty close to the shore, where it was still super shallow, and I immediately saw a ton of huge fish around me. I swam out further and saw more and more really colorful fish. I even saw two (harmless) sharks! I’d never seen sharks while swimming before, so that was really cool.

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Next we went to the beach on the other side of the island, which was super crowded. There were a bunch of people hanging out on the beach, a HUGE group of Sri Lankan’s swimming around, plus a bunch of snorkelers farther out in the water.

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We got in and swam pretty far out.  There were a bunch of rock formations that made the snorkeling really cool. The rocks were huge and a bit slanted, so all the fish hung out around them and I was able to get really close to the fish.

When the rock formation ended, the water got a bit deeper and I saw another shark.

We chilled for a bit after that. I was exhausted from all the swimming (even though snorkeling is hardly even swimming, more like floating around) and was feeling a bit nauseous— I’m not sure why.

After a bit of rest, we decided to climb up the cliff nearby. It was really fun climbing the rocks, maneuvering through and figuring out which foot to put where, going on all fours, and making our way to the very top.

Once we were back down, we found a shaded spot and laid out for a while. It was 11:30 and we still had 1.5 hours until we had to go back.

Around 12, we hit up the last snorkeling area, which was in the middle of the front beach.

The coral was INSANE here. It was an endless forest— I’d never seen so much at once before. And again there were so many beautiful, colorful, fish. Some big, some small.

At one point, I stuck my head out of the water to get water out of my snorkel. When I ducked my head back into the water, I saw a shark swimming right under me. It was a bit shocking and scary, but also so cool! It was the closest one I’d seen all day.

I’m glad we decided to do the snorkeling. We were hesitant to go at first since it cost us $24, but it was really worth it.

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Adrian was not feeling very good once we got back to the mainland. I think he got a bit of sun poisoning— he was nauseous and a bit sunburnt.

I wanted to find some fresh fruit and Adrian wanted to go to the supermarket to pick up a few things, so we started walking the mile to the supermarket. A tuk tuk driver approached us and asked us if we wanted a ride. He told us the market was 3 km away, but I knew it was only 1. He tried to charge us 200 rupees and I asked for 50.

I knew the normal price was 50 rupees per kilometer, so he was ripping us off. He brought it down to 100, but I refused to get in without it being 50. He started to drive away, but stopped again a few meters away and waited for us to catch up. He told us to get in. He’d take us for 50. I think he just really needed the business.

The supermarket was really just a convenience store. There wasn’t much, but we were craving a soda so we got a coke and shared it.

We walked across the street and got money from the ATM before we headed back to the guesthouse. I saw a coconut stand and of course wanted one, so we stopped and got one. After learning that Adrian is from Germany, the owner told us she lived in Germany for a few months and talked to Adrian for a bit in German.

Her husband offered to take us back on his tuk tuk for 100 rupees so we got in. The tuk-tuk drivers here are relentless!

We still really wanted some fruit, but the little store next door to our guesthouse only had unripe papaya. I walked to another place nearby, but she didn’t have any fruit either. She pointed me in the direction of a fruit stand nearby. I found it, and was pleased to see a variety of fresh fruit— watermelon, pineapple, mango, bananas, etc. Adrian and I had been talking about watermelon ever since we got ours stolen the other day, so I bought us a watermelon and walked back.

Our guesthouse lady kindly cut it for us and we ate it alongside crackers, some roasted lentil snacks, and banana.

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The watermelon turned out to be a bit overripe and not great. A bit disappointing, considering how much I was looking forward to it, but oh well. Can’t win ‘em all.

I worked on the podcast for the rest of the afternoon, and around 5 we left to catch the public bus to downtown Trincomalee.

As we were walking to the bus stop, a tuk tuk driver slowed down and asked us if we wanted a ride. After a few persistent no’s, he gave up and we kept walking.

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So sad how the cows are all inscribed here

A few minutes later, our tuk tuk driver from earlier that day, the one from the coconut cafe, appeared and asked us if we wanted a ride. We told him we were planning on taking the public bus. He told us he’d take us round trip for 1400, telling us it’s better to take a tuk tuk since there would be no public buses running in the evening, and the tuk tuks would be charging double the day-rate at that time.

I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth, but we got in after bringing the price down to 1200 from 1400 rupees.

Right as we got in, the public bus showed up. Of course.

We got to town and tried to look for flip flops for Adrian. None of them fit him right, so we went on walking.

There were deer everywhere, and Adrian was mesmerized. I’m used to them from growing up in Maryland, but he was amazed. I don’t think deer are that special, but I guess if you’re not used to seeing them all the time they’re pretty cool.

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We walked to Fort Frederick, which we thought would just be an old abandoned fortress or something. However, it was actually a huge active military compound. There were servicemen everywhere, and it was a beautiful space full of massive old trees and greenery.

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Playing football outside of Fort Frederick
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Fort Frederick

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As we walked back toward town, our driver reappeared. He told us he’d show us around town on his tuk tuk. He said we were “walking too much,” which I found hilarious since we had only been walking for about 20 minutes.

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He showed us the beach and then took us to a Hindu temple.

The temple was insane!!! The entire exterior and interior were completely adorned with decorations, leaving absolutely no white space. There were sculptures of crocodiles, goddesses, snakes, babies, women getting eaten by animals, lions, horses… the list goes on. I can’t believe they put this much effort into every single temple they build.

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There were a couple people cleaning as we walked around. I guess it was closing time. Suddenly, a lady appeared and handed us little rice balls filled with sweetened coconut. I was really hungry so it was perfect.

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We then got driven to dinner. First, our driver took us to a pizza place, thinking we wanted western food. But we wanted local food, so he drove back a bit and dropped us off at a place called “Yummy.” I ordered vegetable rice, unsure of what exactly it was, but I figured it’d be like a biryani or something.

It ended up being a huge plate of rice with some veggies mixed in. Like a less oily version of fried rice. It was actually quite good, but it was way too much food. I ate half and had the rest packed up in a box.

We also got passion fruit juice, but it sucked. It was so sour. I had to pretty much force myself to finish it.

Back at the guesthouse, we watched some Netflix. After a few good minutes of scrolling, trying to decide what to watch as one does, we decided to try a British comedy series that neither of us had watched before called Peep Show. I got through a couple episodes before I dozed off.


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