Dive Seenigama, Dive Lanka

On a beautifully sunny day in October ’13, as the seas sparkled turquoise above their hidden depths, the Foundation of Goodness launched Dive Seenigama, Dive Lanka. The new sustainable income generation initiative is meant to assist with the running costs of the FoG Seenigama Diving and Training Centre.

Before the Indian Ocean tsunami struck Sri Lankan coasts with deadly intent on Boxing Day ’04, the main livelihood of many villagers along the southern coast was coral mining for the purpose of producing quick lime. Mills threw up ash all through the day and night as the corals were plucked from the sea and incinerated, spreading a pungent odor across the land.

Looking back, the people of Seenigama often say, “We destroyed the sea, and then the sea destroyed us.” After all the destruction, when the island took stock, there was one glaring fact that could no longer be denied: the Seenigama and Galle region were among the worst struck coastal areas in Sri Lanka and the cause for this was identified as the depletion and destruction of the natural coral belt in the outlying ocean. There had been no outer shield to take the brunt of the tsunami waves or to break them up before the wave hit the land at full force.

A direct consequence of this was the banning of coral mining and at long last, the lime mills grew still and the air was once more fresh and free of ash. The banning of coral mining was the first crucial step, but to ensure that it stuck, it was important to address the future of the people employed in this vocation. With so many people now out of a job, unless they were given viable option, it was inevitable that they would return to their illegal trade.

The Seenigama Diving and Training Centre was established to give the villagers a new avenue for their skills. All of the courses are free of cost and allows one to do something one truly enjoys, as well as directly ensuring thewell-being of the local community.The Centre offers a 3-month Professional Diving (Class III) course, which includes a 14-day training in underwater welding and cutting. The course, which is accredited by the Sri Lanka Navy, is taught by expert instructor Mr. Sahabandu. He has over 30 years of experience, 12 of which were with the navy. Since its establishment in 2008, the Dive Training Centre has graduated 267 divers from over 43 surrounding villages.

Mr. Sahabandu also heads the Dive Seenigama, Dive Lanka crew. The crew will take tourists out on commercial dives so that they can enjoy the absolutely amazing underwater vistas Seenigama has to offer. This venture seeks to provide an income to support the Dive Training Centre.

Diving off the coast of Seenigama allows you to visit such sites as that of the SS Conch shipwreck, one of the world’s first oil tankers which sank in 1901. There, one can swim about the majestic, intact hull or brave the eerie glow of the cabin where countless colourful fish have found a home.

Other wrecks in the area include Bandal Bro and the Earl of Shaftesbury, the first of which is a 200-year old steam ship. It is one of the oldest wrecks to be found off the coasts of Sri Lanka, where the engine is still perfectly intact within its pump house. The second is a British vessel which sank in 1893 and her hull and four masts rise out of the sandy sea floor. It is now home to stingrays and snapper and grouper fish.

Dives in this area will also bring you into close contact with Sri Lanka’s beautiful and various underwater flora and fauna, such as butterfly fish, parrot fish, batfish, wrasse, snapper, titan triggerfish, moray eels and green sea turtles. You can even wander over to black coral point with its fascinating landscape of tumbling rocks. They teem with marine life that hide among the black coral trees reaching their spindly arms out of the depths. Or you can hop across to see brand new soft coral as it slowly begins to regrow after the pre-tsunami and coral mining destruction. Witness firsthand as nature slowly begins the process of healing.

Dive Seenigama, Dive Lanka opened for business on the 20th of November and FoG volunteer Kristy Best (who has been working with Mr. Sahabandu and the FoG dive crew to make this a success) was one of our very first customers. Tara De Silva, an Asia Foundation Lanka Corps Fellow and conservationist, joined her. Both were extremely enthusiastic about their dives and thrilled by the professionalism and in-depth knowledge help by Mr. Sahabandu.

Dive Seenigama, Dive Lanka offers a wide range of courses and diving options, as well as snorkeling, and hopes to expand to glass-bottom boat tours in the near future. Divers can bring their own gear although the price of a dive also includes the gear which is made available on the premises. For more information, please visit www.diveseenigamadivelanka.com











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