Five Ways to be a Sustainable Traveler in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

Five Ways to be a Sustainable Traveler in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka

We had arrived in Arugam Bay after two bus journeys from Colombo and a short tuk-tuk ride. Getting to this East Coast paradise is quite a caveat if you use public transport but, as soon as we came to our eco-friendly beach hut, the sun rose above the horizon painting skies in bright yellows. As we sat on the beach, two pooches came running towards us, and the fishermen were already at work.

After a two-hour rest, we both went on exploring the bylanes of Arugam Bay. It was the off-season. Most boutiques and cafes were closed. It was quiet. There were not many misbehaving tourists. However, as Ibrahim, our guide at Ecowave told us, Arugam Bay during the peak season is completely different. Tourists walk on the roads wearing bikinis even near the schools. Parties go on until early morning and this quaint beach town loses its charm. With Ecowave, we learned how to be a sustainable traveler in Arugam Bay in order to practice ethical tourism, preserve our environment and the local community life.


  1. Stay in a homestay

Homestays Sri Lanka in Panama Village
A glass of fresh passion fruit juice at a homestay in Panama Village

Ecowave runs a homestay programme in nearby Panama and Lahugala villages in order to support the ethical tourism practices. Not only the community is financially benefited from this cause, outside visitors get to have a glimpse of the authentic local life. After all, you didn’t come all the way to see a plethora of Western cafes by the beach offering not-so-western food. Nathan and I had lunch with Ibrahim at one of the homestays. It was part of our Panama Village and Kumana National Park tour.


  1. Go on a lagoon tour

Pottuvil Lagoon Tour at the Kottukal Lagoon, about 5km north of Arugam Bay

On our second day, at 6 in the morning, we went on a lagoon tour at Kottukal Lagoon. As we were circling in the lagoon on a small wooden boat with a local fisherman, we witnessed a majestic sunrise. We saw plenty of wild animals in their natural habitats including gulls, brahminy kites, peacocks, eagles and even a crocodile. We could also observe s few fishermen at work, and wee-chatted with the uncle who was paddling our boat. It was a beautiful cultural immersion. When I went to Ella recently, it reminded me how important it is to mingle with the locals when you travel. I’ve not come to a new place to see a bunch of noisy tourists.


  1. Learn to cook Sri Lankan rice & curry


Organic Farming in Sri Lanka
We visited a local farmer’s garden
Sri Lankan Breakfast at Urani Village
Homecooked pittu, stringhoppers with dhal curry, pol sambol, and boiled eggs for breakfast at a local farmer’s house.

At the Ecowave outlet, we learned to cook rice & curry with a local lady and Ibrahim. To our delight, all the ingredients we used were organic and sourced from nearby villagers of Urani and Pottuvil. We were quite lucky to even visit a local farmer’s garden, and see the process of organic farming. We also had home-cooked Sri Lankan breakfast and shared our travel and life experiences with the owner of the farm. At 70, he’s quite fitter than most 20-somethings these days, and he emphasized the importance of consuming organic food.


  1. Buy from locals


Fishermen Sri Lanka
Fishermen at work in Kottukal Lagoon

When you buy from a large hotel or from a supermarket, you are being part of the profit a businessman makes. Sri Lanka as a country has a huge income disparity. It’s something which always amazed us. The basic wage of the general public isn’t enough to function a good life. Although the costs might look cheaper for a foreign tourist, compared to what locals generally earn, the cost of living is quite high. When you buy from a small kade (shop), a family-run restaurant or from a small bakery, you are directly supporting the local community. You might have helped a kid buy his school books. Or maybe supported an old grandma to pay for her medical services. Isn’t that quite wonderful?


  1. Carry your own water bottle

Arugam Bay Travel

Plastic is a huge problem in Sri Lanka. Carry your own refillable water bottle and try to reduce plastic consumption in your daily life as much as you can. Many homestays now offer free water refills. Even at the Ecowave outlet, we noticed a large water filter where you can refill your bottles. Avoid using polythene bags as well. Instead, carry a few clothing bags to separate your belongings. In Dharamshala, we saw that none of the shops used polythene, and that was a huge learning experience for us.

We were lucky to be collaborating with Visit.Org partner Ecowave during our stay in Arugam Bay. Ecowave is a social enterprise which directly supports the local community. All the profit they make directly goes to benefit the locals in nearby villagers.







14 thoughts on “Five Ways to be a Sustainable Traveler in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka”

  • I like these tips. We as travelers should do our bit to promote sustainable travel. I really like the idea of homestays, they are really helpful not only for sustainable travel but also help us make friends 🙂

  • Thank you for this post! Sri Lanka is very high on my bucket list and I am always looking for ways to travel sustainably and ethically. Always glad to hear from other people who are doing the same — and get some tips on how to keep improving! Can’t wait to put these into action 🙂

  • I’m so glad you are writing about sustainable travel! All the blogs I’ve seen only focus on what to see and eat but not on the environmental aspect. Thank you for sharing these tips!

    • You are welcome, Serena! In the end, we need to think about the environment and society we live in. We are traveling to see the beautiful environment and the communities. If we exploit them, what are we going to leave for the future generations?

  • Nice to read about sustainable travel. It’s true, majority of the problems faced by travelers are the finite funds that they have. That is unless they are paid to travel. Thanks you for sharing such tips. I haven’t been to Sri Lanka but would surely love to try the Sri Lankan Rice and Curry.

  • Its been very strange that though Srilanka is very near to India, I have never felt like visiting it. In fact I have seen many pictures and browsed on the net, but never felt compelled enough, somehow the simplicity and the nature bound pictures that you have shared have made me question myself. I think I would definitely now give it a shot and yes sustainable travel is something we all need these days.

  • Sri Lanka, along with Myanmar and Laos, is one of my target destinations for my future tri-country backpacking trip. It’s so nice to see the photos in this post. Makes me want to plan the trip right away. Good to know how this post focuses on sustainable travel on this country as it gives way to a rather immersive trip instead of just going for sight-seeing.

  • I so agree with you. By buying from locals other than the big businesses, you helped people bring food to their table and even boost their pride from the sale you have made. You are boosting there self-esteem plus their economy! Great post and lovely pics, I may add.

  • Really like your tips. Carrying your own water bottle is so very thoughtful for sustainable tourism, And living in homestay and learning to cook some local curry are really great ways to assimilate in the culture of the place. I will remember the tips when I visit Sri Lanka

  • I guess bringing a plastic bottle is something that we can practice anywhere right now. Let’s avoid plastics at all cost. You mentioned about curry, And I know there will be various variations on how it’s cooked. I would really lilove to try it out. Tried Thai and Indian curry aside from the Philippine curry that I’m used too. Love to try Sri Langkan as well.

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