Hambantota, the main city of Hambantota District is located near the 148th mile (238-km) post along the Colombo-Galle-Matara-Tissamaharama highway.
Legend has it the archaic name of Hambantota appears to have been Sampanthurai. This word Sampan is said to have been derived from the Malay word meaning navigators, as the Malays, in the olden days were sea-farers who had come in their sailing vessels for barter trade. The word ‘Thurai’ means a port – a Tamil derivation. Another version, In the legends, ‘Hamban’ is popularly known as an ethnic group called ‘Malay’ or ‘Muslims’ and ‘thota’ means where those groups were landed. During British rule, Hambantota became an important district. The colonial rulers had left their indelible marks on Hambantota. In the past, Hambantota was a sleepy old sea-side village reminiscent of those grand old days of Leonard Woolf, who was the Assistant Government Agent-Hambantota (1908-11). He was a literary scholar being the author of the fascinating novel – ‘The Village in the Jungle’, that gives a vivid description of old Hambantota district which was plagued then with Malaria, poverty, and how British used the jungles of Hambantota as their famous hunting grounds. His printed diaries (1908-11), are filled with authentic
records of the life and times of the hardships of those starving but grief stricken chena (slash and burn agriculture) cultivators. Hambantota also from time immemorial has been a thriving fishing centre. Today, Hambantota is an enchanting seaside resort where there is a network of tourist hotels, Inns, restaurants lined along the seashore and it’s interior. Also, the district has many salterns, national parks, bird sanctuaries, historical, cultural, and archaeological sites.
Tangalle is the tourist hub of the Deep South and boasts of some of the finest beaches and beach resorts in Sri Lanka. Situated 122-miles (200-km) south of Colombo, 5-hours along either the Coast Highway via Galle or over the hills via Ratnapura, you can drive to Tangalle thru some beautiful country. Once you arrive, it is said that “dreamlike days could turn in to weeks!”
Access to the Rakawa lagoon and the Kalametiya wetlands are within half an hour from Tangalle. Bird watching, Turtle watching, and the sheer enjoyment of nature at its best, add to the beauty of this area.
Tangalla is also a popular destination in the deepsouth for its traditional and cultural history. Some say the name Tangalla is derived from the ran-gala or “golden rock” from a legend that tells of a time when a holy man once partook of a meal there and the rock was turned to gold. But others maintain that it is known as the “projecting rock” because many years ago the town was protected from the ocean by a long rocky slab that projected into the sea across the mouth of the bay.
With a population of approximately 66,000 the economic structure of Tangalle is characterised by its rural setting of paddy fields, coconut plantations, inland lagoons, water reservoirs, beaches and ocean frontage. The economy is centered on agriculture, lagoon and ocean fisheries, livestock and tourism, while agriculture accounts for the largest proportion of employment.
One of Sri Lanka’s largest Fishery Harbors is also located in Tangalle. Many coastal as well as multi-day (deep-sea) fishing vessels use this harbor. Every morning (except on full moon-“Poya days”) at daybreak, one can witness the crowded fish auction.
Local and foreign tourists can enjoy a good variety of food and lodging, and great “sea baths” as the locals would say. Swimming, snorkelling and diving off the coast are also very popular. In spite of its attractions, numerous seaside hotels and guest houses, and quaint, local restaurants, Tangalle is still largely unknown to tourists. Discover Tangalle!
Some “best kept secret” boutique/heritage style guest houses include ::