Diving at Great Basses & Little Basses Reefs off Kirinda

The reefs of Great Basses and Little Basses provide some of the best diving (or snorkelling) Sri Lanka can offer. The rocky outcrops of the Great and Little Basses are surrounded by sandstone reefs carved into strange formations by time and tide. Several shipwrecks are to be found here.

The famous Arthur C Clarke based his book ‘The Treasure of the Reef’ on his dives of the Basses reefs. On the 22nd of March 1961, together with his diving partner, filmmaker Mike Wilson, he discovered the wreck of a 24 gun ship which belonged to the Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb (1658 – 1707), which was sent to trade in the Far East but was sunk in a storm off the Great Basses. Inside they discovered thousands of silver Rupees, all dated 1702.

A particularly unique feature of the Great Basses is the light-house that was actually constructed on the reef. It was designed and built by Sir J.N. Douglass, the engineer of Trinity House. The lighthouse went into operation on March 10th 1873, and was occupied and kept in operation until the Tsunami of December 2004. Although the lighthouse still stands proud, nowadays only a small solar powered light switches on at night. The main lights, which have kept ships at bay for more than a hundred years, now lay silent.

Even with all this amazing history, it is to see the myriad fish and occasional marine mammals that most divers go to the Basses. Porpoises, harmless Gray sharks, Tuna, Angelfishes, Groupers, Giant Maori Wrasses (Napoleons), Snappers, Rays and many others denizens of the ocean can be seen here.

The Great Basses and Little Basses reefs can be reached from Kirinda by a 45 minute boat ride. Unfortunately, the ocean is often rough and the currents very strong. As a result only around 50 days per year are available for diving, from early March to mid-April.