The local area is one of the best spots on Sri Lanka for whale and dolphin watching. During the summer and winter months, sperm and pygmy blue whales migrate to the warm waters of Southeast Asia. You can experience this spectacular sight at the southern tip of the island. Dondra point is the favourite location to watch for both whales and an abundance of dolphins. To get there, you need to travel by boat through either Mirissa or Weligama Harbour. Whale watching tours are becoming big business for Sri Lanka.
It wasn’t until 1980 that tourism started to become a real source of income for the local area. Tourists, often Dutch or English, favour Sri Lanka for holidays or as a stop off on the way to India. An Indian Ocean earthquake induced a vast tsunami which hit the coastline on Boxing Day 2004. It caused total devastation of the area destroying homes, guesthouses, shops, schools and temples. Fourteen people died in Marissa. Since the tsunami, the village and resort have been rebuilt.
Sri Sunandarama Temple
Ten minutes drive inland from Mirissa village sits a famous temple which dates back to the 18th-century BC. The temple was a residence for nuns and is now a place of “learning and Enlightenment”. The temple has several parts including two statue houses and a bell-shaped arch or cairn. It is the only concrete arch with such an amount of precise carvings in Sri Lanka. There is a giant marble Buddha statue in the temple hall which was a gift from Burma. Notably, the decorative frescoes in the Sunandharama Vihara temple are excellent examples of ancient Sri Lankan art and crafts.
The Bodhi Tree
Additionally, in the temple grounds sits a Bodhi fig tree. The ceremonial planting of one of the eight branches of the sacred “Bodhi” fig tree in 1750 made this temple a significant centre for Buddhism.
The sacred “Sri Maha Bodhi” in India is the oldest surviving tree in the world. Legend states that Siddhartha Gautama, a spiritual teacher (later known as Gautama Buddha) achieved Enlightenment or “Bodhi” while sitting under the ancient tree. According to Buddhist texts, after his Enlightenment, the Buddha spent an entire week in front of the tree, standing with unblinking eyes, gazing with gratitude.