Exploring the area
The nearby village of Ambalangoda, about a 15-minute drive south of Ahungalla, has a small but fascinating Mask Museum with a collection of ceremonial masks made from kadura, a similar wood to balsa. The masks, an important part of Sri Lankan culture, feature in music and dance or comedy productions, or can be used for the exorcism of demons and cure of illness.
Whale and dolphin watching is always a popular excursion but brace yourself for a very early start and a drive of around 75 minutes to Mirissa, where the boat leaves from. However all this is forgotten at the first sight of a school of dolphins or the spout and flashing tale of a magnificent blue whale.
If you’re a nature lover then a Madu River safari will introduce you to the ecologically important mangrove forest, with its noisy population of chattering monkeys and abundant squawking bird life. Also keep a sharp eye out for snakes, lizards and crocodiles. It’s a fascinating few hours and, thanks to your guide, you’ll be left with an understanding of environment concerns and the fragility of nature here.
Take the coast road south to the provincial capital Galle for a change of scenery, around an hour’s drive away. At its heart is the ancient fortified quarter with a 16th-century Dutch Fort. This UNESCO listed site is essentially a walled town within the city.
There are also a number of museums and other historical sites to investigate. But Galle is not just about the past – it has a real sense of style, with some great cafes, bars and restaurants, quaint speciality shops and tiny boutiques. As Sri Lanka is famous for its gemstones, it’s unsurprising that there are a number of jewellers here selling exquisite sapphires, rubies and other precious stones.
Food glorious food
Like many other aspects of Sri Lankan life, their cuisine has been shaped by history and cultural influence. Indians, Chinese, the Dutch and others have all played their part in making Sri Lankan food what it is today.
Expect local Ahungalla restaurants and cafes in the village to serve traditional island food, much of which is based on rice, fish and chicken flavoured with spices. Of the meals served in Ahungalla’s hotel restaurants, some will reflect the local tradition while also offering an international menu to choose from. Don’t be surprised to see the ever-present burger and pizza.
Don’t forget your umbrella
Sri Lanka has a tropical climate where temperature and humidity remain high throughout the year. Because the island has two separate monsoons, Ahungalla weather is often difficult to predict. However, it’s generally accepted that the best time to visit, due to the lowest rainfall, is between December and March, and the wettest period is between April and June. Just keep an umbrella handy for those showers, even in the best season – they tend to pass quickly though.