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SNORKELING  

The Best Time to Visit Pigeon Island

  Author: Ellie  

28th May 2022  

Read Time: 12 minutes  

When visiting the east coast of Sri Lanka, the famous Pigeon Island Marine National Park is the highlight of your holiday. If you like scuba diving above the best coral reefs in Sri Lanka or just want to chill on the beach and go swimming with sharks, you must visit the Pigeon Island in Nilaveli.

Black Tip Reef Shark on Pigeon Island Marine National Park in Nilaveli, east coast Sri Lanka

snorkeling with Black Tip Reef Sharks on Pigeon Island

Location

The location of the famous Pigeon Island is just a few minutes by boat transfer from Nilaveli, located around 10 km from Trincomalee town on the east coast of Sri Lanka. East Coast is around 5 to 6 hours drive from Colombo. There are many islands in the Pigeon Island area including Crow Island, Knife Rock and Mortar Rock available for scuba diving. The must-see part is the “Shark Area” on the main Pigeon Island. The main island is around 200 m long and 100 m wide coral reef with more than 100 species of corals making it unmatched live coral reef unlike any other in Sri Lanka.

– Traveller

“We saw plenty of sharks and found a huge turtle! Pigeon Island National Park is a highlight during your stay in Nilaveli!”

The main Pigeon Island is divided into two parts. The front side, where is the boat parking, has on its side the protected area with Black Tip Reef Sharks. This area is marked with buoy lines showing you the protected place for sharks. Important is to not enter or swim inside the shark area so you give sharks space to live. The shark area is available only for snorkeling (you can’t scuba dive here) so it’s a good habit to follow the buoy lines and the marked area.

On the other side of the Pigeon Island, the back side, you can scuba dive or snorkel with other tropical fish above the most beautiful corals in Sri Lanka. You find different species of sea turtles all over the island. If you have enough energy you can swim around the whole island, it takes around 2-3 hours. Otherwise you can snorkel around the shark area, have some rest and check the back side too. If you like to take a break between the snorkelling trips, there is a shadow area with benches and trees on the main Pigeon Island.

prepare for Open Water Diver course at home with Divinguru

The Pigeon Island is located a few minutes by boat transfer from Divinguru Nilaveli.

The Best Time to Visit Pigeon Island

The Pigeon Island is located on the north-east coast of Sri Lanka therefore is affected by the north-east monsoon season starting from November and ending around February. The best time of the year to visit the Pigeon Island Marine National Park is from March until October. Sometimes is possible to visit the island in months of February and November but this depends on the sea conditions, wind, waves and underwater visibility. So to get the best snorkeling and scuba diving experience on the Pigeon Island, you should visit the east coast in months between March until October.

Marine Life

You don’t have to be a scuba diver to explore the beauty of the underwater world. While snorkeling on the Pigeon Island you can see juvenile and adult Black Tip Reef Sharks (length up to 2 meters). You can see from 5 up to 20 sharks during one snorkeling trip. If you have a look closely you can find other tropical fish such as cornet fish, parrot fish, angel fish, surgeon fish, titan trigger fish, sweetlips, boxfish, cleaner wrasse, moorish idol, banner fish, snappers, butterfly fish, squids, octopus, cuttlefish, moray eels or lobsters hiding between rocks. All around the island you can spot different species of sea turtles, including Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Sea Turtle or Olive Ridley Sea Turtle.

Hawksbill Turtle over hard corals

Hawksbill Sea Turtle on Pigeon Island

Snorkeling on Pigeon Island

Pigeon Island Marine National Park is the best place for snorkeling in Sri Lanka! Where else you can swim with Black Tip Reef Sharks and different species of sea turtles? You will definitely love this place. It’s a snorkeler’s paradise! Pigeon Island is also family friendly and you can spend time on the island with the whole family. There is plenty of shadow and benches to sit on while not in the water. Also you go snorkelling from the beach and sharks are located in shallow depth so snorkeling on Pigeon Island is suitable for children.

Scuba Diving on Pigeon Island

As a scuba diver you can dive around all rocks in the Pigeon Island area. You find very nice and healthy corals around the main Pigeon Island. It’s not possible to scuba dive with the black tip reef sharks on the Pigeon Island, they are only spotted while snorkeling. But you will be near to spectacular tropical fish of the Indian Ocean. From the Marine Life, you can spot scorpion fish, lion fish, sting rays, sea turtles, moray eels, cuttlefish, squids, octopus, anemone fish, puffer fish, crown of thorns star fish, mantis shrimp, spiny lobsters, nudibranchs and more. All dive sites in this area are very shallow around 10-12 meters depth. The visibility is good in the morning same as in the afternoon. Depending on the conditions it can be even 15-25 meters of underwater visibility. You can scuba dive on the Pigeon Island in two slots, in the morning starting at 8:30am or afternoon at 1:30 pm. The best months for scuba diving on Pigeon Island are between March until October.

Shallow snorkelling in the front side of Pigeon Island.

Price for the Pigeon Island Entrance Ticket

Before you enter the Pigeon Island Marine National Park you must purchase the Entrance Ticket. If you have a snorkeling or scuba diving trip arranged with us – Divinguru, we purchase the ticket prior the trip so you don’t have to worry. The price for the Entrance Ticket for a foreigner is around 15 Euros. This price includes: the entrance ticket to Pigeon Island, boat ticket and parking fee. It is not a fixed price as it depends how many people is on the boat so they share the boat parking fee, etc. Sri Lankan people and Sri Lankan Residence Visa holders have a significant discount on the Entrance Ticket. Children below 12 pay half price. Kids from 0 to 6 years are free of charge to enter the Pigeon Island area.

Safety Regulations

You must wear a life jacket all the time during the boat transport. The life vest is required to wear as long you are on the boat. During the snorkelling trip you don’t need one if you are a good swimmer, but of course, you can keep it all the time.

PPB hovering in buddha position

Leaving for a Snorkelling Trip from Nilaveli Beach.

Tips for your Trip

Firstly, just for your information, there is no bathroom, restroom or toilet on the main island, only the sea and a little forest. There is also a small ticket counter where they only check tickets, they don’t sell tickets there. All Entrance Tickets and fees must be purchased and paid before entering the Pigeon Island Marine National Park Area.

  1. Be wise and respect the shark’s area and DO NOT enter inside the marked protected “Shark Area”.
  2. Leave nothing but bubbles.
  3. Do not throw rubbish in the water or on the beach.
  4. Do not step on the corals. (you might see already many dead corals on the beach)
  5. Try to avoid any contact with organisms under the water.
  6. Clean your mask before going to the water with a defogger or spit saliva onto the glass of the mask otherwise, the mask will fog up.

Where is the best spot to see sharks on the Pigeon Island in Nilaveli.

The Pigeon Island Marine National Park is an amazing place for swimming and snorkeling with Black Tip Reef Sharks, almost the only one in whole Sri Lanka. The sharks are staying mainly in the protected rectangular area on the front side of the Main Pigeon Island. The shark area is marked with buoy lines so you can’t miss is. You see sharks rarely in the back side of the Pigeon Island. You might try the sharks area two or three times as sometimes you see more sharks and sometimes even more 🙂 You have to be in the right place at the right time. Be patient and look inside the “Shark Area” (rectangular shape) and you definitely see a shark passing there. You can see most sharks on the side parallel to the shore. The Black Tip Reef Sharks are located in the shallow coral reef area.

When is the best time to visit Pigeon Island

The Pigeon Island Marine National Park is open from 9am until 5pm. There is not much difference in the underwater visibility as the whole snorkeling trip is very shallow so you can see plenty of things all day long. But the weather conditions such as waves and wind can slightly rise in the afternoon. So generally mornings are better. However, as the Pigeon Island is a famous tourist attraction, it can get very crowded in the mornings, sometimes up to 25 boats parking on the main island. So to avoid crowds, it might be a good idea to go in the afternoon when there is significantly less people and you don’t get sunburn as much 🙂

Find our more about Snorkeling on the Pigeon Island and other Snorkeling Trips around Nilaveli and Trincomalee, on our Snorkeling Page.

If you book directly on Divinguru website, at least 48 hours before the Snorkeling Trip, you get 10% discount for the whole booking.

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