Over 100 Sri Lanka Dive Sites are related to historical shipwrecks in Sri Lankan waters. They are scattered around the country, and there may be many unknown historical shipwrecks around the country. Most of the identified historical shipwrecks belong to the colonial period, and the oldest shipwreck site identified is the 2000 years old Godawaya Shipwreck Site, the oldest shipwreck site in the Asia-Pacific Region. Most of the identified shipwreck sites were in service from 1850 to 1950. The deepest known shipwreck lies 65-67 meters under the sea.
The Sri Lanka Dive Sites Distribution and Interactive Map – Historical Shipwrecks and Shipwreck Sites
The Sri Lanka dive sites related to identified historical shipwrecks are scattered around the country. The National Shipwreck Database of Sri Lanka developed by the Central Cultural Fund provides the distribution of known ship and plane wreck sites based on the administrative provinces of Sri Lanka. The following table shows the distribution.
To find out the locations of the sites, please use the interactive map of the Sri Lanka National Shipwreck Database. This interactive shipwreck site map will provide a good insight into the distribution of the sites. The filtering option of the interactive map will allow filtering the sites by depth, sunk year, province, legal status, access restriction.
A list of Sri Lanka Dive Sites with Historically Significant that dive centers allowed to take divers
Antiquities Ordinance protects some shipwreck sites. Access to around 30 sites is restricted in Sri Lanka, especially the sites in the Galle and Trincomalee harbors. There are over 50 wonderful historic shipwreck sites around the country where commercial diving centers take their customers. Most of the sites are that diving centers take customers are in the Sothern Province of Sri Lanka. This may be due to the fact the southern costs are more popular among tourists. This list is from the Dive Sri Lanka website by Dharshana Jayawardena.
|Wreck and Year of sinking||Location||Depth||Our Rating||Commercial Dive Center Access|
|MV Tricolor (?)||Beruwala||65M||Excellent||No|
|Condolidated Catalina PBY-5A||Aircraft||42m||Good||Not opened for diving yet|
|Hardingham||Colombo||21M||Not Evaluated||Special permission required|
|Avondster 1659||Galle (Harbor)||5M||Not Evaluated||Special permission required|
|Dolfijn 1663||Galle (Harbor)||Unknown||Not Evaluated||Special permission required|
|Hercules 1661||Galle (Harbor)||Unknown||Not Evaluated||Special permission required|
|Admiralty Floating Dock 26||Trincomalee||Unknown||Not Evaluated||Special permission required|
|Black Coral Wreck||Colombo||40 M||Excellent||Yes|
|Lotus Barge||Colombo||28 M||Excellent||Yes|
|Cardinal Barge||Colombo||29 M||Below Average||Yes|
|Clarke Wreck||Colombo||29 M||Good||Yes|
|Taprobane North Wreck (Perseus 1917?)||Colombo||40M||World Class||Yes|
|Taprobane North Barge||Colombo||40M||Excellent||Yes|
|Chief Dragon Car Wreck||Colombo||34.5M||Excellent||Yes|
|Taprobane East Wreck||Colombo||32M||Excellent||Yes|
|Pecheur Breton Cargo Wreck||Colombo||33M||Excellent||Yes|
|The Coal Ship (Hardingham or Delhi Coal?)||Colombo||26M||Average||Yes|
|Earl of Shaftesbury||Hikkaduwa||12-14M||Good||Yes|
|Aenos 1956||Dodanduwa||Unknown||Not Evaluated||Yes|
|Bottle Wreck||Galle||24M||Not Evaluated||Yes|
|Crispigi Cross||Galle||16M||Not Evaluated||Yes|
|Ethopy 1877||Galle||15M||Not Evaluated||Yes|
|Lord Nelson||Galle||Unknown||Not Evaluated||Yes|
|SS Orestes||Galle (Harbor)||24m||Good||Yes|
|MV Cordiality||Trincomalee (Pulmudai to North)||18M||Excellent||Yes|
|The British Sergeant||Vakarai||26M||Excellent||Yes|
|Lady McCullum SS||Vakarai||17M||Average||Yes|
|Gladys Moller SS and the wreck graveyard in Passikudah||Wreck||10M||Average||Yes|
|World War II Aircraft||Trincomalee (Harbor)||24M||Average to Good||Yes|
|Sri Lankan Navy Chinese Gun Boats||Trincomalee (Harbor)||18 M||Good||Yes|
|Irrakandy Wreck (SS Ava)||Trincomalee||9.5M||Excellent||Yes|
|H.M.S Diomede||Trincomalee||42M||Below Average||Yes|
|Flute Overness 1704||Great Basses||Unknown||Not Evaluated||Yes with a special arrangement|
|Alette Adriana 1760’s||Great Basses||Unknown||Not Evaluated||Yes with a special arrangement|
|Daedulus||Little Basses||Unknown||Not Evaluated||Yes with a special arrangement|
|HMS Hollyhock||Kalmunai||42M||Excellent||Yes with a special arrangement|
|MFA Athelstane||Kalmunai||42M||Excellent||Yes with a special arrangement|
|MV Ledra||Kalmunai||13M||Below Avg||Yes with a special arrangement|
|H.M.S Hermes||Batticaloa||42M-54M||Lifetime Experience (Excellent+)||Yes with a special arrangement|
Learn before you dive
The Sri Lanka National Shipwreck Database provides historical, legal, biodiversity information on identified ship and plane wreck sites. It is a good source for amateur or professional divers to learn more about shipwrecks and shipwreck sites before they dive. The information you learn from this site will provide you good background about the site and you can look for the specific details of the wreck site when you dive. This site provides reliable and accurate information collected by the Maritime Archaeology Unit, Sri Lanka Navy, Department of Archaeology National Aquatic Research & Development Agency, etc. The following key features of the database will allow you to learn interactively.
Locate a shipwreck using the interactive map. This map provides filtering options to you to find in-depth details of each shipwreck site.
This interactive timeline will tell the story of Maritime Archaeology in Sri Lanka, how it began and developed with time.
The Story of Godawaya
Discovery of the oldest shipwreck site in the Asia-Pacific Region. Find out when & where the wreck lays. The excavations and the artifacts were found.
Dashboard and a searchable list of shipwrecks around the country. It also contains interactive charts to learn more about the wrecks.
A list of Diving Centers in Sri Lanka that take customers to historical shipwreck sites
There are over 24 diving centers around the country that will take you to the historical shipwrecks and sites. Here is the list of diving centers prepared by the Dharshana Jayawardena. Most of these diving centers have instructors and professional equipment. The pricing will vary with the shipwreck site. This is a list compiled by Dharshana Jayawardena.
Special thanks should go to the Rasika Muthucumarana and Sri Lanka National Shipwreck Database developed by the Central Cultural Fund, Maritime Archaeology Unit, Institue of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, and Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. Dharshana Jayawardena, without his approval to publish the list of wrecks that commercial diving centers can access, this article would be less meaningful, thank you Dharshana.