Kalkudah and Passekudah are back-to-back beaches on the east coast of Sri Lanka north of Batticaloa. Passekudah used to be an empty stretch of beach while Kalkudah was developed. Since then, the roles have been reversed due to several catastrophes.
These beaches are said to be perfect bathing spots. The sea bed is flat and protected by reefs, so the water is calm and shallow for around 200 metres from the shore. The area became popular with tourists during the 1970s and early 1980s and hotels were built on Kalkudah beach to accommodate them.
When the civil war broke out in Sri Lanka, the hotels were abandoned, and were later blown up by the LTTE (commonly known as the Tamil Tigers) to prevent them being used by the Sri Lankan army. Then, in 2004, this area of the coast was battered by the tsunami, destroying any evidence of the former development. The tsunami memorial nearby is a reminder that 512 people lost their lives here.
Now that the conflict is over and a decade has passed since the tsunami, Passekudah has been earmarked for a special tourist development zone (the Passikudah Resort Development Project) and fourteen luxury hotels have been planned along the bay. Fishermen have had to move their boats away from the main beach, and for now it is a building site.
I was intrigued by this story of the two beaches so we spent a day there. It was raining heavily when we arrived, but when it cleared we walked to Passekudah, which was about a kilometre away from our guest house. I found the construction work going on along Passekudah Bay rather depressing. A couple of the resorts were semi-finished and had a few guests, but the beach has been ruined by the building work and there was a lot of rubbish lying around.
The next day we got up early and went for a long walk on Kalkudah beach, over the headland to the south. Although this bay used to be lined with hotels, for the moment it remains undeveloped, except for a few fishing shacks, two low key resorts and lots of coconut trees. It was also deserted … apart from the displaced fishermen from Passekudah and a herd of cows.
We watched the fishermen bring in their nets and sell the fish to people who had congregated on the beach to buy them. Unfortunately, their catch included two large dead turtles, which were unceremoniously dumped on the sand for the crows and dogs to dispose of.
Overall, Kalkudah beach seemed much cleaner than Passekudah, and it was difficult to tell that there was ever any development there. How long it will remain that way is anybody’s guess.