Bentota is a coastal town in Sri Lanka, located in the Galle District of the Southern Province, governed by an Urban Council. It is approximately 65 kilometres south of Colombo and 56 kilometres (35 mi) north of Galle. Bentota is situated on the southern bank of the Bentota River mouth, at an elevation of 3 metres (9.8 ft) above the sea level. The name of the town is derived from a mythical story which claims a demon named 'Bem' ruled the tota or river bank.
Bentota is a historical place described in ancient messenger poems. The Galapatha Viharaya is one of a cluster of five ancient temples in the region. In the 17th Century the Portuguese built a small fort at the mouth of the Bentota River, which in Sinhala was called Parangi Kotuwa, meaning the fort of the Portuguese. The river marked the southern extremity of Portuguese held territory in Sri Lanka. The Dutch subsequently allowed the fort to fall into disrepair, converting one of the large buildings within the fort into a colonial rest house for Dutch Officers travelling between Colombo and Galle. The British subsequently converted the rest house into a coastal sanatorium.
Sir James Emerson Tennent (1804-1869), the colonial secretary of Ceylon (1845-1850) in his book, Ceylon, An Account of the Island (1859), stated that the rest house at Bentota, situated within a little park, deeply shaded by lofty Tamarind trees on the point of the beach where the river forms its junction with the sea, is one of the coolest and most agreeable in Ceylon. The British introduced the railway in the early 19th century, mainly to transport the coconut produce from the Deep South to the capital, building a permanent bridge to cross the river.
Right by the railway station which is ideally located close to the Bentota Beach, the Post Office and the local Police Station together with a few shops to be avoided due to price. On the main street there are a number of shops selling the most popular 'gifts' - wood carvings whilst just across the road bridge heading north is the next small township of Aluthgama. Here there are loads of shops and fruit stalls as well as the local supermarket chain. The beach is superb and totally unspoilt with just a very few beach vendors.
Aluthgama, the principal town here, has a busy fish market and is famous for its oysters. The sand spit which separates the river from the sea where most of the hotels are built provides excellent waters for windsurfing and sailing. Many of the hotels referred to as being in Bentota are to the north of the Bentota Bridge and so are actually in Aluthgama.
There are a number of small inexpensive but good restaurants in Bentota, such as Susanthas just behind the beach and close to the railway station. There is also the Golden Fleece and The Pavilion again close to town and offering very good value. Both restaurants permit you to eat Al Fresco and have specialities featuring Prawn and other seafood but offer many other dishes to suit all tastes and pockets.
The National Resort Complex is built entirely for foreign tourists with shops, a bank and a post office. A full range of sports is available and the area is gaining a reputation for providing first class Ayurveic healing centres, with many more under construction. The splendid Brief Garden at Kalawila was created between 1929 and 1989 by the late Bevis Bawa, the landscape architect, writer, sculptor, bon vivant and brother to Geoffrey. It is an enchanting garden in an undulating landscape of paddies and scattered villages on a hillside.
Sri Lanka is a country often described as the 'pearl in the Indian Ocean' and it truly is. Once you have been there and met its wonderful warm and honest people, you will want to return again and again. The scenery is beautiful and the warmth of its people overwhelming.
Waterskiing, wakeboarding, banana rides, tube rides, Jet Ski rides, river fishing are all river based activities at Bentota. However for those seeking more thrilling adventures there are boats which can be hired for deep sea fishing, diving and snorkeling. The feeling of sitting on a tube, being dragged across the water at lightning speed with wind blowing through your hair while you scream in excitement is a pleasure that has to be experienced at least once in your lifetime.Back to Featured Articles