Want to sail one?

Hitching a Ride To hitch a ride with one of the oru fishermen in Negombe is relatively easy. Boats leave early in the morning and it is best to approach the fishermen the evening before. English is a commonly understood language in Sri Lanka and you will usually find a crew member who also can communicate in English besides his native language Singhalese.

In the winter season, the off monsoon season, trips with oruwa fishermen usually take one full day. They use the sail to drag a net over the bottom to catch prawns. The main reason why there are so many fishermen in Negombe is because some shrimp grounds in the area are reserved for traditional sailing boats only.

It is a beautiful ride along the coast to the villages of Ambalangoda, Hikkaduwa and Dodonduwa, about 90 km south of Colombo. By inquiring at the hotels and in the harbours you might be able to contact somebody who still operates a sailing oruwa.

You have to negotiate with the fisherman for payment when hitching a ride. Because as a foreigner you will most likely hinder the other crew while working. The 2005 tsunami destroyed thousands of fishing boats in Sri Lanka and these days it is even harder to find an original wooden oruwa. The majority are now made of fibreglass, although the design is still the original one. 

Renting a Boat To rent or charter a boat in Negombe is quite well possible, although the tourism industry in Srilanka hardly seems to have discovered the tourist potential of these boats. To go on a fishing trip on an oru in Negombo is possible after negotiation with the oru fishermen when they return to the lagoon in the afternoon from a fishing trip.

The fishermen leave in the early morning and you must be aware that the many hours at sea in the tropical sunshine can be exhausting. But it is an interesting experience to see how the prawns are caught using sail-power to drag the net along the bottom.

Alternatively shorter sailing trips only can be arranged through the main hotels on the beach to the north of the lagoon in Negombo. Prices are between 10 to 30 dollar per hour and usually there are a minimum of three paying passengers. It is also possible to negotiate directly with the sailors who beach their oruwa in front of the hotels.

Here three of the main beach hotels in Negombe where you can arrange such a trip. There are, however, more hotels that can help you.

– Camelot hotel,

– Browns Beach,

– Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel,

In Ambalangoda:

– Coral Sands hotel,

- Rest House

In Hikkaduwa:

- Coral Gardens Hotel,

Building a Boat  As far as we know there is not an amateur boat builder in the Western world that has built an oruwa. Double outrigger craft (trimarans) are popular boats to be built by amateurs, but they have a Western type of sailing rig and the bow always remains the front of the boat.  


Oruwa sail drying, Negombe, Sri Lanka, 2008 © Pedal4thePlanet