Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day Tsunami :: Palm Paradise Cabanas, Tangalle, Sri Lanka

Christmas 2004 has many memories for my close friends and family...

This was the time my husband proposed to me on Christmas Eve. We were on the deck of a cabana tucked away in a beautiful palm grove at Palm Paradise Cabanas on the southern tip of Sri Lanka.
We both love traveling and as part of this trip from London to Australia had decided to stay in Sri Lanka for Christmas. A few months before leaving we were shopping for walking boots in a travel shop in London when a lovely Aussie backpacker working in the shop advised us not stay in Marissa for Christmas. Instead he suggested we should stay in Tangalle as there may be more things to do there over the festive break. The town of Tangalle has some fantastic beaches, great surf breaks, a small fishing village, harbour and market and a couple of lovely resorts situated high up on a palm grove. Little did he know that this conversation may have actually saved our lives.

On Christmas Day we had called home to the UK and announced to our friends and family that we had got engaged and then relaxed into our holiday again.

On Boxing Day morning I looked out from our cabana and was excited to see that the waves were smaller than usual and the sea was inviting us in for a quick swim before breakfast. Most people in the resort were still asleep and we were the only people swimming in our small bay.
After half an hour and now feeling a bit hungry we slowly dragged ourselves away from this warm calm sea. My husband was still swimming when I got out of the sea and looked down to the beach edge only to see that the waves were coming in but not going out. Its is a strange feeling when you look at something like the ocean, expecting it to do what it normally does but it is doing something different. My instinct told me that something was very very wrong and immediately shouted at my husband to get out of the sea.

Each step we took to get out from the first wave was taking us a step higher than sea level up the steep grassy bank of our palm grove. Our Cabana was situated in the middle level in a group of about seven Cabanas approximately six metres above sea level. In less than a minute we had reached the decked floor of our Cabana and noticed that the sea had washed through some of the lower Cabanas and had came up to the level of our deck leaving us stranded. We were very lucky though as our Palm Grove had given us the elevation we needed above the first wave. If the wave had been any higher then we would have been climbing up onto the roof or up the nearest palm tree.

The sea hovered at this level for a while then receeded out to the horizon. All you could see was mud as far as the eye could see and a white foamy line on the horizon. The men from the village and the resort, including my husband, went down to the beach to see what they could rescue. Twenty minutes later and in lightening speed they were chased up the palm grove by the second wave.
images via Palm Paradise Cabanas
Not knowing what else was to come my husband and I found some kind local villagers that were happy to take us inland and to higher ground and so their family and the two of us all piled into a Tuk Tuk and headed inland.

Each year our thoughts go to all the families and businesses that lost so much in such a tragic event. We are also very grateful to be able to tell our story and made a promise to promote such a lovely country as Sri Lanka as an amazing holiday destination.

Sri Lanka is a great place to travel to if you have two to three weeks spare for a holiday. It is a small country but has a huge variety of things to offer from great surf beaches to diverse national parks, tea plantations to hillside villages and trekking, the ancient capitals of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, eco lodges and beach side cabanas to luxury spa hotels. For more information on Sri Lanka click here.

One of my closest friends from England is actually staying at the Palm Paradise Cabanas in January. Angela I hope you have a fab time. Have fun.


  1. Lisa, your story sent shivers up my spine. What a close call for both you and your husband. It was such a tragedy. I don't think anyone could forget that day...


Thanks for your thoughts. I read every comment and appreciate your feedback.
Have fun, Lisa

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