As you descent down the line, you start to see a shadowy mass that is the superstructure of a cargo freighter.  But you wonder at the strange yellow mass off in the distance – as get closer and you realize it is a school of hundreds of snapper, hanging out by the bow of the wreck.      And look closely, and you’ll see all sorts of macro life.   Oh, and don’t forget to look up every so often because there may be whale sharks cruising by (not as often as we’d like, which is every dive, but often enough for you to ask yourself if you feel lucky.  Well, do you?)


If you are a keen wreck-head (yes, we just made that word up), Colombo should make your eyes light up.    Wrecks range in size from the massive Thermopylae Sierra wreck, with penetration opportunities for all skill levels to smaller tug boats – and all of them play host to a very large resident fish population (yay for paper beating rock, and wreck beating fishing nets).


So whether you love wrecks (and who doesn’t?  Wrecks are amazing!!!) or just want to enjoy marine life, these sites have something for you.     Oh, and we do have some regular reefs as well.  🙂


Read on for more info on each of the sites.   Do note that while most sites do require an Advanced Open Water card,  Open Water divers  can also dive them, provided they have documented deep diving experience or do an Advanced Course/Deep Adventure Dive (for a nominal surcharge over the cost of the dives).

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Depth: 18-33m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

An 87m cargo ship lying on its starboard side at a depth of 33m, and home to a variety of reef fish including an elusive giant grouper. Schools of fusiliers are common over the wreck and hunting tuna, trevally and king mackerel are frequently seen, while whale sharks make occasional appearances. The coral encrusted hull and decks provide a home for snappers, sweetlips, bannerfish, angelfish and electric rays. Large, open cargo holds create easy swim throughs.


Depth: 16-30m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

A 77m long Maldivian cargo vessel that sank in 2009 sits upright at 30m with the top of the bridge at 16m. The cargo of construction material can be seen on and around the wreck, and a front loader sits on the main deck at 24m. Large schools of fusiliers are often seen around the bow with hunting frigate tuna. Batfish and schools of snappers are also common on the decks. Lots of penetration opportunities for experienced divers.


Depth: 0-25m

Certification Level: Open Water

The newest and biggest wreck in Colombo, this 155m long Cypriot ship went down in a monsoon storm in 2012, and has since then transformed into a fantastic dive site. The main deck at a depth of 7-12m provides an extensive area to explore with large schools of parrotfish, surgeonfish, rabbitfish and fusiliers. Large octopi can be found hiding in the many holes and crevices. Electric rays and pufferfish are also common, and whale sharks are sometimes seen around the wreck. This is a great site for both beginners and experienced divers with lots of penetration opportunities for trained divers.


Depth: 23-32m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

The Nilgiri was a harbor tugboat that floundered in a storm in 1997 while assisting another ship. It now lies upside down at a depth of 32m with its twin propellers and rudders standing upright like parts of an alien spaceship. It is possible to swim under the wreck and explore the upside-down deck and bridge areas. A feature of this dive site is the large and curious lionfish that love posing for photographers.


Depth: 24-35m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

One of the best-known wrecks in Colombo, this 112m long car transport vessel sank in 1983. The superstructure is broken up and lies scattered across the sand at 35m but the main hull remains intact and upright. Coral encrusted chassis of cars are scattered across the main deck at a depth of 24-28m. The wreck is covered in hard and soft coral and attracts large numbers of fish including trevally, mackerel and barracuda. This site is often exposed to strong currents.


Depth: 21-26m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

Another unknown wreck believed by some to be the SS Delhi, Coal thank sank off Colombo. It lies on its side at a depth of 26m and is broken into two parts. The bow area is the most interesting with black coral trees and lots of blue lined and bigeye snappers.


Depth: 25-30m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

This small wreck is only around 20m in length but provides an oasis for marine life. Photographers should look out for long nosed hawkfish among the black coral trees on the hull. The propeller and engine can be seen at the stern while amidships is the feature that gives the wreck its distinctive name, a toilet sitting alone on the deck.


Depth: 25-29m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

This wreck is unknown wreck is where the acclaimed science fiction author and dive explorer, Arthur C. Clarke did his last dive on his 80th birthday. It is a small barge, around 35m in length covered in orange cup corals and whip corals. Large numbers of big eye and blue lined snappers have made the wreck their permanent home.


Depth: 35-40m

Certification Level: Deep Diver 

An identified wreck covered in large black coral trees. A small but interesting site full of fish life and color. Expect schools of snappers, large angelfish, and lots of lionfish. Large stingrays often hang around on the sand nearby. A deep site for experienced divers only due to depth and currents.

Depth: 25-28m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water 

Another small unidentified wreck that an oasis of life surrounded by sand. Lots of soft corals and whip corals provide a home for thousands of glassfish, juvenile fusiliers and bigeye snappers. One of the most colorful wrecks in Colombo and well worth a dive despite its small size.

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Depth: 26-32m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

A small barge sitting on white sand this is a fun place for wide angle wreck photography. The wreck itself is heavily broken up but there is usually a good variety of reef fish including. This site is located offshore and exposed to strong currents.


Depth: 30-40m

Certification Level: Deep Diver

A 135m long WWI British armed merchantman that sank in February 1917 after striking a sea mine laid by the German raider SS Wolf. This is a large wreck that requires several dives to fully explore. Large schools of snapper can be found near the stern while napolean wrasses, groupers and red snapper make the wreck their home. A fantastic dive suitable only for very experienced divers due to its depth and strong currents.


Depth: 30-40m

Certification Level: Deep Diver

An unknown wreck sitting on sand at a depth of 40m, the wreck is covered in soft coral and is a magnet for fish, especially fusiliers and snappers. Giant trevally and large barracuda are also frequently seen here. Visibility is usually very good here making it an ideal place for wide-angle wreck photography. Suitable only for very experience divers due to depth and currents.

Depth: 5-14m

Certification Level: Open Water

This site southwest of the Panadura estuary mouth is home to the remains of three old wrecks scattered over a large area of reef and rock boulders. The wrecks are broken up but you can find steam boilers, anchors and a propeller, along with a large mid-section of one of the wrecks. An easy shallow dive for beginners and a nice change from the deeper wrecks in Colombo.

Depth: 10-14m

Certification Level: Open Water

A small wreck of what seems like an old navy inshore patrol craft sitting on the edge of a rocky reef at a depth 14m. An easy, shallow dive suitable for beginners, and a nice change from the deeper wrecks around Colombo. While the wreck is small you can also explore the reef and hunt for macro critters.

Depth: 45-57m

Certification: Tec 50 or equivalent (Special expeditions only)

Another WWI British armed merchantman that sank after hitting a German sea mine in February 1917. One of the best wreck dives in Sri Lanka with excellent coral and fish life. Colorful soft corals, black corals, whip corals and sea fans have covered the wreck. Resident fish include napolean wrasses, giant sweetlips, giant trevally as well as large schools of snappers and fusiliers. The ship sits upright at a depth of 57m, with the upper sections at around 45m. Available only as a special trip for certified technical divers.

Depth: 42-45m

Certification Level: Tec 45 or equivalent (Special expeditions only)

Known to local fishermen as the Battery Barge this unidentified wreck lies at a depth of 45m. Black corals, whip corals and small sea fans adorn most of the remaining structure and fish life includes snappers, groupers, lionfish, and on many days a school of small barracuda. A great place to spot the elusive long nosed hawkish. Available only as a special trip for certified technical divers.


Depth: 20-25m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

A large offshore patch reef with scattered coral domes spread over a flat terrain. Although marine life is spread out and not concentrated in one area you can find a variety of species from frogfish and pipefish to mobula rays and eagle rays.


Depth: 20-25m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water 

A small offshore patch reef that is similar to Gingiripita. The sand and rubble zones harbor interesting species such as dragonets, smoothheads and shrimp gobies. Frogfish and ghost pipefish have also been spotted here. This site is best when the currents are strong and schooling bannerfish, batfish and unicornfish congregate around the coral domes.


Depth: 34-36m

Certification Level: Deep Diver

A beautiful garden of large gorgonian sea fans and sea whips on a flat rubble bottom. Fish life is a bit sparse but there are a few coral domes where fish tend to congregate. Some of the large fans are around 2m across and perfect for wide-angle photography.


Depth: 25-32m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

Part of an extensive sandstone reef system running parallel to the shore with lots of cracks and overhangs for fish to hide. The ledges on the seaward side are the haunts of some large napolean wrasses. Lots of reef fish such as angelfish, sweetlips, snappers, wrasses and lionfish.


Depth: 19-24m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

An extensive rocky reef with encrusting coral. The southern end of the reef is covered in blue soft corals. Lots of macro critters such as banded shrimps, cleaner shrimps, hermit crabs, cowry’s, nudibranchs, pipefish, scorpionfish and if you are lucky, even a ghost pipefish.

Depth: 20-24m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

Rocky ridge with ledges and a profuse growth of blue and purple soft coral. Lots of reef fish including emperors and trevally. We have spotted nurse sharks and bamboo sharks here as well. Electric rays are particularly common here.

Depth: 20-24m

Certification Level: Advanced Open Water

Located between Barracuda Reef and Anchor Point this area has some rugged rock structures with good resident fish such as breams, sweetlips and schooling snappers. Schooling fusiliers are encountered on most dives. A great place to see colorful juveniles of many fish species such as sweetlips, queen coris and angelfish. You will also find lots of blue lined groupers hiding among the rocks.


Depth: 15-18m

Certification: Level Open Water

An inshore rocky reef with a maximum depth of ten fathoms (18m). There are barrel sponges and whip corals, and stingrays are often seen on the sand.


Depth: 8-14m

Certification Level: Open Water 

Just 800m from the beach this is a rocky ridge parallel to the shore with an abundance of nudibranchs, scorpionfish, pipefish, octopi and other macro subjects. The seaward edge of the reef is covered in small sea fans and lobsters and stingrays can be found under ledges and overhangs.

Depth: 12-18m

Certification Level: Open Water

A small nearshore patch reef covered in whip corals. Critter enthusiasts can search for pipefish, scorpionfish, octopi, nudibranchs, whip coral gobies on the reef, or shrimp gobies on the sandy areas.