Dive Swami Rock (www.DiveSriLanka.com)
Fort Frederick, Trincomalee
By Dharshana Jayawardena

Depth: 22 Meters.

A great precipice situated beside the famed lovers leap at the historic Fort Frederick looms ominously over us as our boat chugs towards the rocky wall surrounding the ancient temple. The captain cuts the engine off and suddenly, amidst the calm seas, a deafening silence envelops us. We are transfixed with awe as the boat glides to final rest only a few meters away from the giant boulders (Left). This is Swami Rock. We are now on sacred grounds.

A loud splash jolts us back to reality. The captain has thrown in the anchor. We hastily gear up, carry out the buddy checks and back flip into the water. As we get ready to descend onlookers wave to us from the top of the high cliff (Bottom Left). We return the greetings and slide gently beneath the surface and descend into the past.

In a few minutes we are at a depth of 15 meters and glide along the rocky under sea terrain. A White Eyed Moray sees our arrival, arches it's back, and gazes at us with a mixture of curiosity and annoyance (Bottom Middle).

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There is a gentle undersea current assisting us all the way making our swim quite effortless. Suddenly the dive master stops and points to a shadowy form between two rocks. Lying upright and about a foot high is a statue of Lord Ganesh, the elephant god of the Hindu lore (Top Right). We huddle around the statue and immerse in it completely; oblivious to the passage of time and expenditure of air in our tanks.

Legend has it that this temple was plundered and destroyed by Portuguese invaders in the seventeenth century. Among the stone columns, blocks of stone that splashed into the sea were also the statue of Lord Ganesh and a sacred lingam (A phallic stone column). The lingam was recovered by Mike Wilson (who also found treasure of silver coins at the Great Basses) while filming the epic film "Ranmutu Duwa" (The Island of Pearls - This was the first color film and the first underwater film in Sri Lankan movie history and was a popular hit at the time). When the statue was recovered is never known. However all that is known is that the devotees in the area salvaged the statue and gifted it to a Kovil (temple) in the vicinity. Later, an exact replica of the statue was built and placed on the very spot where original statue was found creating a sacred underwater shrine to pay homage to the ocean and bring blessings to the fishermen. This certainly explains why the statue does not have any damage and also is in a straight upright position.

A large Scribbled Pufferfish glides away from our intrusive presence.

This dive site was full of Puffers, Porcupinefish (Top), different species of Moray Eels and even a small Stonefish.

A little sandy garden at 21 meters

A Cray Fish.

Grape Coral on a rock.

A Bicolor Blenny perched on a rock.
Top: Filter Feeder. Right and Bottom Left: We recover parts of a stove, most probably fallen from a fishing trawler. The stove had a sleeping Porcupinefish in it! Bottom Right: A trumpet fish hastily retreats through a crevice. Trincomalee dive sites are good places to see trumped fish.

Top Left: Parts of a stove we recovered from the bottom. Probably fell from a
fishing trawler. A small porcupine fish was sleeping in the stove casing.

Top Middle: A Trumpetfish avoids us by swimming down a rocky passage.

A memorable dive had come to an end. After 45 minutes of great diving, we
reluctantly ascend and break onto the surface. The sea is still a mirror of
calmness; only disturbed by the wake of a silent fishing trawler passing by
(Left). We gaze up the cliff and the crowds are still there waving at us. We
wave back, this time in farewell, and clamber back into the boat.

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Photo Credits: (c) www.DiveSriLanka.com by Dharshana Jayawardena