Hikkaduwa National Park is one of two marine national parks in Sri Lanka. The reserve contains a fringing coral reef of high degree biodiversity. The area was declared a wildlife sanctuary on May 18th 1979, and then on August 14th 1988, it was upgraded to a nature reserve with extended land area. The growth of the number of visitors in the next 25 years increased the degradation of the coral reef and to reduce the effects on the ecosystem, the reef was declared a national park on September 19th 2002.
Hikkaduwa coral reef is a typical shallow fringing reef with an average depth of around 5 metres (16 ft). The coral reef reduces the coastal erosion and forms a natural breakwater. The coast of the national park extends 4km. Generally the coast is narrow, ranging from 5-50m, depending on climatic conditions of the year. Scuba diving is a popular recreation here.
Flora and Fauna Features.
Foliaceous Montipora species dominate the coral reef. Encrusting and branching species are also present. Faviidae and Poritidae corals are contained in the inshore areas of the reef in massive colonies. Staghorn, Elkhorn, Cabbage, Brain, Table and Star corals are all present from the reef. Corals of 60 species belonging to 31 genera are recorded from the reef. The reef also recorded over 170 species of reef fish belonging to 76 genera.
Seagrass and Marine Algae belonging to genera Halimeda and Caulerpa are common in the seabed depth ranging from 5-10 m. Seagrass provides a habitat to Dugong and Sea Turtles. Some species of prawns feed on the sea grass. Eight species of ornamental fishes also inhabit the reef, along with many vertebrates and invertebrates including Crabs, Prawns, Shrimps, Oysters and Sea Worms.
Chlorurus rhakoura and Pomacentrus proteus are two reef fish species confined to Sri Lanka while the Blacktip Reef Shark are found along the outer slope of the reef. Three varieties of sea turtles which have been categorized as a threatened species visit the coral reef: they are the Hawksbill Turtle, Green Turtle and Olive Ridley.