The area dividing Tangalla and Hambantota marks the transition between Sri Lanka’s wet and dry zones, where the lush palm forests of the southwest give way to the arid and scrub-covered savannah that characterizes much of the island. Some 53km east of Tangalla, the dusty provincial capital of HAMBANTOTA is the unlikely beneficiary of a remarkable economic regeneration programme sponsored by President Mahinda Rajapakse (who hails from the town) focused around the construction of the island’s second international airport and the dredging of a huge new Chinese-sponsored port, along with other projects. The opening of the new airport in late 2012 or early 2013 is likely to bring significant changes to Hambantota, although for the time being it remains an indomitably sleepy little place with little obvious tourist potential except perhaps as an alternative base to Tissamaharama from which to visit Bundala or Yala national parks, or a smattering of other nearby attractions.

Hambantota is the salt capital of Sri Lanka. Salt is produced by letting seawater into the lewayas, the sometimes dazzlingly white saltpans which surround the town, and allowing it to evaporate, after which the residue is scraped up and sold.

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