"Underwater Safaris" and how it all started...
ocean is Earth's Last Frontier; until now we have been
hunters and gatherers.
NOW we must become responsible Farmers."*
is one of the pioneers of
Scuba Diving in Sri Lanka since 1956.
Interview by Bircan ÜNVER
Ekanayeke is one of the pioneers of Scuba Diving with
Sir Arthur C. Clarke in Sri Lanka. They have been partners
since 1956. Mr. Ekanayake explains to us how Sir
Clarke had chosen to live in Sri Lanka as well as their
partnership since then.
Clarke defines the Ekanayake family as his adopted family
in his Egogram - January 1, 2003: "Hector has been
looking after me since 1956, and with his wife Valerie,
he has made a home for me at 25 Barnes Place."
December 31, 2002, after a brief visit to Sir Clarke,
I met Mr. Ekanayake, his wife Valerie and his sister Beauty.
I previously read about Sir Clarke and Mr. Ekanayake's
partnership on Scuba Diving, but I am the one who had
never dived; therefore, this has been an unknown territory
to me. Mr. Ekanayake showed me his office, and diving
equipment where there is another building and next to
Sir Clarke's office. There we briefly talked about how
it all started.
(Buzz) Aldrin - the second man to set foot on the Moon
together with Sir Clarke and Hector Ekanayake at 25 Barnes
Place in Colombo.
- When and how did you meet with Sir Arthur C. Clarke?
1955, Arthur C. Clarke was stuck in Sri Lanka on his way
to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with his partner
Mike Wilson. And he stopped over here for a couple of
days, and he found out he liked this country very much
but he still went on with his trip to Australia. Then
he decided that this is the country that they should live
in, and they started a diving company with Mike Wilson
called, "Clarke Wilson Associate." And after
that he created a new company called "Submarine Safaris."
I was working as an assistant diver and after that the
business and tourism of Sri Lanka was not very good. We
didn't have tourism in 1956, so Mike Wilson, his partner
made Singhalese movies. He went making these movies and
I took over the diving side. I went abroad, became qualified,
came back and took over the diving side. I and Arthur
C. Clarke, as one of the directors, created a company
called "Underwater Safaris" instead of "Submarine
Safaris." Ever since then we have been running this
company. During 1958-59 I was running this shore.
the moment he cannot go diving, because he cannot get
on board. He can only go diving if I lift him from water
into the board. Though he can still jump into the water;
he just cannot come out. That is why we cannot take him
When was the last time you took him diving?
year back I took him diving in the water. The only problem
is he cannot get into the board because his hands are
not strong enough to hold the latter. He is quiet active
and aware of what is happening but the only thing is he
cannot move properly. You have to help him, he is in a
wheelchair. But he is getting better. I have made
a wheelchair to take him on the beach with thick wheels.
I made a ramp going into the pool so we don•t have
to carry him into water. He sits down on to the chair
and goes into the water. It is simple and we don•t
have to carry him. Then when he is finished he sits down
on the ramp and we pull him its just like a lift.
"He is a very important person for Sri Lanka as well
as the world."
What is your experience from being a partner with him
all these years?
When I met with Arthur C. Clarke, I was aware of that
he is a very important person for Sri Lanka as well as
the world. When he had post-polio syndrome at first in
the beginning of 1960•s, I took him step by step
and he had some operations and I was with him all the
time. He got better after that but it took little
longer to recover.
Ekanayake is with his wife Valerie. (Dec.
31, 2002, Colombo)
What is your over-all philosophy of life?
I believe in what is good and what is bad. I hate doing
something wrong for people. If you treat everybody alike
and if you give them what they should have then there
won't be any problems in this world. Fighting and wars
are going on because somebody is doing wrong things.
people don't realize is that we don't want war. We don•t
take anything by force. If I don•t do anything by
force and if you don't take anything by force there won't
be any fighting. That is how the war started. One person
made one mistake and it is escalating like that. People
are killed. Innocent people are killed.
Mr. Ekanayake also played boxing, and an admirer
of Muhammed Ali, whose two photography
placed on the top of his awards and certificates.
Brief Introduction of the Underwater Safaris Ltd:
expedition to the Indian Ocean in the early 1960•s
led to the formation of Sri Lanka•s leading
diving company. Hector Ekanayeke and Arthur C.
Clarke, the two pioneers will find underwater
exploring interesting and invigorating.
typical day's diving starts at 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.
with a one and half to one hour boat trip to a
dive site or wreck where you can glide through
fascinating schools of friendly fish. During the
diving season the underwater tours are organized
from off Colombo and the south coast, using the
most modern equipment. (Source: Underwater Safaris,
Underwater Safaris, Ltd.'s Brochure.
Bircan Ünver, Light Millennium, March 19, 2003, New