The day a turtle nearly bit my finger off, Visiting a turtle sanctuary in Sri Lanka

turtle

During my time in Hikkaduwa I went on a few day trips to see the sights with local friends that I met. The place that I was most excited to visit was the turtle sanctuary!

I love turtles and I had a slight obsession after seeing the 200 year old turtle in the ocean!

However it was not like I expected!

The aim of the turtle sanctuary near Hikkaduwa is to help increase the population of turtles in the Indian ocean surrounding the South West coast. The turtle sanctuary pay locals to collect turtle eggs from the beach and they hatch them at their centre and then release them when they are one day old. They say that this reduces the amount of turtles killed by predators such as birds.

The turtle sanctuary was not like I was expecting. It was only a tiny place full of concrete ‘pools’ and had a small area with mounds of soil and sand where they hatch the eggs. All of the concrete pools were ‘sponsored’ by various people from the UK. ‘The British really love animals you know’, whispered the Sri Lankan guide.

 

 

 

The Guide led me around the sanctuary and explained how they help turtles and the various types of turtles. Every five minutes a turtle of some sort was thrust in to my hands  to hold for a while. Whilst this was fine with the baby turtles I can’t help but feel that the larger ones didn’t enjoy it as much…

The pool of baby turtles was so cute! I hope that they grow to be full sized turtles in the ocean!

 

 

I was encouraged to touch the turtles shells when they were in the water. Being the animal lover that I am I decided to try and stoke a turtle on the head….

Bad move!

The turtle darted towards me and started to open it’s mouth/ Luckily the guide grabbed my arm before the turtle could bite my finger off….

I’m so dozy sometimes! Travelling for less than a week and nearly loosing a finger!

 

 

I understand that some Asian countries might not understand as much about animal conservation as some Western countries but some of the turtles lived there permanently in these concrete pools.

Turtles with fins missing, that are blind or have genetic abnormalities are kept at the sanctuary to ‘protect them’. If I’m honest I would rather risk the Indian ocean than have to live in a concrete jail for my whole life! I guess it does help raise awareness of how fishing boats can harm turtles and it might make locals think more about animal conservation.

 

Like every tourist place in Sri Lanka the centre asked for donations for the sanctuary. They also showed us how the tsunami in 2004 destroyed the centre and how the sanctuary had to be built from scratch.

In conclusion the turtle sanctuary was a fun place to visit in the afternoon. After all who doesn’t like holding baby turtles! I left with a slightly uneasy feeling at the conditions in which the turtles are kept. I have to repeat to myself that this is Asia and things are different…..

 

What do you think of the turtle sanctuary? Have you visited one or would you visit one on your travels? What do you think of the permenant residents of the sanctuary?

Becoming a beach bum in Hikkaduwa

swim

When I initially booked the flight to Sri Lanka I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that it was a small island South of India and that it was near to the beautiful Maldives. Two things came to mind, curry and beaches, two of my favorite things!

As soon as I woke up on that first day in Sri Lanka I was nervous to actually go and explore. I was in Sri Lanka for goodness sake and I didn’t know what to expect.

Luckily for me I started my travels of the island in Hikkaduwa, a tourist area with an absolutely gorgeous beach that seems to go on for miles. Most of the shops, bars, restaurants and guest houses are arranged on a straight road, Galle road that actually spans the South West coast of Sri Lanka.

I spent my days in Hikkaduwa talking to locals (Especially the cute children in their pristine school uniforms), taking in the sights of Galle road, Relaxing at beach side bars and sunbathing on the beach.

Hikkaduwa was the perfect introduction to travel and Sri Lanka. It was the perfect balance of Convenience and exotic. It had all of the tourist facilities yet  it still felt like I was in a very different country.

Local women wore the most beautiful saris. I loved saris so much that I actually got a quote for a sari! I chose a beautiful fuchsia pink fabric and everything. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I would look like a weirdo whenever I wore it. A beautiful weirdo though.

The local women also carried umbrellas around with them in the daytime, even when it wasn’t raining! This was to protect their skin from the sun and to maintain a pale complexion.

Whenever I wandered on my own locals treated me like an endangered species, staring at me wherever I went. Inquiring about where I was going, where I was from ect. At first I found this a little strange considering that there’s quite a lot of tourists in Hikkaduwa but it soon became one of those things that I just accepted. It was quite nice being called ‘beautiful’ at least three times every time I went to the shop!

The sun in Hikkaduwa was very strong and I got sunburn’t a few times despite wearing sun lotion. I love the beach but the beach doesn’t love me!

Every photo that I took of the beach looked like a post card. Azure Indian ocean, golden sand framed with lush greenery and tall palm trees. I can see why people think that Sri Lanka is the original ‘garden of Eden’.

 

 

Hikkaduwa has a coral reef but unfortunately a lot of the coral is dead due to fishing boats and the Tsunami in 2004. It still has an amazing variety of fish in the ocean though, snorkeling in Hikkaduwa is a must.

I went snorkeling with a local boy from a dive school, he showed me the best place to see the fish and I saw many types of tropical fish, sea urchins, anemones  sea cucumbers and even a turtle!

Yes that’s right, I swam with a turtle in Sri Lanka!

When I wasn’t admiring the local sea life I would swim in the ocean and allow the waves to push me around a bit. I love feeling the rush of the Ocean!

The Ocean has quite a strong current producing some good waves, this attracts a lot of surfers to Hikkaduwa. All of the surfers seemed to be varying shades of mahogany with bleach blonde hair. In the evening they were found at the beach bars smoking weed and ordering two evening meals each!

Every night around 5/6pm a turtle that’s 200 years old would come to the beach! A man tempts the turtle to come to the shore with pieces of grass so that people can see the turtle and take photos. I was amazed at the size of the turtle, it also had green on its back. This was the first wild turtle that I had ever seen in my life, it was a very special moment.

 

 

My favorite bars in Hikkaduwa were funky de bar, vibration and top secret. I loved sitting and watching the magnificent sunset each evening with a beer in hand. Does life get better than that?

 

 

I spent eleven nights in Hikkaduwa, a lot more than I was originally going to spend. Staying in one place and getting to know it well was the perfect thing to do in my second destination of my trip. It gave me a cahnce to get used to the very different culture of Sri Lanka, time to get to know locals and work out the ‘right’ prices of things so that I didn’t get ripped off.

I think that I was spoiled by this beautiful beach. Can anything in the rest of SE Asia compare?

Hikkaduwa was my paradise.

 

What do you think of Hikkaduwa? Have you come across any better beaches on your travels?