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


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?

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I’m a twenty something podiatrist with new found wanderlust. Follow me as I prepare for my trip of a lifetime to Dubai, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and wherever else the world takes me.

4 thoughts on “The day a turtle nearly bit my finger off, Visiting a turtle sanctuary in Sri Lanka”

  1. This place is kind of sad. I thought they would release the turtles into the ocean. 🙁 Poor buggers. I’m surprised you were allowed to touch them.

    1. It was kind of sad, nice to hold baby turtles and see the eggs but so sad that some turtles never see past a concrete pool. They release the baby turtles each night; mostly tourists come to help!

  2. You should not be sad. To my understanding Sri Lanka, probably is one of the few countries that Turtles are not under the threat of getting extinct. In many other places the Turtle eggs are pouched and eaten destroying any chance of survival of the species. Unfortunately Turtles live a long time, hence the impact of such activities will not be visible for a long time to come.

    On the other hand, We Sri Lankans consider the western practice of “Putting down” a sick animal a brutal thing to do. You would find the most sick and disabled animals (ex: dogs) being cared for at many Sri Lankan homes.

    Its just the cultural perspective!


    1. Hi KC, thanks for your comment.
      What I loved about Sri Lanka was the fact that you could see turtles in the wild, easily. I went snorkelling and ended up swimming with a turtle for a while, what an experience! Hopefully the impact of collecting the eggs will actually benefit the turtle population. I love turtles!

      I saw so many street dogs in Sri Lanka that would follow me if I had any food!

      I love learning about different cultural beliefs and practices whilst travelling. I guess the West doesn’t always have the right answers 🙂


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