Sri Lanka Map
Site Index
Contact
Random
Our Travel Books
Advertising / Press

The Habaraduwa Turtle Hatchery

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Our Sea Turtle Excursion at Rekawa Beach

Sri Lanka is one of the world’s most important breeding spots for the endangered sea turtle, but heavy development of the coast has contributed greatly to their ever-declining number. To combat that trend, a number of hatcheries have opened along the southern coast. We visited one in Habaraduwa.

Super-Cute-Turtle

The small hatchery, which cost 400 rupees per person, was split into a few sections. A curiously tiny patch of sand in the corner contained batches of eggs (or “clutches”). Each was labeled with the date they were laid, the number of eggs in the clutch, and the exact species. We were told that about one set of eggs hatches every day. I was surprised how tightly the clutches were placed next to each other.

The rest of the hatchery was occupied by a bunch of water tanks. In one, dozens of baby turtles swam clumsily about. They were cute, and would stay in captivity until their fourth day of life before being released into the ocean. Our guide explained that when they’re a bit older, their chances of survival increase dramatically.

Other tanks held injured turtles, including one I nicknamed “Stumpy”. A propeller had carved Stumpy’s right flipper clean off, and the poor guy could no longer submerge. Instead he floated around on top of the water, continually rotating his stump. Five other turtles which had been found clinging to life on the beach, including a couple impressively large specimens, swam about their tanks, recovering in the hatchery until they could be re-released.

The Habaraduwa Hatchery is a private enterprise, unaffiliated with any offical conservation organization. And it was impossible to ignore the disquieting possibility, or likelihood even, that it’s more interested in tourist dollars than protecting sea turtles. The cold reality is that private individuals are going out at night, digging up sea turtle eggs from the beach, bringing them to their property, and then charging tourists to see them.

Seaturtle.org has a comprehensive article on the pros and cons of Sri Lanka’s private hatcheries. The truth is, something has to be done to protect these beautiful, endangered creatures. And if the government won’t step in with an official and adequately enforced conservation effort, private hatcheries might be the next best thing. Yes, they might just want our cash, but this might be one of those rare instances when the interests of capitalism and conservation align. Ultimately, we enjoyed our trip here and felt that it was an enterprise worth tentative support.

Location on our Sir Lanka Map
Snorkel Gear

Sea Turtle Hatchery
Hatchery-Turtles-Sri-Lanka
Little Turtles
Turtle Mess
Not Trusting Turtles
Turtle Bubbles
Pissed Turtle
Little Stonkers
Sad Turtle
, , , , , , , , , ,
April 27, 2012 at 8:47 am Comment (1)

A Sea Turtle Excursion at Rekawa Beach

Add to Flipboard Magazine.

Snorkel Gear

Sri Lanka has the extraordinary privilege of welcoming five of the world’s seven species of sea turtle to its shores. The turtles, who travel around the world and across entire oceans, somehow know to return to their natal beaches when the time comes to reproduce. At night, they emerge from the ocean and lay their eggs in the sand. At Rekawa Beach, the Turtle Conservation Project keeps a watchful eye over the eggs and provides tourists a rare opportunity to see the giant creatures clamber onto land.

Rekawa-Turtle-Watching

We showed up at 8pm, on April 11th — the same day as the massive 8.6 earthquake in Sumatra which sparked a tsunami warning across Sri Lanka. So we had accepted the possibility that the rough weather and seismic instability might discourage the turtles from braving the shore. But after only a few minutes of waiting in the dark (which afforded us the chance to admire the stars; something we’d missed in bright, densely-packed Sri Lanka), a flashlight down the beach alerted us to the presence of a turtle.

The turtles require a sense of solitude while they make their way out of the water. If they detect a human, they’ll abandon their attempt and return another day. Leaving behind an interesting track that looks like a Monster Truck’s tire, they head towards the shrubbery at end of the beach, and choose a spot for their eggs which is safe from the water and (hopefully) predators. People are allowed to approach only once the turtles have started the process of laying the eggs, which can take over a half-hour and during which they’ll remain absolutely immobile.

We waited patiently while the turtle, barely visible in the dark from about twenty meters away, chose a suitable place for her future babies. Unfortunately, something spooked her, because our guide suddenly urged us to run towards her on the beach, as she was escaping back into the water. A huge and beautiful creature, she could move a lot faster than I would have believed and I felt awful chasing after her, trying to snap pictures.

That was it. The guide brought us back and asked for our 2000 Rupee donation. We were disappointed — the night had just begun, and we didn’t understand why we couldn’t wait for the next turtle. But, he didn’t seem to care; we had seen our turtle, and now he could return to hanging out in the hut with his buddies.

Oh well. We had just seen a wild sea turtle on a deserted beach during a beautifully starry night. In the end, it was hard to complain.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map

Turtle Tracks
Star Night Sri Lanka
, , , , , , , ,
April 24, 2012 at 3:33 am Comments (5)
The Habaraduwa Turtle Hatchery Sri Lanka is one of the world's most important breeding spots for the endangered sea turtle, but heavy development of the coast has contributed greatly to their ever-declining number. To combat that trend, a number of hatcheries have opened along the southern coast. We visited one in Habaraduwa.
For 91 Days