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.
One of our first mornings in Galle, we took a bus to Alanthgama with the intention of seeing stilt fisherman -- one of Sri Lanka's most iconic images. But whether it was due to the stormy seas, the time of day, or the recently completed New Year's festivities, the stilts were unoccupied. Foiled! Now what would we do?
"Why didn't we think of that?!" "Our lives would be so much easier." "It would be so much fun." "Man, I'm so jealous!" These are among the sentences which found their way into our conversations, after we had met Marc and Carina at our guesthouse in Polonnaruwa. The Belgian couple earned our everlasting respect after revealing that they had rented a tuk-tuk for their three month journey around Sri Lanka.
After two and a half whirlwind months touring Sri Lanka, we pulled into Galle with exhausted bodies and tired minds. This would be the last extended stop of our 91 days in the country.
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.
East of Tangalla, a barren landscape sits in the middle of an otherwise heavily forested area. Dark red soil and an utter lack of trees are the hallmarks of Ussangoda, a region thought to have been hit by an ancient meteor. It's hard to imagine another explanation for this strange anomaly of nature.
Twenty kilometers north of Tangalla lies the large rock of Mulkirigala, reminiscent in shape to Sigiriya. The rock houses an impressive series of cave temples dating from the third century, similar to those of Dambulla. A mix between Sri Lanka's two most famous sites, Mulkirigala sounded like a winner.
One of Sri Lanka's most typical dishes, and perhaps my favorite, is kottu. Combining rotti bread, veggies, a variety of spices and (optionally) egg, cheese or chicken, it's one of the country's few specialties in which rice plays no role. And the best part is, you don't ever have to look for a restaurant which serves kottu ... just listen.
The village of Dickwella's claim to fame is the Wewurukannala Temple, which houses the largest Buddha in Sri Lanka. But there's more to see here than just some big statue. A marvelously kitschy image house, an illustrated Hall of Sin, colorful statues and a resident elephant are among the secondary highlights of this entertaining place of worship.
No, Dickwella and the Hoo-maniya Blowhole is not the perverted name of a new punk band, but the twin objects of our first day trip outside of Tangalla. The blowhole is a natural wonder formed by cliffs along the coast, and Dickwella is a frantic coastal town where activity can reach a level of absurdity.