19.09.2013 - 19.09.2013 32 °C
Our next stop from Galle was Tangalle, a beach town along the Souh coast. We had to get a local bus to Matara and another local bus to Tangalle, costing 60Rs each, per bus. The public transport in Sri Lanka is superb. We have not had to wait for a bus once and they go all over and are really cheap. Sri Lankan people are really friendly and they always point us in the right direction at the bus station. Just stand around looking gormless and lost and someone will approach to help.
At Tangalle we checked in at Kingfisher Guesthouse in a clean but basic room for 1500Rs and went for an explore. The beach at Tangalle is stunning. There was no one on it and the golden sands are backed by lush palm trees with the occasional sea break.
The sea is rough and the waves are gigantic but the water is crystal clear. The whole place is like a ramshackled beach town, a gorgeous tropical paradise that is empty. We found a beach cafe and had a much needed cold drink and booked a tuk-tuk for the evening to take us to Rekawa Beach and The Turtle Conservation Project, the main reason we came so far along the coast.
The small beach front cafes and restaurants at Tangalle have seafood on the menu so we shared a fresh grilled fish for tea and sat at a table for two, on the sand by candlelight and enjoyed a beer. We were the only people and it was beautiful. It was full moon and the coast was lit up with the light from the moon. We enjoyed watching the massive waves hit the rocks and a friendly street dog kept us company.
By 7.30pm we were very excited and our tuk-tuk picked us up. We payed 1300Rs for the return taxi fare and it is a fair distance down some very rough and ready tiny lanes. We were welcomed into the information centre by one of the professionals and he explained what would happen. We had to wait in the centre while guides search the beach for any activity. Only if they spot a turtle are viewers allowed to go down to the beach and see so people do not disturb or put turtle off from coming onto the beach.
The Turtle Conservation Project protects turtles that nest on Rekawa beach. Five out of the seven sea turtles in the world nest on the beach and over the past 300 years turtle numbers have decreased by 99%. The project firmly believes that the best way to protect them is to guard the beach and keep the eggs in situ rather than remove them to incubate as female turtles will always come back to the beach they were born to nest themselves so it employs a team of professionals to watch the beach and lecture on the turtles plight.
We looked around the small but well informed centre and then sat and waited patiently. We are a month too late for the turtle nesting season but we thought we would give it a shot. We only had to wait around 45 minutes and a guide came into the centre to tell us there was a green turtle currently nesting. We paid our 1000Rs donation and headed onto the beach. We had to trek quite a long way down the beach but as we walked we could see old tracks of turtles who had hauled themselves out of the ocean onto the beach. No light is permitted on the beach as this will disrupt the turtles apart from the guides red torch as the turtles apparently don't have good vision towards the red end of the spectrum so it does not effect them.
Once we made it down we were amazed by the sight. She was huge! She was at least a metre or a metre and a half and was in the process of covering her eggs with sand. The full moon was so bright that every time the clouds moved past it seemed like someone was turning a light on. We could see everything so clearly. We sat silently and watched her struggle to move the sand with her flippers. She kept taking huge sighs and having a rest but after a long time she had buried her precious eggs. We watched for a long long time, and it seemed like she would never be satisfied as she just kept flicking more and more sand behind her. When she decided they were buried sufficiently she dug herself out and made her way back to the ocean. It looked like she was working very hard and she kept having to rest on the way down but when she finally felt the water it spurred her on and she disappeared into the waves.
It was beautiful to watch and to see the struggle up close was magical. Getting photos was difficult as obviously you cant use flash and it is night time so we have a few terrible photos but we were content just to watch the spectacle. The nest will now be watched carefully and in two months hundreds of little babies will make the dash to the water. We didn't get back to our guest house until midnight but it was worth the long night. Sat on the beach in the moon light watching a gigantic turtle bury her eggs was just unforgettable.