Giants in the Wild at Rekawa Beach

I wasn’t sure at all if it was going to be possible to see a giant turtle at Rekawa Beach, but I figured it was worth a shot to tuk tuk over there anyway and try our luck.

Man, am I glad I did!

I’m going to start this post with an apology about the naff-ness of my photos. It was pitch black, guys, so I hope I’m forgiven. Sorry. I’ll show you my one photo of the real thing at the bottom of this post, along with some useful information for those wanting to experience this for themselves.

Green Turtle, Rekawa Beach

This was a model of a giant turtle at the visitor centre

The reason you might see giant turtles on the beach is because they leave the sea to come and lay their eggs. They only do this after dark and when the surroundings are very calm and they feel comfortable.

Rekawa Beach is one of the few beaches in the world where these giant turtles come. And guess what, Rekawa Beach is right by Tangalle Beach, where we were staying.

About the giant turtles on Rekawa Beach

In Sri Lanka there are many types of sea turtles that visit the island’s shores to lay their eggs. The green turtle is the famous one because it is a giant turtle. And that’s what we were hoping to see on Rekawa Beach.

Let’s just get it straight what I mean by giant: a green sea turtle can weigh 160kg and measure 150m in length. That is almost as long as I am tall and the weight of two average-size men. Can you imagine watching a beast like that emerge from the water and trundle up the beach?

Laying their eggs

Despite having possibly covered hundreds of miles during her life, when the female green turtle is ready to lay her eggs she returns to the beach where she was born. They have some kind of inbuilt sophisticated GPS not yet available to man.

When the giant turtle reaches her desired spot, using her enormous flippers she digs a hole in the sand that is big enough for her to comfortably sit inside. And there she can lay up to 200 eggs. When she is ready to return to the sea, she fills the hole back in, covering the eggs over and makes her way to the water without a second glance back.

Now the eggs are extremely vulnerable, the green turtle is an endangered specie. In some cultures the eggs are collected and eaten. On some beaches around the world, Sri Lanka included, well-meaning volunteers collect the eggs and monitor their development in an incubator, releasing them once they hatch. On Rekawa Beach the eggs are left alone to hatch naturally.

The eggs don’t hatch for around two months, when the baby sea turtles have to make the most dangerous journey of their lives: they have to scamper from the nest to the sea, which they also do at night. This walk is when they are most likely to be attacked by predators, because don’t forget, they are not giants yet, they are tiny. Can we have an awww?

My Experience on Rekawa Beach

So Toni and I fancied seeing this once in a lifetime phenomenon. That’s why we found ourselves at around 8pm in Dilantha’s tuk tuk driving though the pitch black, narrow lanes from Tangalle to Rekawa.

On arrival at Rekawa, you have to “check in” and pay (of course) at the visitors’ centre. You can’t just go stomping around Rekawa Beach on your own.

And then you wait.

Depending on whether it’s high or low season, there might be up to 50 people there waiting with you, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the same thing. It was low season when we were there so there were about 20 others. Low season also means less chance of seeing a turtle. This was January and the nesting season is typically between April and July.

They have volunteers from the centre out on the beach, very carefully searching for green sea turtles coming out of the water. Which is hard, as it is pitch black. They can’t carry torches because the light disturbs the sea turtles. And if the turtles are spooked for whatever reason they will abandon their mission and return to the water.

The volunteers are able to use a torch with a red light because this is a light that the turtles can’t see, but it gives very little in way of illumination, as I was about to find out…

Turtle trekking on Rekawa Beach

When one of the spotters came in to tell the centre that there was a turtle on the beach we were rounded up into a group and instructed to stay together and stay behind the leader. He was the only one who was allowed to carry a red torch and we were told that if we shined any light or used our flash we would be sent back to the centre with no refund.

This walk from the centre to where the turtle had been spotted was hell for me. It wasn’t just a flat beach with soft sand, it was dunes and creepy plants that tripped you up. And it seemed to take an eternity to reach the turtle.

When we got there we were allowed to stand behind the turtle who was just finishing her massive hole. It was truly awesome watching these enormous flippers graceful pushing the earth aside.

The turtle got into the hole but didn’t stick around for long; something spooked her and she changed her mind and made a run for it back to the water. That’s when we were allowed to start taking photos – without flash, of course.

rekawa beach

Run baby, run!

The volunteers said that sometimes the turtles do that; just change their mind for no apparent reason. That the hole didn’t feel right or something. It wasn’t that we had done anything to spook her, we were told.

Even so, it was breathtaking to see such an awesome creature in the flesh. I hadn’t even known that turtles could grow so big and I was awestruck. They can live for up to 80 years too!

We had to stumble our way back to the centre in the dark and we were allowed to wait in a small group on the beach. We couldn’t talk or move though. The idea was to wait and see if another sea turtle appeared. But Toni and I were satisfied with having seen one turtle and we were starting to feel quite bitten! So we decided to make a move. We found Dilantha who had been waiting for us. He took us back to Coppenrath in his tuk tuk, where we had a cocktail or two and an early night.

Useful info:

  • Return tuk tuk from Tangalle to Rekawa including driver waiting: 1,400rs (9,15€). Call Dilantha, our driver: (94) 71 1685594.
  • Conservation fee at Rekawa Beach visitor centre: 1,000rs (6,50€) per person.
  • Length of time spent: approx. 2 hours from 8pm to 10pm.

How about you? Have you seen a green turtle or any other friend sea giants? Stay tuned and I’ll tell you soon about my experience in Mirissa with the biggest sea giants on earth…

Filed Under: asiafeaturedSri LankaSri Lanka BeachesWildlife

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About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....

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