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A baby turtle on a log

Tarantulas, Turtles and Train Propositions in Sri Lanka

By Gap 360

Last updated: 24th June 2013

Continuing on with her stories from Sri Lanka, Gap 360's Lisas has been dishing the dirt on our Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation project...

A local bus from Colombo to Kosgoda “whizzed” me down south towards our fantastic Turtle Conservation project. I say “whizzed”, but what I mean is “dawdled” its way along the coast giving me plenty of time to soak up life beyond the bus, including a Brahminy Kite (big bird of prey and very impressive) circling over a river.

I arrived at the accommodation which I was really impressed with – even better that it was literally across the road from the turtle hatchery and the ocean beyond the sandy beach. Idyllic.

So the accommodation was great – nice, comfortable rooms and a great communal area inside, a dining area outside where all the volunteers can sit and eat together of an evening (with their fingers, don’t forget!). The wildlife in and around the accommodation was not so great – I spotted a spider bigger than my pet hamster at home – but hey, this is a tropical country, whatcha gonna do? And the mozzie nets over the beds, give you a nice sense of safety when you settle down to sleep at night!

Unfortunately for me, my visit was very brief. For those of you who choose to volunteer here, you’ll settle into life on the project quickly and soon be making a big difference to the chances of the local turtle population. You’ll get involved in egg collection, hatching and releasing back into the ocean – in addition to educating visitors to the hatchery and cleaning out the tanks (less glamorous but vital).

You’ll also participate in some great community work, teaching children English and also assisting local women with basket weaving and other crafts. If you can help them improve their English they will benefit from being able to sell their stuff straight to the tourists and in turn have a much better chance of making a living. Makes sense right?

I was lucky enough to witness 43 hatchlings (green turtles) bursting forth from the sand beneath my feet. It was surprising to see how much energy they had as they emerged into the light. Those little blighters were kept in tanks for a couple of days while their umbilical cords healed over, then released after dark to give them the best possible chance of survival, free from predators from above! We released 50 little turtles into the sea while I was visiting and as they charged towards the breaking waves I said a little prayer for them all. Go on my sons!

Whether you stay for two weeks or two months, your time on the coast will force you to slow your pace (it’s usually too hot to hurry) and enjoy life in its simplest form. Love it.

Back in Colombo after a pretty sweaty bus journey, I was wishing I hadn’t brought such a big backpack with me, especially as I had to have it on my lap for the full 2 and a half hours. Sri Lankans travel light and so it was quite an amusement for them to see me buried under my backpack. Next time I’ll take almost nothing – it’s so hot you only want to wear T-shirts and shorts anyway and anything you forget, you can buy when you are there. BIG TIP – take out half the things you have packed in your bag before you head to the airport!

While waiting at the train station for a lift to the next project, a very nice young man came and stood quite near to me. It took him a good 10 minutes to try out some English and then another 10 minutes more before he handed me his Navy ID card to inspect. Another 10 minutes later and I was perusing the payslip that he had handed to me. And 10 minutes later he asked me for my phone number. I explained that calls to international mobiles would be very pricey and in all honesty, I wasn’t worth it! But he asked twice more, very nicely, and just as I was about to meet his very polite request, he informed me that his train had arrived, bid me farewell and disappeared from my life. C’est la vie!

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