Monday, 14 December 2015

Rekawa Turtle Watch Center - By Lorna Baldi

Hello everyone! My name is Lorna Baldi, I'm a PADI Sea Turtle Awareness Diver instructor and I would like to tell you about my experience.

During my recent journey in Sri Lanka, I had the chance to stop in Rekawa, a little village a few kilometres east of Tangalle on the south coast.

There I discovered that at night, all year round, sea  turtles regularly come to the beach to lay their eggs.

Once I arrived at the Turtle Watch Center, I started to learn more about the  importance of the center and of the beach in the Turtle Conservation Project. In 1996 the TCP confirmed that Rekawa beach was the most important sea turtle  nesting beach of Sri Lanka and started, by involving the locals, a conservation program.

The little center appears immediately to be very interesting.  While I wait to be accompanied to the beach by a guide from the center, I take a look at the information inside. A poster indicates the 5 species of sea turtle that frequent the beach ( Hawksbill, Green, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, Leatherback), their diet and their feeding grounds. There is information about each type of Turtle.

While I'm looking around I get the call I was waiting for. There are two sea turtles that have arrived  to nest. As I walk on the beach in the dark and under the rain, the guide explains that the  turtle must not be  disturbed while preparing her nest. The  risk of abandoning the beach is very high. Sea turtles cannot hear but can feel vibrations.

While I patiently wait, I go to observe the track that leads up from the water: it looks huge! The guide tells me that it is a Green Turtle.

Finally the  chamber is ready and at this point I can go  for a closer look. I am surprised to see how big and deep it is. Only the guide has a torch, a special night viewing lamp. No other light is allowed. I take turns with the others at watching the eggs being laid. It is something amazing! The eggs drop one or two at a time together with mucus. At times the Turtle seems to take a rest. The whole procedure is extremely exhausting for her.

Finally it all ends. She starts covering the nest with the back flippers at first and then starts using the front ones too to disguise the nest.

We leave her to finish the covering of the nest seeing that it would take another hour.

While I head back to the center with wonder still in my eyes, I ask the guide a few questions about what I had witnessed.  He tells me that she will be back again to the same beach later on in the year to lay again and that the sex of the turtles that will  hatch in 60 days depends on the temperature of the sand. Usually, sand under 28 degrees produces males, while over produces females (this I already knew but it is always better to be sure).

Anyway, if you happen to be in Sri Lanka this is a place you cannot miss! It helps the project and the conservation of these beautiful creatures and it is a lifetime experience for yourselves.