For the last four nights we have been staying at Mama Daisy’s homestay, in the Sri Lankan village of Rekawa, nestled between lagoon, beach, and jungle.
Normally home to volunteers from all over the world who come to look after the turtles, Mama Daisy’s was colourful and had a hostel like feel in the communal areas- despite Rich and I being, yet again, the only ones there. Daisy herself clearly enjoyed having people to look after, and lavished us with dish upon dish of fragrant rice, creamy curries, and fresh slices of juicy mango and sweet pineapple.
We also made friends with a young guy named Janaka, who helped Daisy run the homestay and is also heavily involved with turtle conservation in the area. He spoke good English and was pleasant and interesting to talk to. We chatted to him after many glorious meals about the politics in past and present Sri Lanka, Buddhism and meditation, and, of course, the turtles.
We stayed in a house slightly away from the main building, passing through a sandy garden lined with all types of tropical fruit trees to reach it. The lagoon was just visible through the lush undergrowth. One day we went on a canoe to see the wildlife, and visited a home in the jungle where the family kept fish.
We explored the village by rusty bicycles that we borrowed from Daisy’s, spending many mornings on glorious beaches that we had completely to ourselves. The waves pounded the shores- too strong for swimming- but we could sometimes sit in the shallows, or under the palm trees to keep cool.
Every afternoon we would take long naps, lazing away the fierce heat of the afternoon sun. It was on waking suddenly from one such nap that I had the strangest feeling that I was being watched. Sure enough, dangling down from the open window ledge was a furry silver face. Woozy from my sleep all I could do was let out a delighted squeak to Rich, ‘Monkey! Monkey!’
We saw many monkeys after that first one, they liked to play on the roof and tease the dogs. Once, cycling along the red dust tracks, we came across a exceptionally tame little monkey. Injured as a youngster, it had been taken in by one of the village families, and now was as friendly as could be. Before I knew what was happening it had clambered straight up the front wheel of my bicycle and was wrapping it’s little arms around my neck, nuzzling into me. The Sri Lankan girl who was with it laughed at the look on my face, and baby monkey happily jumped from me to her, squeaking delightedly.
The animals were amazing around Mama Daisy’s. Lizards and fireflies and (my favourite) FROGS everywhere! They like to hide under the fan and never ceased to make me giggle, especially when they hopped into the toilet. We had to chase them out with the convieniant Sri Lankan-style bum hose things they have in all of the bathrooms here. I’m yet to try using one, but if you want I’ll let you know when I do.
Janaka was eager to show us Turtle Watch, the conservation project down on Rekawa Beach – the main reason we had actually even come to Rekawa in the first place. It is a wonderful project, where the fishermen who used to perhaps take the turtles eggs to sell at market are now protecting the nests themselves, cleaning the beach during the day, and allowing tourists to watch the turtles nest without disturbing them. Volunteers also educate the local children about the importance of conservation today.
Rekawa Beach is one of the growing rarer places in the world, and the only place in Sri Lanka, where turtles can nest safely. From 8pm every evening, the nest protectors lead groups of visitors by red torch light (turtles cannot see that end of the colour spectrum) out onto the moonlit sands. There, you wait for the turtles to build their nest chambers, being careful to not disturb them, but once they begin laying, they fall into a trance like state, and you can then go right up to the turtles and actually see the soft ping pong ball-sized eggs plopping gently down into the nest behind them. They lay somewhere between 50-120 eggs.
Less than 50% of these eggs will live past infancy, and disturbingly low numbers will reach maturity – mainly, it seems, due to human activity through things like poisoning from oil spills, choking on rubbish pollution, and drowning in fishing nets. Light pollution and new beach resorts popping up on turtle nesting grounds is also causing monumental problems for these creatures too, as they will always return to the same place they hatched to lay their own eggs, and are consequently facing more and more problems.
Once the turtle has laid successfully, they then cover their precious nest with sand, and, slowly slowly, and with many pauses for breath, shift their ginormous weight back down across the sand until they are finally, and wonderfully it seemed to us, lifted away by the ocean. The entire laying process takes about 3 hours. We felt privileged to be able to witness this, not just once, but three times during our stay at the beach. It was a truely unforgettable experience that I believe we shall carry with us all our lives.
Hope you’re well.
Stay breezey 🙈
–Sorry about lack/quality of photos, it’s tricky to find a strong internet spot out here. I’ll get on it when we’re back in about three weeks time, so you can all look forward to that :p —