Sri Lanka

Sea Turtle Hatchery at Peraliya

One of the most magical experiences I have ever done was to release baby turtles into the sea. In Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka, my friend, Mark, told me that he had been to the hatchery several times before I got there, and each time they told him that the turtles would be released very soon. Mark wanted me to be there when the babies were released, and he hoped that I wouldn’t miss it.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

During the week, we walked down to the hatchery from home, and the guy told us that they would be liberating the babies the following evening.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

So, the next day we returned, only to be met by a big group of people. Obviously, the news had spread and they too wanted to witness this spectacle. The guy who runs the hatchery told us about their charges. Some of the larger turtles had been injured by boats or had lost a flipper from being entangled in nets.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

The ones that had lost flippers aren’t able to swim straight in the sea and become easy prey, so they are rescued and kept at the hatchery until they are able to be released. The manager told us that he teaches them how to swim and catch food again. He does this by reducing the amount of water in the tank and when the turtle can swim and feed easily, he increases the water level. It continues like that until the turtle can swim and feed in deeper water. Once they have fully recuperated, they are released back into the wild.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Things to do in Sri Lanka

I was amazed, not only at his knowledge of sea turtles, but his compassion for wanting to help these beautiful creatures was inspiring. I am never quite sure whether these establishments really do have the animals best interests at heart, or whether it’s just a money making scheme, but I felt differently about this place. They really seemed to want to be help the animals and be involved in the conservation of the species.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Things to do in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, people eat turtle eggs, however the hatchery takes on the task of collecting the eggs from the beach or paying the fisherman for them. They are then taken back to the hatchery and it’s here that the babies will begin their lives. The eggs are buried in sand and they incubate until they are ready to hatch. The people working at the hatchery are careful to replicate things as they would be in the wild, so after the eggs are buried, the sand is built up in a conical shape, so when the babies hatch, the sand collapses in on them and the turtles have to scrabble to make their way out into the world.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Things to do in Sri Lanka

We made our way to the small beach where loads of others had congregated, waiting for this wonderful spectacle. We noticed a Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) flying overhead. We watched as the kite was attacked by three, considerly, smaller birds, maybe protecting their young perhaps, or trying to get rid of the competition for what was about to happen.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

We did think it odd that the kite was there at the exact same time as the turtles were being released. Although, I guess, this is what happens in the wild, predators know when events like this are happening and they congregrate. However, this is the unfortunate thing with human intervention. On one hand, the hatchery works tirelessly in their effort to protect the turtles, but the mere fact that they collect eggs from the beach and release the babies amidst a crowd of tourists must alert predators to what they are doing. Brahminy Kites are intelligent birds, and they use associative learning in the wild where visual and auditory cues help them to search for food.

The guys in charge told everyone that each person could come and take a baby to release. We weren’t expecting that! We thought it would be observing only! We were thrilled, although come to think of it now, the babies may have been a tad scared of these big human forms looming in over them. But, they seemed eager to get on their way, their flippers flapping vigorously. So with cute baby in between gentle fingers, we were told to line up and let them go all at once.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

And off they went! They were tiny, but they were so determined to reach the water. The waves had other ideas though, and swept the little ones back to where they had started. But they continued on and, eventually, after much encouragement from the humans, they made it to the sea, and there they began their journey into deeper water and through their long lives.

Things to do in Sri Lanka

Suddenly, the Brahminy Kite reappeared, flew overhead, took a swooping dive, and swiped one of the babies up into its beak. We all shouted at it, like that was going to do any good. We thought about what happens in the wild. Only 1 in 1,000 turtles survive to adulthood. There were 50 babies released, so we hoped that the other 49 made it! But, still, one has to wonder, are the humans to blame in this instance?

As our little turtle scampered towards the sea, both Mark and I had tears in our eyes, as did a few others I expect. We almost started full on crying. They were tears of joy though, it was a really emotional experience, setting that tiny creature off on its journey into the big wide expanse of the ocean. And to think, if those babies survive to adulthood, the female of the species, remarkably, returns to the same beach she was born, to lay her eggs. They truly are amazing animals and deserve to be protected. I can only hope that this hatchery really is making a difference.

Click here for more baby sea-turtles.

Sea Turtle Hatchery, Peraliya-Telwatta, Sri Lanka

Website: www.srilankanturtles.com

Email: bknimal@yahoo.com ruwan_5@yahoo.com

A Beautiful Home in Hikkaduwa

Sri Lanka

I spent the first few days of 2018 on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, otherwise known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. It really is one of my favourite destinations for a number of reasons, the beautiful scenery, the wildlife, the food, and the wonderful hospitality of the Sri Lankan people.

After 7 years, my friend Mark has left Thailand and is currently living in the coastal town of Hikkaduwa on Sri Lanka’s south west coast, and I was lucky enough to stay in the house he has rented.

Dahana Holiday House

And what a house it was! Dahana Holiday House is something else. A gorgeous villa with an exquisite garden with green grass, vibrant flowers, many species of trees and plants, and daily visits from colourful birds and butterflies. There’s even a mongoose that roots around in the undergrowth every day which I, sadly, never got to see. And let’s not forget the fish pond with koi carp, statues, and interesting wall hangings inside. It’s not your average place to stay that’s for sure.

Dahana Holiday House is located in Seenigama, a small Sri Lankan village, around 2 kilometres from the main town of Hikkaduwa. It’s a sleepy neighbourhood where the locals go about their day to day business. As you walk along the small lane to the main Colombo-Galle road, men on bicycles cycle by, women in brightly coloured saris pass you by, with just a hint of curiosity in their eyes, and couples walking along hand in hand, sheltered from the sun by their umbrellas. Dare to say hello and you’ll get a wonderfully warm smile in return. Crossing over the main railway line makes for some fabulous photo opportunities, and if you’re there at the right time you can marvel at the train as it trundles past with its passengers hanging out of the doors.

The Guys

The house is looked after by manager, Sanjaya Indrajith, and housekeeper, Lasitha Pathum, or just Pathum. Pathum is also a fantastic cook and he’ll rustle up just about anything you desire for breakfast from typical Sri Lankan fare to European food. His eggs, sausages and tomatoes served with toast is delicious and just what you need for the day ahead.

Accommodation in Sri Lanka
Sanjaya Indrajith
Accommodation in Sri Lanka
Lasitha Pathum

Healthy Living

It’s not only Dahana Holiday House that will lift your spirits while staying here. There is also the, aptly named, Villa Spice Forest, a second villa, just as gorgeous and just as calm as the first. Pathum took me on a tour of the grounds and he explained that the resort uses herbs and spices from the garden to produce Ayurveda medicines for health purposes. These same herbs and spices are also used in the food that he cooks. You’ll love the platter of fruits, like pineapple and guava, that is served straight from the trees. All of the food produced is organic without any fertilisers being added, so if you’re looking to stay healthy while enjoying your holiday, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll be as amazed as I was, when Pathum gives you a handful of leaves to smell and you recognise the smells of cinnamon, allspice, vanilla and ginger, or he points out turmeric and aloe vera plants.  It’s simply wonderful.

Meditation and Buddhism

Sanjaya told me that if visitors want to learn about Buddhism during their stay he will be only too happy to share the Buddhist philosophy and a little of the Sri Lankan history and culture. If mediation is on your mind, he can teach you why it’s important and how to use it properly. Believe me, the quiet and stillness of the garden is the perfect place for morning meditation or maybe a spot of yoga.

River Safari

Both Sanjaya and Pathum speak English and are on hand to help with anything from organising trips to pickups and drop offs at the airport. My friend and I wanted to go on a river safari, so we talked to the guys and they suggested we visit the Madu River or Madu Ganga. They told us there was a lake 10 minutes from Hikkaduwa, but they suggested we travel the 8 kilometres to the Madu River because this was the better place to visit. We weren’t disappointed. Sanjaya and Pathum drove us there in their tuk-tuk and even came on the safari with us. The river is huge and has some 64 islands and is home to over 300 species of plants and over 248 species of animals. It is said to be one of the last remaining areas of untouched mangrove forests in Sri Lanka. As we travelled along the river we saw brightly coloured kingfishers, water monitors, snoozing in the mangroves, sea eagles, herons and cormorants. We got off the boat onto Cinnamon Island and we learned how cinnamon sticks are made. The guy who lives there stripped the bark of the tree, this alone smelled heavenly, then he carved strips off the bark with his knife and laid them on a rack to dry out. My friend and I were intrigued because you don’t often think about where things come from when you’re shopping in the supermarket. I’m a cinnamon lover, it’s so healthy for you, so we bought some cinnamon powder for tea and a small jar of cinnamon oil which is good for fighting viruses and helps to decrease inflammations, among other things.

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Around Hikkaduwa

Dahana Holiday House and Spice Forest is just 400m from the sea, in fact, when the waves are high, you can just about hear them crashing onto the beach on a still night. The town is not far away and there are tuk-tuks available if you want to spend the evening in any number of Hikkaduwa’s bars or restaurants. It’s also ideally located for onward travel as the train and bus stations are close by.

There’s plenty of stuff to see in Hikkaduwa. Hikkaduwa beach is a stunning stretch of golden sand perfect for relaxing or surfing in the huge waves. Seenigama Muhudu Vihara is a small temple located on a tiny island just offshore, just a 3 minute boat ride away. The Tsunami Honganji Vihara is a temple erected to commemorate those that lost their lives in the 2004 tsunami. A statue of the Buddha, with its hands facing the sea for protection, was donated by the Japanese for good luck. There is another tsunami museum further along the road with hundreds of photos which brings home just how devastating this natural disaster was. The woman who runs the museum will give you a little insight into what happened. It’s very sad and shocking, but it’s a beautiful memorial to visit.

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Just a 15 minute walk from the house, in the small town of Peraliya, is the sea turtle hatchery. A fantastic place to learn of the conservation work they are doing to protect these beautiful sea creatures, and the programs in place for recovering turtles before they are released back into the sea. If you’re lucky enough to be around when the baby turtles are released into the sea for the first time, it’s an experience not to be missed.

The Details

During the high season between October and March Dahana Holiday House costs $55 per night and can sleep up to 6 people. For over 4 guests there is a charge of $10 per person, per night.

Villa Spice Forest has two parts, 2 rooms on the ground floor and 3 rooms upstairs. The cost for upstairs is $55 per night and can sleep up to 6 people. For over 4 guests there is a charge of $10 per person, per night. The ground floor also costs $55 per night and can sleep up to 4 people.

Low season between March and October the cost is $40 per night for both houses. Additional guests will be charged $10 per person per night.

If guests plan to stay more than 1 month they will receive a 30% discount.

$30 will be charged for cleaning for 2 week stay.

For bookings and prices for your chosen dates you can find Dahana Holiday House and Villa Spice Resort on www.booking.com and www.airbnb.com or contact Sanjaya at sanjayaindrajith@gmail.com/tel: +94 775787279.

Dahana Holiday House
Seenigama-Aluthwala Road
Hikkaduwa
Southern Province
Sri Lanka
80240

See morrisophotography.co.uk for more photos of Sri Lanka

 

Indian Ocean

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/indianocean
Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka

Indian Ocean, blue and bright
Beautiful, but hidden might

Spanning the globe from the west
It touches the shores of Asia
And further east

The crashing waves
The calm of the tide
It has many guises
You need to keep it on your side

Indian Ocean you are so majestic
Hiding life, sustaining life
You keep some delights from sight

Mesmerizing

Awe-inspiring

Magnificent

Our Indian Ocean

Author
Gill Morris

A Taste of Colombo’s Nightlife

Knowing someone in the country you are visiting has its benefits. My Sri Lankan friend, Pubudu, had already taken us around Colombo for the day and he had taken me to a beach side restaurant for dinner. You get to go to places that you wouldn’t normally go to simply because you don’t know the places exist.

Pubudu and Me

So on the last Friday of our trip we arranged to have a night out in Colombo with Pubbs and his friends. We got a tuk-tuk to meet Pubbs at his work place and then we drove to Floor by O- a bar in Colombo’s district 7.

It is 1000 LKR (around 5 GBP) to get in, although ladies get in free. The entrance fee is taken off the bill at the end of the night and we found out that the reason they do this is because people were coming in and not buying anything.

It was quite busy when we got there so we had to sit outside on the pool terrace. We met up with Pubbs’ friends, Nuwan and Kurt, had a few drinks and dinner and then went inside to soak up some Sri Lankan atmosphere.

Floor by O

It is quite a small club but it was very busy, the music was banging and they had a band playing as well. Everyone was dancing and enjoying their Friday evening- while we watched what was going on from the bar until I found myself jigging along to “Achy Breaky Heart” (there is a first for everything, believe me!)

We left there around 11pm and went to another bar- Margarita Blue Retro Pub- which is located in the Galadari Hotel. Much plusher than the previous one with more of an older crowd, great music again with a band playing and great views from the garden terrace.

Margarita Blue
Margarita Blue

It is such a pleasure meeting new friends- Nuwan was great fun to be around- he was a great dancer (he told us he had dancing lessons but then his friends added only for ONE DAY, which made us all laugh). Having had a few too many drinks we left around 1am and got a tuk-tuk back to Mount Lavinia.

We had a great time with the guys- I can’t thank them enough for showing us a bit more of Colombo at night, and to Pubbs for being our designated driver (he was sick so not drinking) and being very patient with us all getting drunk around him.

Galle- a very pleasurable day out

So having been very lazy for the first week, apart from going to Colombo and gate-crashing a party we decided to visit Galle. Galle is located on the east coast and is Sri Lanka’s fourth largest city and in the centre lies the Fort- the old Dutch quarter. Surrounding the Fort is a series of bastions which were used for coastal defence during the seventeenth century when the Dutch invaded and captured the town from the Portuguese.

We had befriended two people from Norwich- Jane and Brunty (so named because his nickname was Brontosaurus, being quite a big bloke)-and so we decided to share the cost of a van and driver and head south for the day.

Brunty, Jane and Mark

We left around 8.30am and arrived in Galle around midday- on the way passing through Beruwala (where I had stayed some twenty years ago), Bentota, and Hikkaduwa (Sri Lanka’s original hippy destination).

We had lunch at the first place we spotted- Mama’s Roof Cafe. A beautiful little place with a roof top restaurant overlooking the red brick roofs and the mosques and churches to the sea. We had a typical Sri Lankan lunch, which consisted of a meat dish- either fish or chicken-with an assortment of side dishes-dhal, ladies fingers, jack fruit and sour mango. It was delicious, washed down with a couple of Lion beers.

Mama’s Roof Cafe

IMG_1300

Then we went to visit the jungle beach with Silva (our guide for the day) and our driver. About 15 minutes outside of Galle we drove down very narrow little streets with stalls either side where you can buy anything from paintings to clothing-typically tourist stuff. The beach itself was indeed in the middle of the jungle and was situated in a beautiful little bay and as you can imagine the sand was golden and the sea was brilliant blue. It was beautiful but it didn’t have the local charm of Mount Lavinia-where there are less tourists and much less busy.

Back at the Fort we walked around the ramparts, which protect Galle’s Fort from ever becoming victim to modernisation. There are a number of beautiful little streets with little cafes and shops, which make for a very pleasurable way to pass a few hours. You can enter the Fort through the main gate and the three fortifications here- the Sun, Moon and Star bastions-protected the area from attack by land.

Main Gate
Main Gate

There is a pathway that leads you over the ramparts and you can walk all around the Fort. The bastions are huge and have different names- Zwart (Black); Ackersloot; Aurora; Point Utrecht; Triton; Neptune; Clippenberg and Aeolus.  The latter bastions give beautiful views across the town and you can see that the walls are formed of coral which were dragged into place by slaves.

We left Galle around 5 o’clock and made our way back to Mount Lavinia happy that we had decided to have a day out. Galle is a beautiful place and if you are into architecture, a relaxed atmosphere and a bit of history then this is well worth a visit. I for one will be going back there when I return to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka- a new episode

Having left my Mum and Dad at Heathrow I arrived, some 10 hours later, skipping ahead in time 5 and a half hours, at my destination- Mount Lavinia, on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. I had been to Sri Lanka twenty odd years ago when I got married for the first time but things change right? So leaving Bandaranaike airport the taxi took the new express way towards Colombo. I had arranged for the hotel to pick me up but when I got there, there was no-one waiting so had to take a taxi which was OK  and I arrived safely enough, but I could see in the mirror that the drivers eyes were drooping and he was nearly falling asleep. I said “Hey, you falling asleep?” “No, no, no  ma’am am OK” was the reply, but I wasn’t taking any chances so talked about nothing in particular for the rest of the way.Mount_Lavinia_Map

Mount Lavinia is on the west coast about an hour from the airport and when you arrive in a new place your first impressions are not always the best ones. It basically looked like there was nothing there apart from the local shops, houses and people. The hotel- Ranveli Beach Resort- looked smaller than it did in the photographs I had seen, and they failed to take a picture of the huge derelict building at the back AND there is a railway line that separates the hotel from the beach.  I knew about the railway track because I had been reading the reviews on Trip Adviser and there were mixed opinions about it. I have no problems with the many trains passing by- it adds to the charm of this little suburb, especially when you see all the locals hanging out of the doors on the way to wherever they are going.

Back to the hotel-it is a lovely little place. The room is basic with no hot water but that doesn’t matter when you have been out in the heat all day, although it hasn’t been that hot since I have been here. The staff are absolutely wonderful and are happy to help with whatever you need.

I arrived safe and sound to a big hug from my good friend Mark, who I know from living in Surin in Thailand. I dropped my bags in my room and we wandered along the beach and spent the next few hours catching up over a few beers and we managed to find the best red wine in Asia I have ever had. And the food… it is amazing…quite spicy but so very tasty.

I felt rubbish when I first got there- I had a throat infection anyway and the jet lag didn’t help plus my ears were blocked from the pressure of descending on the plane. So the next day I slept until the afternoon and just chilled out around the pool.

In the evening I met up with my Sri Lankan friend, Pubudu (Pubbs). He took me to a couple of bars-one of them you would never guess it was there because when we arrived it was pitch black and there appeared to be nothing across the railway track-but on the beach side was Buba Beach Bar and there we sat with no light apart from a candle on the table, the waves of the Indian Ocean lapping onto the beach eating devilled chicken and nasi goreng for dinner washed down by a few cold Lion beers.

The next day Pubbs took us for a day out in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. Because of the traffic, which is completely crazy, (as in most Asian cities there are no rules on the road, cars, motorcycles and tuk-tuks all competing for road space) we took the coastal road into the city. There is no central area to Colombo- there are high rise modern office blocks intermingled with run down shops and houses.

There are the tell-tale signs of Sri Lanka’s colonial past in the form of beautiful buildings with their colonnade balconies and terra-cotta tiled roofs. Different religions are evident as well, with Muslim mosques and Hindu and Buddhist temples. We made our way to Slave Island- so named because of the some four thousand African slaves that worked in the city. It is not actually an island but surrounded by Beira Lake and, in the seventeenth century, this lake was filled with crocodiles by the Dutch to stop the slaves from escaping.

We visited Gangaramaya Temple which is one of Colombo’s most important shrines. There are collections of Thai Buddhas, Chinese Bodhisattvas, and Hindu deities, there is a bo tree in the middle with prayer flags on the branches, and there is a room with an odd selection of items- such as watches, jewellery and a couple of vintage cars parked outside.

A short walk away, situated on Beira Lake is Seema Malaka another important Buddhist Temple- this one is used for the inauguration of monks.  Interestingly it was designed by a Sri Lankan architect but paid for by a Colombo Muslim, who had fallen out with his fellow Muslims and decided to get his own back by investing in this Buddhist shrine. The temple is flanked by rows of Thai Buddhas which make for an interesting photo opportunity with the modern day buildings in the background.

There is a small island in the middle of the lake which can be reached over a bridge. Mark and I wandered round and I wondered why Pubbs hadn’t followed us but I found out later that he was embarrassed because this is the place that young Sri Lankans come to spend time with each other away from the prying eyes of parents-all around there were young couples smooching under umbrellas or lying under the shade of the trees.  We agreed that this sort of behaviour makes a welcome change from the somewhat garishness of the west.

We had a lunch of Sri Lankan curry and on the way back we visited the independence monument which was built in 1948 to commemorate when power passed from the British to the United National Party until the leadership of Don Stephen Senanayake.

The next couple of days we just chilled around the hotel and didn’t really venture that far. We had big plans of going here and there but four days in we were just happy to chill and relax.  And one of the things that I love about being in a different country is that random things happen and you find yourself in situations that wouldn’t necessarily happen at home. One of those things happened when we hadn’t gone very far during the day and we had literally crossed the railway tracks to a restaurant, not five seconds away. We had dinner at the bar and were talking to a guy from Boston who had just arrived from Austria. I noticed a bar which was playing loud music and it seemed to be quite busy, so after dinner we decided to check it out. We stumbled into a private party for the employees of Singer who had come together for their end of year party, or something like that. Well as someone who likes Asian guys I was loving it (a few beers had been consumed) but I have never had so much attention in the space of one hour.  I was dancing and had about ten lads all around me all asking me to dance and trying to pull me onto the dance floor. The guys were harmless but I was glad Mark was with me, the guys were a little overpowering to say the least! We got free beer and when we went to sit down because we were exhausted with all the Sri Lankan dancing, the manager came over and asked us whether the guys were behaving themselves.  So having befriended a couple of new people we left them to it. We saw them the next day at breakfast as they were staying in our hotel and they were a lot quieter than they had been the previous evening!

So one week has passed since I left the UK and my family and friends. I miss them all but this is the start of a new chapter in my life and I can’t wait to turn the next few pages.