Bucket List: Releasing Baby Turtles
We all felt a little emotional when we saw the baby sea turtles on Planet Earth II struggling to reach the sea and travelling inland instead, confused and misguided. Well we fell in love and were determined to get the opportunity to release some babies!
4 major facts that’ll make you want to help:
- Only 1 in 1000 baby turtles will survive to adulthood
- They rely on the natural light on the horizon so any artificial light surrounding them can easily disorientate them
- They sometimes mistake rubbish left on the beach as food and ingest it
- During their mighty journey to the sea, they have to dodge crabs, birds, dogs etc
So the little guys need a helping hand just getting to the sea and then we have to hope for the best.
There are quite a few sea turtles conservations but we chose Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project, based in Kosgoda which is a 10 minute bus ride from Bentota. It’s a bit of a difficult find as it looks like a bit of a shack by an isolated beach but stick with it, you’ll find it. Bring snacks and water, there are no shops around!
Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project truly cares for the turtle’s health and well-being before tourists’ money.
There is another company situated down the road with large turtle statues by the entrance. Seriously, every person who you pass will try to guide you to this conservation with the selling point being, ‘You’re allowed to hold all the turtles’. Do not hold sea turtles!
Turtles that are handled by countless tourists may face harm from traces of sun cream and insect repellent left on our hands. Holding them can also cause them to become stressed and panic. 🙁
When you get there..
After a tour around the conservation, learning the names of turtles and their stories, the sun was starting to set and it was time to prepare for the release.
We were each given a bucket with 5 baby turtles (there were only 4 of us that day) and set out to meet the moonlight on the beach. They were so wriggly and adorable. We were so excited that we forgot to even take a decent photo or video the experience until they were on their way.
Most of them made a dash for the horizon, others swayed a little but eventually found their way. However, one of Luke’s turtles just couldn’t do it – he wanted to travel towards the shack, kept falling down holes and turning upside down. The staff suspected that one of the baby turtles they had previously been watching was blind and this confirmed it for them so they adopted the poor baby.
Honestly, it may sound silly but when each turtle reaches the sea, you can’t help but feel overwhelmingly happy and proud. They reached the sea safely! For the rest of their days in the sea, who knows?!
More about Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project
The Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project hosts a number of disabled turtles that simply would not survive in the wild, like Nemo, who had a missing flipper. They also have an albino turtle and obviously just a few regular, healthy turtles – gotta give visitors some hope after all.
After taking the morning to explore the beach of Bentota, we walked into town to find buses heading towards Kosgoda, also heading in the same direction as Mirissa. Buses between Colombo and Mirissa / Galle travel along one road down the coast so it’s just a matter of getting any bus that’s driving in the right direction.
Once on the bus, we used our location on Google Maps to help us identify exactly where to stop the bus. In Sri Lanka, you pretty much just get on and off anywhere, there aren’t specific stops a lot of the time so don’t sit waiting to get off at the nearest bus stop.
If you are dropped off at the popular conservation with the huge turtles statues mentioned earlier, facing the conservation, walk right for about 10-15 minutes along the coast. You will pass a small popup shop and reach a concrete walled building with no roof and just outside, a cool seating area merged in the trees. You have reached your destination!
Please note: turtle releasing is after sunset at 18.00 and there is nothing else to do around the turtle hatchery, so have that in mind when planning your arrival!
Below are some of the turtles we got to visit in our brief but informative tour of the sanctuary.
Cost of Tour & Release: 2,500 Rupees per person (£12.5)
Tour Time: Anytime between 10.00am – 5.00pm
Time of Release: After sunset 6.00pm -6.30pm
Notes for releasing the turtles:
1 bucket /5 turtles each.
When you take them out of the bucket (they are wriggly) take a quick photo and put them on the sand, do not pick them back up.
When putting them on the sand, try placing them on flat, wet sand as they can get covered in dry sand quickly, from being wet in the bucket making it more of a struggle to reach the ocean.
Watch, enjoy and take pictures of their beautiful release to freedom and their first steps to the rest of their lives.