Turtle Watch Rekawa
If you come at 5pm you might be able see baby turtles hatching with one of our guides. We only allow natural hatchings so there is no guarantee of seeing any baby turtles. At 8.30pm there's a very good chance you will see an adult turtle laying her eggs. Please come to the center between 7.45pm and 8.30pm. Our recommendations how to visit and where find us HERE
No flash photography or flash lights are allowed and you are only allowed to be on the beach accompanied with our local guides between 7pm and 6am.
The Turtlewatch in Rekawa, Sri Lanka, aims for a balanced approach between protection of turtles, community development and eco-tourism. Since turtles are (critically) endangered and their eggs still poached for consumption it is crucial to protect their nesting beaches.
In 1993, Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) was established in Sri Lanka as an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO). TCP aims to protect all sea turtles native to Sri Lanka. The TCP began to initiate local and national conservation programs in Sri Lanka to address vital environmental issues. The TCP, from the beginning, aimed to devise and facilitate the implementation of sustainable marine turtle conservation strategies through education, research and community participation. Their activities consisted for example of protecting the turtles and turtle nests, community building, raising awareness and research activities.
In 1996 the TCP established its fundamental program in Rekawa (7 km east of Tangalle) by a pioneering in situ marine turtle conservation program, after research confirmed that Rekawa is Sri Lanka’s most important turtle nesting beach. Since the most widespread form of turtle exploitation within this area is illegal poaching of turtle eggs, the TCP implemented an environmentally sound model – a program involving local people formerly dependent of the collection of turtle eggs. By involving them as ‘nest protectors’ and ‘research assistants’ TCP was able to provide them with an alternative, more sustainable income to the poaching of turtle eggs.
The nest protectors organized themselves as the Nature Friends of Rekawa (NFR). As from 1997 tourists were invited to come and watch the nesting process of sea turtles. Therefore, a couple of the nest-protectors where trained to be a guide. In 2006 Rekawa beach was named the first official turtle Sanctuary of Sri Lanka, so the beach has a special status and it is not allowed to develop hotels upon the beach. TCP’s program in Rekawa gained recognition internationally and still continues their important work – for more information, please check their website, www.tcpsrilanka.org.
Since 2012 Rekawa is a community run project, managed on a day by day basis by the local nest protectors of NFR. With the support of tourists who visit the project, they became self-sustainable.
Become a Volunteer
Millions of years ago, long before humans, marine turtles started coming to the undisturbed beaches of Sri Lanka to lay their eggs. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists all five species of marine turtles (Leatherback, Green turtle, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead and Hawksbill) that frequent Sri Lanka’s shores to nest as endangered, vulnerable or critically endangered. All these five species nest on Rekawa beach in the southern part of this island. Sri Lankan government legislation (1972) provides national protection for marine turtles and prohibits harming of turtles. However, turtle nesting beaches are being disturbed by tourist industry development and feeding habitats, such as coral reefs, are being destroyed by pollution and unsustainable harvesting. People still eat turtle eggs – and turtles – because they are considered very healthy and festive. Many turtles are accidentally caught and drown in fishing nets each year. The critically endangered Hawksbill turtle has been hunted to the brink of extinction for its carapace to provide raw materials for the illegal ‘tortoiseshell’ trade.
The Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) developed a unique approach to turtle conservation in Rekawa – and continued this up until this day. Firstly, it provides in situ protection for turtle nests. This means that eggs remain where they were laid, with nest protectors providing protection across the entire beach. This maximizes the yield of the nests and ensures as many hatchlings as possible survive into the sea. All nest protectors that are working on Rekawa beach are local men and are former turtle egg poachers. They protect the beach 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in six hour shifts. The nest-protectors ensure all nests are safe from human poaching and, when possible, from animal predators. Besides these activities they make sure the beach remains clean and support the nightly Turtle Watches by patrolling and spotting turtles as they arrive on the beach, checking on the status of nesting turtles and – if necessary – relocate the eggs to a higher, safer place on the beach if the water could wash away the nest. Providing this type of in-situ nest protection is the most effective form of turtle nest conservation. When we know a nest is due to hatch, the nest protector regularly checks for activity in the sand and guides the hatchlings to the sea – making sure crabs, birds, dogs and other land predators do not eat them. Late starters are helped and might be spotted by tourists.
The second core element of TCP’s approach was to establish projects that over time become financially self-sustainable, funded predominantly by tourism revenues and completely run by the local community (see also COMMUNITY PROJECTS). Therefore all benefits from the project directly impact the livelihood of the local people who live alongside the protected wildlife. NFR now runs the daily Turtlewatch in Rekawa and is self-sustainable.
Some Beautiful Moments
It’s these precious moments, that make all our efforts worth it. Take a look here, to see campaigns through our lens.