This review is more of a warning than a guide.
During a recent stay at The Fortress Hotel & Spa in Koggala, we kept catching glimpses of turtles' little heads poking out of the waves, and were keen to see more. We asked the reception, who advised us there was a hatchery just down the road. Little did we know, there were actually two hatcheries, and we went to the first (and worst) one.
There were some cute murals on the front of what was otherwise a little beachside house. A bleary man asked us for Rs. 250 a head, and told us the guide would be inside. What we found inside was instead a few grimy tanks filled with turtles, and a tiny little sanded hatchery section caged off from Koggala's shores.
In previous hatcheries we've been to, like the Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project, the only turtles in tanks were deformed, sick, or very very young, which meant they couldn't survive in the wild. These ones seemed healthy, and far too large for their tanks.
We were immediately followed into the hatchery by a Chinese tourist, who was followed by a guide that tried to point out turtle features to him. We were at no point guided, given any explanation or tour.
Meanwhile, the tourist and the "guide" started roughly manhandling the turtles, grabbing them from their tanks, taking photos, and flinging them back in upside down, laughing the whole time. We asked him to be gentle, but he just barrelled past us.
The tourist also asked "how much?" multiple times, but a glorious linguistic gap meant that the guide kept saying "15 kilograms" instead of selling the turtle to him. We're not sure if he actually ended up buying the turtle because we left, upset.
This made us question how many other such unlicensed "hatcheries" lace the coast, and how many use the poor endangered turtles as a cash mill, playing on peoples' goodwill and curiosity about Sri Lanka's rich marine life. We unfortunately cannot find an exact address or online presence for this hatchery, but keep in mind that it is not the Sea Turtle Farm down the road.
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