If you're in Hikka, you should stop by the turtle hatchery. It's a place where a small variety of turtles are reared and taken care of in big tanks. As far as we know there are also turtle hatcheries in Galle and Kosgoda
, while Rekawa and Kalpitiya are good places for watching turtles in their natural habitats.
It's hard to miss as you travel up on the beach stretch in Hikka, north of the railway station. The walls outside are covered in colourful turtle themed murals.
The inside is just a series of tanks - different ones for different species of turtles, accompanied by plenty of informative sign boards about them.
And of course there's a sandy section as soon as you walk in where the turtle eggs are hatched. Hatching of sea turtles usually happens in summer and the babies take about 3-7 days to make their way to the surface after hatching.
Turtles are so adorable! Unfortunately some of them are endangered. Hatcheries such as these aim at trying to conserve them. The hawksbill turtles are an endangered species, driven to the brink of extinction by the 'tortoise shell' trade - apparently poachers remove their scales while they're still alive and turn them into ornaments for sale.
Some of the species popular in Sri Lanka are the olive ridley, leatherback turtle, green turtle, hawksbill turtle and loggerhead turtle. We were told that the turtles are fed small fish at particular feeding hours. Leatherback turtles and loggerhead turtles eat a lot of jellyfish when they're out at sea.
'Unhand me, foolish human.'
Personally I think turtles are one of the most peculiar looking reptiles ever. I mean look at those bug eyes and grumpy expressions. They are one of the oldest reptiles ever - dating back to about 220 million years ago. Some of them live up to about 200 years.
Be sure to read about the turtles and check out the photographs set up around the tanks. You could learn a lot about these magnificent ancient creatures and their struggle for survival. There's a sign that says don't put your hand in the tanks - because they could bite! - but with supervision, they'll let you lift up a baby turtle for cuddling purposes.
A hawksbill turtle with a left stump - a mishap from getting caught in a fishing net
The sea turtle hatchery is a nice place to visit if you're in Hikkaduwa. The turtles are an amazing sight and it's a special treat if you're an animal lover. Fun fact: it's a family-run conservation hatchery. It was first set up by a man named Ariyapala, and passed down to his daughter who tragically lost her life in the tsunami of 2004, after which Ariyapala's son took over and rebuilt the hatchery with foreign aid.
There's no entrance fee for locals (Rs. 500 for foreigners) - but they take donations, so drop some in the donation box at the far end of the hatchery.