I figured our last full day would be light on photography with only a visit to a sea turtle conservation project as our outing. I woke up early and saw the sun had not quite risen yet but sky was turning pink so I decided to go take some photos on the beach. We had arrived after sunset so I hadn’t been to the beach yet and was pleasantly surprised to see a beautiful traditional fishing boat right outside our gate. Further down the beach, I noticed another boat that was being prepared to go out in the water by a group of local fishermen. This turned into quite the photo shoot – including a break for breakfast while they were hauling the nets in. Sadly, they did not bring in a lot of fish and I realized just how tough a life it is when you are dependent on the sea for food and livelihood. One fisherman asked me for money but I didn’t have any on me. Not that it would be a good idea since there were so many that would then expect the same… Still, the guilt of privilege stuck with me. I did meet another man on the beach who had brought out a chair to do some reading. He was from St-John’s, Newfoundland! He had bought an acre on the beach in 2004 and built a beautiful house that was completed in 2009. He splits his time between Sri Lanka and Canada and rents the house out when he’s not there. It has a big outdoor pool, a cook and even a driver to pick people up at the airport. He kindly gave us a tour of his house and it’s gorgeous so if ever you are interested in a quiet beach property to rent in Sri Lanka, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with Ranil or click here to see his website!
At 10am we met our driver to take us to a sea turtle conservation centre. There are many all along the coast of Sri Lanka but we went to the Victor Hasseblad Research and Conservation Centre in Kosgoda. Of the 7 species of sea turtles in the world, 5 of them will lay their eggs on the beaches of Sri Lanka some 30-40 years after they were born on the very same beach. The only one they can’t keep in the hatchery are leatherback turtles since they are so big and strong, they would hurt themselves in the tanks. They set up the hatchery so that when the baby turtles come out of the sand, it slopes down to a tank since their instinct is to go towards the sea. You can’t touch the day-old turtles since they still have a protective coating. We did get to briefly hold the 2-3 day old ones that would soon be released. They are seriously the most adorable creatures! We also held a 15kg one that made me quickly realize they would not be good pets! The conservation centre also houses rescued sea turtles that may have lost a flipper in a fishing net or those born with defects such as blindness, albinism and deformed flippers. Basically, anything that would prevent a sea turtle from surviving in the ocean. It was a great experience and definitely worth a stop – not to mention our entry fee helps with their efforts.
On the drive back to the hotel, we saw dried and fresh fish stalls and also a stark reminder of the tsunami that hit the coast of Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004 – a lone wall remaining of a house near the shore. A lot of attention was given to parts of Thailand and Indonesia that were also devastated but Sri Lanka was the second hardest hit, after Indonesia. Over 35 000 people lost their lives in Sri Lanka, including many tourists. Another 20 000 were injured and over half a million people were displaced in a country of only 22 million. In places like Yala, the wave went inland by as much as 2km. Our guide lost 3 colleagues and heard some harrowing stories, including a whole commuter train with 1200 people getting washed away. Even after all these years, I still remember the shock of hearing the news and it is still hard to fathom such devastation.
On my last morning, I decided to give myself the luxury of sleeping in. When I got up for breakfast, I noticed from my balcony that other photographers were hard at work – shooting a wedding couple. I snuck in a few shots – Uncle Bob style – but I’m sure theirs were much better. Oddly enough, the last thing I photographed on my photo tour to India was a wedding taking place at the hotel. I sense a theme…
And so ends a fantastic photo tour. If you’ve followed along this far, let me know what you think in the comments below. If you missed the other blog, you can start on Day 1 and toggle through. If you are interested in joining me on a future tour, please join my mailing list. If there is interest in returning to Sri Lanka, I’d be happy to repeat this tour with a few tweaks based on this experience. Finally, if you are interested in a custom trip to Sri Lanka, I’d be happy to help you out! Simply contact me so we can start planning.
Happy Travels and Happy Shooting!