Feed, Clean, Sweat, Repeat...

Unfortunately, due to the fact that I have been internet-less for the past week/2 weeks I haven’t been able to keep up to date on my blog and travels etc, so instead of a day by day i’ll just write about the highlights instead! 

Some of the turtle sanctuary's friends
The majority of our days were spent cleaning the turtles and the tanks and feeding the turtles. It was hard, backbreaking work, and to be honest, pretty tiresome at times, we came back stinking of fish and sweating like we've never sweated before. However, it did make it all worth while when I saw the turtles swimming around in their clean tanks.

 De-leeching the turtles at the disabled sanctuary 

 The leeches have to be killed once pulled off the turtles to stop them from returning, bit of a mess.

One of the less exciting aspects of the turtle project… scrubbing the tanks! Eugh. It’s pretty hard, monotonous work but has to be done!

Two volunteers (Meg & Clayton) in mid de-leech mode on one of the green turtles.

De-Leeching weapons of choice (knife and coconut husk)

Leatherback facts…

Loggerhead facts…

Olive Ridley facts…

State of the art water pump…

Day 3-23rd October 2014-Disabled Turtle Shelter

This beautiful OLIVE RIDLEY TURTLE lost all her fins after becoming entangled in a fisherman's net; instead of cutting the net they simply decided to cut off her fins instead... heartbreaking! It's doubtful that she will ever be released back into the wild. She is fed, cleaned & looked after in the sanctuary, but it's hard to believe she would be happier in the sanctuary's enclosure than where she belongs... in the wild.

Although I know the whole point of the turtle project is to rehabilitate these injured turtles, it just doesn't seem right to be able to keep the disabled turtles in enclosures for the remainder of their lives. They are wild animals and are supposed to be free. Myself and many other volunteers struggled to come to terms with this whilst there.

This beautiful GREEN TURTLE came to the sanctuary after being caught in a fisherman's hook. The hook went straight through the turtle's eye, blinding his right eye and severely damaging his left so his vision is severely impaired; the hook forced the left eye outwards.

This GREEN TURTLE lost one of her limbs to fisherman as she was caught in their nets.

This is one of the HAWKS BILL TURTLES that we have in the disabled sanctuary. She also lost one of her limbs as a result of getting caught in a fisherman’s net.

It is uncertain was happened to this OLIVE RIDLEY TURTLE. It could have been a collision with a boat, but it is likely to have been caught on a hook. The turtles’ jaw is broken and it is unable to close it’s jaws, thus feeding this turtle proves difficult at times.

Sri Lanka-Day 2- Kandy to Ambalangoda- Turtle Project Day 1

View of Kandy from the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue 

We woke early this morning, 3:30am exactly, to be able to catch the train from Kandy to Ambalangoda, where the turtle conservation project is based. The 5 of us woke, myself, a Canadian, 2 Kiwi girls and one Chinese girl, all packed up and set off for Kandy train station at 4am. We arrived in the dark, paid for our tickets, found our train on platform 3, hauled our luggage onboard and onto the overhead baggage stores and got ourselves comfortable for the long journey ahead. 

The trains are so much more exciting than the trains at home. These ones are rickety old things where the doors are left open for people to be able to hop on and off at any moment. At one point, the train was so full that everyone was beginning to get a little too squished, so in order to fit more on two guys decided to stand on the steps outside of the door and cling onto the window where I was sitting. These guys were clinging on for a good 15/20 minutes, They passed their briefcases through the windows for us to hold so they could hold on properly, but they loved it, laughing the whole way, even when trains stormed past just a few feet away.

The Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue 

The crowds eventually died down as the men and women found their stops, running across tracks to make it to the other side of the platform. The scenery on the journey was breathtaking. At one point, just as the sun was rising, I looked out of the train’s window to my left and saw the grey clouds settling above the rainforests’ canopy layer. It was beautiful! The lush green of the rainforest cascaded passed as the train trundled on its rickety track.

We also passed Colombo and coastal towns that had been hit by the tsunami. Many homes that had survived still stood with their cement blocks rooted in the ground, but their roofs and doors were missing. In their place stood new wooden huts strewn all along the shore, families live right on the beach just meters away from the shore. 

Our scenic train journey eventually came to an end in Ambalangoda a whole 5 hours later. From Ambalangoda station we cruised through the hectic town in tuk tuks, pulling off the main road, down to a quieter road, then pulling off again down an even quieter road; the beach road, and eventually to our accommodation at the turtle project. 

We soon settled in, ate some breakfast, played withe the resident puppy Milo, a girl, then made our way to the turtle hatchery where all the other volunteers already were! It was amazing to see all these turtles that I’ve been wanting to see for so long. The hatchery has mainly Green turtles, but there are also some rare baby Hawksbill turtles, a few leatherbacks and maybe a loggerhead somewhere. There are two turtles with distinct injuries; one has a fin that is nearly falling off, another has lost one of its fins and another has air in its shell. From what I can make out so far, it seems like a really interesting project with an incredibly good cause. Most turtles are ares for until they are deemed able to be released back into the wild. 

Today we had the opportunity to clean the turtles’ shells, de-lice and de-leech them, followed by a much needed swim in the sea to wipe off the sweat, sand and in some cases turtle poop! We ended the afternoon by filling up one of the tanks with sand to prepare it for the hatchlings.

All in all a pretty good day so far, I’m knackered, but can't wait for tomorrow already! 

Sri Lanka-Day One- Colombo Airport to Kandy

After an 11 hour flight, I eventually arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka at 4:30am on 20th October. I walked out of the gates, cleared immigration, picked up my backpack and surfboard straight into my first taste of Sri Lanka.

I was greeted by a driver from the volunteer programme which I’ve never had before but was actually really quite reassuring. We stepped out of the airport and into the early morning darkness. The smell hits you instantaneously, that warm, humid tropical smell that you never get the chance to experience in England. The smell of the incense, the jasmine, the rain that has just fallen immediately pulls you out of that post-flight daze. Then comes the sound of the traffic, even at this time in the morning the roads are busy, tuk tuks swerving by, honking away, weaving skilfully in and out of the path of buses and people.

All loaded up we set off into the night, just me and the driver on the 3 and a half hour drive up to Kandy where the volunteer base is. I passed out in the back managing to get a lie down as I didn’t manage to sleep at all on the flight. The car ducked in-between tuk tuks and buses, adults and children, the car’s horn never stopped honking away, either to inform others of our whereabouts, to say hello, or just to honk for the hell of it. Through dazed eyes I saw the sunrise on the straight road from Colombo to Kandy. My first Sri Lankan sunrise. The sun burned the sky orange, ridding it of its stars. Palm trees loomed over the telephone pylons, and lights from Buddah shrines twinkled and danced at the side of the road. Eventually I passed out again, waking up just 10 minutes before we reached ‘The Green Lion’ centre in Kandy.

Kandy feels like a bit of a dream now, although only yesterday morning I arrived it already feels like a lifetime ago. I met all the other volunteers with everyone partaking in various projects, from elephant projects to helping out in orphanages; so many different projects are available. After dropping my bag off in my room and meeting my roommate, we went to orientation, to listen to what the day ahead held in store for us and what we would be doing on the projects. 

After orientation and a 2 hour nap ( from which I collapsed on my bunk from sheer exhaustion) we set off for Kandy centre. We walked up the busy road, careful not to be run over by tuk tuks, up to the bus stop to catch the bus to take us the next 5km up the road. Kandy greeted us with heat, people and smells coming from all directions, some good, some not so good. This was basically just a chance for us all to become acquainted with our surroundings, to get some money out, get some SIM cards sorted and eventually watch a traditional Sri Lankan dance followed by flame throwing and fire walking! Bit touristy but quite cool to watch the dance. 

After the show we stumbled out of the hall into the rain, caught a bus back to the centre, had some dinner (a Sri Lankan lentil dahl, with rice and shaved coconut with turmeric and other spices-actually pretty tasty), talked with some of the other volunteers then passed out at 9pm, ready to catch a 5hour train journey at 5am down to Ambalangoda to start the turtle conservation project. (This is where I am writing this from now, on the top of my bunk bed, feeling satisfied with a belly full of spicy curry, rice and tea!)