Rakawa is a seaside rural community engaged in fisheries and agriculture. Its long sandy beach and mangrove skirted lagoon gives it a rustic beauty. There is high local biodiversity as, in addition to mangrove forest, the local vegetation consists of scrub jungle, medicinal plants, and fruit trees. Also a wide variety of wildlife, including mammals, reptiles, 150 resident and migratory bird species, and many arthropods and aquatic creatures can be seen here.
Millions of years before man colonized Sri Lanka, sea turtles were coming to the undisturbed beaches of this Island to lay their eggs. The beach near Rakawa is one of Sri Lanka’s most important marine turtle nesting sites where five of the world’s seven species of marine turtle come ashore to nest throughout the year. All five species of turtles that nest in Sri Lanka are either endangered or critically endangered. Amongst them is the Leatherback turtle, the largest of all the sea turtles, which can grow up to 3 meters in length and weighs up to 600 kg. It is at Rakawa beach that the Turtle Conservation Project (TCP) has established an “in situ” nest protection and research programme, allowing the protection of nests where they are laid by the female turtle and for the hatchlings to scramble down to the ocean immediately after emergence from the nest.
The project at Rakawa is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. It incorporates the local community in its efforts to conserve turtles in their natural habitat, employing as nest protectors those who were formerly dependent on the illegal collection of turtle eggs. Turtles are most likely to come ashore under the cover of darkness, and you are invited to join the people at the Turtle Conservation Project during their night watch. They can explain to you the importance and practices of turtle conservation after which you can join the night watch in anticipation of that magical moment when a turtle comes ashore and lays her eggs.