Hikkaduwa – my first stop on my Sri Lanka road trip! We survived the escape from the busy capital of Colombo and made our way down the palm tree-fringed coast to the little town of Hikkaduwa.
This seaside town is famous for its ideal surfing waves and resident celebrities – the giant green turtles! I adore turtles, big and small, and still remember seeing my very first tiny green turtle in Australia all those years ago. Since then I’ve lost count of how many countries I’ve swam with turtles in, but I still get just as excited every time I spot one of the friendly fellows gliding past!
I’ve encountered many species of turtles, but still had never seen a giant green turtle up until now; enter Hikkaduwa!
Where To Find Them
Hikkaduwa is a small beach town with a golden stretch of sand running parallel to the main road. Restaurants and dive shops line the beach and the whole area is ideal for sunbathing and swimming. However, there is only one spot where the green shells hang out.
Facing the sea, turn left and follow the beach right up to the sharp bend at the end. You will see a group of rocks about 100m or so out to see. This is where the turtles hang out. You can find them around this area if you look closely.
The Best Time To See Them
A veteran now in avoiding the hordes of tourists in popular destinations, I knew straight away this must be an early-rise job. We headed down the beach at 6.30am, just after sunrise. The beach was gloriously empty bar a local man standing knee-deep with a handful of seaweed.
This was our first indicator we were in the right spot! Soon, a dark mass appeared by his feet. I was still unsure what was happening until a big head the size of a melon poked out of the surf and snatched the clump of seaweed!
As we visited in September, monsoon season, the seas are notoriously rough. Therefor, the turtles are inclined to stay surfing the waves, and less inclined to saunter up on to the sand. In high season, the turtles are known for coming ashore to lay their eggs.
Interacting With The Turtles
Seeing the local man coax the turtle with seaweed we knew this was the way to go. We grabbed a handful of the slimy stuff and waded waste-deep into the water. Here we stood as still as the crashing waves would allow and waited.
Soon, we were surrounded by turtles! We saw at least ten as they glided by, nibbling at the seaweed in our clutches. The turtles were bumping into our shins and one swam right through Darren’s outstretched legs (he barely fit through!).
It is important to keep still and don’t overcrowd the turtles. Like all wildlife, let them come to you. It is extremely important you do NOT chase the green guys and do not touch them either. Turtles are naturally curious creatures and will often come to you for a gander. The best turtle encounters I’ve ever had have been when they swam up to me for a closer look! Be patient and you will have a great time!
Where To Stay In Hikkaduwa
There is a tonne of options for accommodation in Hikkaduwa, but our main priority was staying close to the beach so we could have easy access to the turtle beach.
If you have the cash, the Hikka Tranz is the obvious option to stay. It’s a huge hotel with a big swimming pool and great rooms. However, at roughly €60 a night this was out of our budget. We opted instead for a smaller guesthouse, right beside the big hotel, which turned out to be a little slice of paradise!
The Curry Bowl Restuarant and Guesthouse is a quaint boutique style guesthouse, with rooms as cheap as €15. We chose the more deluxe room at €21, which included air-con, towels and a nice little decking outside our room to watch the waves from.
From here, it was a thirty second walk to the spot where we saw the green turtles!
The Turtle Hatchery of Hikkaduwa
There is a turtle hatchery based in Hikkaduwa, which houses old turtles who are too sick/injured to be returned to the wild. They also collect the turtle eggs from the beach and help them hatch in a safer environment. Tourists can pay to release a baby turtle into the wild.
I chose not to visit the turtle hatchery based on personal reasons surrounding animal conservation. I asked around on social media what were people’s feelings about handling turtles in such young infancy. The vast majority agreed that it is wrong and an unnecessary attraction added in for tourists, and the turtles should be admired but not touched.
However, some argued it was not damaging to the turtles as they’re only held for a short period of time and you are giving money to an organisation that helps turtle conservation.
I wasn’t convinced so decided to stay away. I’d love to know other people’s comments on this issue, so let me know below in the comments or on Instagram!
Where To Eat
After an active morning of turtle spotting you will surely have worked up an appetite for some brekkie! Why not treat yourself to a fabulous hearty breakfast at Bansei. For 1200rp you will eat like a king, with eggs, French toast, bacon, pancakes, fresh fruit, croissants, freshly squeezed juice, coffee, toast and jams, and more!
For a delicious meal with some excellent service, spoil yourself with Mama’s Restaurant, right on the beach front. This eatery not only comes with amazing views right on the sand, but also delicious fresh cuisine, both local and Western. The staff here are super friendly and always have a smile on their faces!
Hikkaduwa is definitely a must-see spot of your Sri Lanka trip with the giant turtles being a huge attraction. Just remember, if you are going to visit the turtles, make good decisions, always be mindful of the animals and always, always put the turtles’ well-being first!
For more information on things to see and do in Sri Lanka keep your eyes glued to Sun Scribes, more content us on the way!