Sunday, March 28, 2010

Exploring Bentota - Turtle Breeding Farm

On the second day of our vacation we decided to explore Bentota and see what else there was to do besides lazing on the beach, swimming in the ocean and sunbathing. Cab drivers in Bentota double up as guides and tour operators. The cabs are fairly decent and air conditioned. We arranged for one of these to take us on a guided tour for $ 20 ( Sri Lankan Rs 2000).  We were promised a tour of the region - about 4 hours. If you are a good negotiator, you could pay as low as $10. Our first stop was the Turtle Breeding farm on the outskirts of Bentota.
Young Hatched Turtles
The work being done at this breeding farm on conservation of these endangered animals is commendable. Turtles come onto the beaches to lay their eggs in the sand. The greatest danger to the young turtles is when the eggs hatch and the young ones move towards the ocean. Very few survive as most are picked up by hawks and crows and the ones that do make it to the ocean get eaten up the big fish. As part of the conservation efforts, the hatchery picks up the eggs and releases the young turtles into the sea only after the turtles are at least 2 years old and can look after themselves.Loggerhead Turtle
There is a small payment of $2  to be made as entry fee to visit the Turtle Farm. The hatchery has different species of turtles - these include the Loggerhead Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle and the rare Albino Turtle.
Hawksbill Turtle
Albino Turtle
The hatchery has turtles of various ages. There are some which are over 20 years old- these are those turtles that have lost a limb or have some other disability which would make it impossible for them to survive outside. Turtles can live upto over 100 years of age.
At the end of the tour, you could buy some handicrafts that the centre sells which go towards funding of this effort.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Beaches at Bentota, Sri Lanka

At Bentota we wake up to the gentle sound of waves breaking on the golden sandy beaches. In the month of February, the mornings are cool and a long leisurely walk - bare footed - is a pleasure. The time to visit Bentota is between November and March - the best time being December and January when the weather is really pleasant.
Take a deep breath, soak in the clean environment, wade into the clean blue water and let your senses drift.
Morning is when other living animals too make their appearance on the beach. Crabs of different colours and hues can be spotted on the rocks .
And of course the omnipresent Crows which are present in abundance in Bentota can be seen at any time. These crows are also the biggest threat to the baby crabs and newly hatched turtles on which they feed.

The beaches at Bentota are safe through the year for swimming and surfing. Most of the swimmers and surfers visible at the beaches are tourists.
There are also a host of water activities that are popular which include wind surfing, water skiing and para sailing, riding on the fishermen boats, cruises on the Indian ocean and the the Bentota river and of course the most enjoyable of them all - swimming in the clean blue waters of the ocean. As the sun rises , beach chairs are laid out on the beaches and tourists spend a relaxed day sunbathing.
Tourist out for a walk in the morning
Local Fishing Boat
Sunset at Bentota Beach

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Vacationing in Bentota, Sri Lanka

A long weekend is a great opportunity for taking a break. Last week was one such opportunity and we headed for Bentota Beach in Sri Lanka. Though Colombo is just a 3 hour flight from Delhi, had never considered holidaying in Sri Lanka earlier - (what with the problems of insurgency and LTTE planting bombs at will !). The problem was that everyone else seemed to have the same idea and no hotel rooms were available. We were finally however able to book at the Taj Exotica on the beach. Arrived at Colombo airport in the afternoon to be met by the hotel staff ( very corteous and well informed driver and a nice comfortable Toyota Corolla car) to take us to Bentota - a 3 hour drive from the airport though the distance is just 80 Kms. The Sri Lankan countryside is very green and it is a pleasant drive winding through the small towns and fields to Bentota. Movement of traffic is slow because of the of the heavy traffic and small towns and villages that are on the way.A stopover coffee point on the way to Bentota
The route to Bentota from Colombo is along the sea cost. As you drive down to Bentota, the sea is never far from you and you can stop at the numerous eating places on the seaside and enjoy a cup of coffee or beer .
The Taj Exotica at Bentota
The Taj Exotica is a very well located hotel with a wide front facing the beach. We reached the hotel to a welcome of garlands and welcome drinks. The rooms are good sized with a terrace/balcony - ours was facing the sea and on the same level as the swimming pool. Couldn't wait and hit the beach as soon as check in was complete.
Bentota Beach at Dusk
The Bentota Beach is a clean white sand beach. No hawkers so no garbage, plastic bags and bottles. Great to walk on the beach barefooted. Our tiredness of travelling since the morning vanished with the cool and refreshing wind and the sound of the sea gently lapping the shores.

Anita enjoying a stroll through the water
View of the Sea Shore from our hotel balcony