Sea turtles of Sri Lanka: in the sanctuary for the endangered

by | Dec 23, 2023

They have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, surviving multiple extinction events over 100 million years. However, human activity and climate change have caused their rapid decline, putting six of the seven sea turtle species at risk of extinction. Sea turtles are a “keystone species” fundamental to healthy marine ecosystems. They are pivotal to maintaining seagrass beds and coral reefs. Their role as prey, consumer, host, and competitor helps sustain the vital dynamics of marine ecosystems.

Sri Lanka is home to five species of sea turtle – The Green Turtle, Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Leatherback. Conservation efforts on the island provide safe nesting sites for them. So, let’s get to know some of the best places you can watch these precious creatures as you beach hop in Sri Lanka.


This small southern coastal village is one of two locations on the island where all five turtle species come to nest. The other is Rekawa near Tangalle. The Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery keeps a watchful eye on the nesting mother turtles, safeguards their eggs and releases the baby turtles into the sea once they hatch out of the eggs. When the team spots complications, they care for the hatchlings until they are strong enough to swim in the ocean. You might even get the chance to release a baby turtle into the ocean, a moment that will swell up your heart with pure joy.

Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery

While you are here:

  • Cruise along the Madu River under a canopy of mangroves, navigating around its plethora of islets.
  • Visit Lunuganga, on the banks of the Dedduwa Lake, the country estate of the renowned architect Geoffery Bawa. The 15-acre gardens are a stunning testament to tropical modernist architecture.
  • Immerse yourself in exemplary old-world tropical charm at Brief Garden, created in 1929 by Geoffery Bawa’s brother Bewis Bawa – a celebrated landscape artist. His 21-acre country home and estate once hosted legendary names, including Sir Lawrence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Agatha Christie.
  • Unleash your love for the tropical paradise at Bentota Beach. Its golden sands and cobalt blue waves are ideal for watersports, swimming, or just frolicking gleefully. Watch the most beautiful sunsets the Indian Ocean has to offer.


10 km east of Tangalle is Rekawa, a quaint southern seaside village with a stretch of coast featuring sandy dunes and a mangrove-skirted lagoon. All five species of turtle find this quiet spot for laying eggs. Rekawa Turtle Watch conservation project protects the eggs until they hatch. Turtle-watching volunteers patrol the beach at night to keep the mother turtles safe from poachers while they lay their eggs.

Turtle Hatchery in Sri Lanka

While you are here:

  • Climb Little Sigiriya – Mulkirigala Buddhist Temple perched atop a 205m high rock. The ancient caves of the temple feature statues and intricate murals. The summit offers 360-degree panoramic views. Pali manuscripts discovered in its monastic library led to the first English translation of the Mahavamsa (Great Chronicle), the recorded history of early Sri Lanka.
  • Watch seawater shoot up into the sky at Hummanaya, the only blowhole on the island and the second largest in the world. The jet of water sprays up every couple of minutes, depending on the condition of the sea.
  • Go birdwatching at Kalamitiya Bird Sanctuary, a coastal wetland area rich in biodiversity. It has coastal lagoons, mangrove swamps, scrub jungles and open grassy areas that host resident and migrant birds.
  • Catch the sun and waves at Hiriketiya Beach, a top surfing spot on the south coast.


Best known for whale-watching, especially blue whales, this is another superb southern spot that attracts sea turtles. You can even snorkel or swim with the turtles who frequent the waters. Mirissa is also a top surfing destination that draws surfers from across the globe.

While you are here:

  • Enjoy the ocean views from Coconut Tree Hill – a headland with a coconut grove, Instagrammed more than any other location on the island.
  • Enjoy the nightlife. Revellers and ravers can find beachside bars and open-air parties for a night out on the coast.
  • Visit the historic maritime city of Galle, a UNESCO site. Walk among the ramparts of the old Dutch Fort. Discover Dutch, Portuguese and British buildings and museums. There are many handicraft, artisan and boutique shops to buy souvenirs.

Pigeon Island

Pigeon Island National Park is a marine park near Trincomalee on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. Hawksbill, green and olive ridley turtles visit its pristine coral reef. You can go snorkelling and scuba diving with turtles.

Pigeon Island National Park in Trincomalee

While you are here:

  • Visit Nilaveli and Uppuveli beaches. The soft, powdery white sands and shallow blue waters are ideal for swimming.
  • Go whale and dolphin watching in Trincomalee.
  • Play a round of golf at China Bay Golf Club.
  • See our feathered friends at Kokkilai Bird Sanctuary, situated along the Kokkilai Lagoon.
  • Witness colourful and tuneful pujas at Koneswaram Hindu Temple.
  • Pay a visit to an ancient Buddhist dagaba perched on a 212ft rock. Girihandu Seya offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside and the old seaport of the Jaffna Kingdom – Thiriyai.

Exploring sea turtle conservation with Blue Lanka Tours

As a sustainability-forward destination management company, we craft travel experiences that showcase, educate and immerse you in the natural wonders of the world right here in Sri Lanka. We approach turtle-watching responsibly and merge it with your bespoke travel goals. Discover the rare, extraordinary and spectacular with Blue Lanka Tours. Would you like to swim with the turtles?