Paradise Beach Marakolliya

From Mirissa we continued east along the south coast, past Tangalle to Marakolliya Beach where paradise awaits… The road was stunning; following the coast and verged on either side by dense jungle, interrupted only occasionally for tantalising views of the sea or for the buzz of a roadside village.

From Tangalle, we followed a dusty, rutted track for a couple of kilometres before driving into a sandy compound. From here we were guided across a bamboo bridge, crossing a lagoon and into paradise.

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Gorgeous soft white sand covered the ground while palms provided shade from the near equatorial sun… A soft tropical wind whistling through the palms kissed our skin gently and as we listened to the bird song overhead and sounds of the sea in the distance, all our troubles and stresses evaporated away.

The area around Tangalle enjoys a reputation as one of the best relaxation spots in Sri Lanka and for good reason… The scenery is exquisite, with deserted sandy beaches stretching as far as the eye can see… Hammocks swing lazily between the palms and a near endless supply of coconuts providing delicious refreshment. But there is more to Tangalle than the immediate pleasures of the beach…

The Rekawa lagoon is a haven for wildlife with Water Monitor Lizards, Macaques, a range of birdlife and other reptiles… We took canoes onto the lagoon at both dawn and sunset to explore the mangroves… Gliding silently across the still lagoon, the warm sun on our back and the promise of adventure ahead; the only sounds were those of animals coming from deep within the mangroves…

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Periodically the placid water would be disturbed as a fish leapt from the water, or a Monitor Lizard moved effortlessly between the mangroves. Following a narrow passage through the mangroves, we spotted a family of Grey Macaques swinging majestically through the trees… Beyond us and our canoes, there was no sign of human activity nor man made noise to be found…

You could spend days canoeing around the lagoon, exploring the many narrow mangrove waterways and watching the wildlife… But we were here to see the turtles.

A walk in perfect solitude across the sandy beach earlier had revealed turtle tracks in the sand… A tantalising tell-tale sign that this a favourite nesting spot for one of the most incredible creatures in the world.

Turtles in Sri Lanka are under serious threat as egg poachers raid their nests to sell the eggs on the black market. Even in a spot as remote as this, we feared for the future of the little turtles, but the Rekawa Turtle Watch work hard to monitor the nests and prevent poaching.

That evening, after a spicy dinner of rice and curry, ladies fingers and coconut sambal, we took a tuk tuk on the short journey towards Rekawa where we joined the Turtle Watch for the night.

Around 11PM we got our first glimpse as a giant Green Turtle slowly clambered up the beach to lay its eggs. This was the first time we had seen a turtle outside of the water and we were amazed by its size… It’s not an exaggeration to describe it as being the size of a small hatchback car. We felt its struggle as it heaved its 600kg weight up the beach towards the palms.

Turtles are the most wonderful animal and one we should all be doing whatever we can to try and protect. With the moonlight shining across the Indian Ocean, we sat and watched the dark silhouette of the Turtle as she slowly made her way back into the warm embrace of the tropical waters… It was one of those perfect moments that will stay with us forever…

The next day, swaying gently in our hammocks, sipping from a fresh coconut our thoughts were on the night before… We will never forget the Turtle… Nor will we ever forget the impossibly perfect beach at Marakolliya, or the soft trade winds that ripple the palm leaves… We will never forget the perfect white sand, or sea of a million hues of blue… We will never forget the mangroves or the Rekawa Lagoon, nor the Macaques or Monitor Lizards…

Even now, whenever I find myself sat at work, or whenever the drizzle and cold damp, or frozen mornings and never ending dark nights of Britain start to eat away at me, my mind drifts back to Tangalle and slowly the damp and grey fades away and I’m back walking the soft sands and feeling the warm sun on my back… May I never leave…

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