Feeding Giant Turtles & Marveling at Nature in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka by Sheri B Doyle
Standing knee deep in the waters of the beach in Unawatuna, Sri Lanka, with seaweed in my hand I waited with anticipation. It was easy to see the giant turtles swimming toward the shallows, graceful and slow. A small group of people had gathered, maybe 15 or so of us, all there waiting to feed the turtles. This wasn’t an organized event, part of a tour group or captivated turtle farm; this was nature.
The man who had appointed himself the overseer of these creatures sold the seaweed bundles for a dollar or two with strict instructions not to touch the turtles and to stand relatively still. The 3- to 4-foot round turtles had no fear of us as they approached and started sticking their heads out of the water looking for food. I put my hands in the water, careful to hold the seaweed away from me so they could eat, and they did. Slowly they chewed the seaweed, and they looked around to make sure they were safe and knew where their next nibble would come from.
Their shells had intricate patterns of browns, greens and grays and their brown eyes were as sweet as a puppy dogs. They moved from person to person filling their stomachs for the next 12 hours until they come to shore again. No matter how tempting it was to reach down and interact with them, everyone was respectful of the risk our human bacteria poses to sea creatures. For half an hour or so we watched, we fed, we took pictures and we marveled at the amazing creatures.