Today was full of replacement activities for the unneeded 5th day of the Sri Lanka vs Australia Cricket Test March and our guide Manoj came up with some very worthwhile events.
The main focus of the day was a Mangrove Safari boat ride that allowed us to see how people live on several small islands (including how cinnamon is harvested manually), temples, water monitors and bird life (video). We did have to remember to duck a number of times passing very low hanging bridges, but fortunately everyone managed to keep their heads 🙂
Next up was a visit to a turtle sanctuary were we learned that Sri Lanka is home to five of the seven turtle species and that the largest grows to weigh over 200 kilos. Another interesting fact is there are only 2% females so it is extremely important that a female survive. We arrived as several turtles were hatching and I got to very carefully hold a new born turtle before he was moved to a sea pool. The little guy loved the water.
This area of Sri Lanka was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami. During our trips to the mangrove safari and the turtle sanctuary we got to see reminders of what occurred. We visited a Musuem that had photos of the event including a few photos as the water hit (I expect the photographer didn’t survive) and afterwards including the many bodies. Over 40,000 people died in Sri Lanka that day, over 5,000 people are still unaccounted for 12 years later. There was a picture of a wrecked train in which 1,400 people died and only 9 people lived including a little 2 year old girl.
The photos of the dead bodies is very graphic and hard to view. However the photos of people helping afterwards is uplifting. There is a picture of a young western backpacker carrying an elderly lady to safety. There are pictures of volunteers who came in the days afterwards and stayed for months in refugee camps. Colour, religion they meant nothing in the aftermath, only people helping people.
The last place we visited was the Tsunami Memorial.