Rekawa. The Ruhuna Golden Waters

Sri Lanka is so densely populated that it is not always easy for a tourist to understand where one village ends and another locality begins. The Deep South of the country is not so densely populated, but here, especially in coastal areas, these boundaries are almost erased.
However, in the area of Ruhuna there is one of the unique places where the separation of two settlements occurred due to a natural reason — because of the people who are separated by the lagoon. So there were two settlements — on the left bank — Rekawa, on the right bank — Kahandamodara. The Urubokka Oya River, originating in the Ranna area, flows smoothly into a picturesque water basin, forming a lagoon and its runoff directly to the Indian Ocean, exactly at the point between the eastern Rekawa and Modara and Galawagagoda regions in Kahandamodara.
The nature here is so unique that even between Rekawa and Kahandamodara there are colossal differences in the landscape and even the flora and fauna. The eastern extremity of the Rekawa in the Wellodaya Road district is a kind of elongated promontory, a strip of land 50 to 120 meters wide, surrounded on three sides by water — by the waters of the Kirama Oya River, directly by the lagoon and the oceanic beach of Rekawa. There is an enviable variety of biological life. And just walking in the village, especially closer to the lagoon, you can easily see a flock of peacocks or languors, monkeys, parrots, two kinds of water monitors and even a python!
Getting into the delta of the lagoon, it is easy to understand that in essence the two conventionally designated beaches of Rekawa and Kahandamodara are one giant length up to 12 km. a golden, clean, deserted beach (including Gurupokuna and Kalamatiya).
The difference is not palpable, except for one «but». In the days of large amounts of precipitation or after the discharge of water from rice fields in the upper reaches of Urubokka Oya, the lagoon isthmus, the same strip of sand 10-25 meters in width, disappears, and the water rushes into the ocean with swift streams, cutting off a sandy aisle between Rekawa and Kahandamodara. On such days it is better to use a vehicle to get from one point to another in a detour through Ranna, which can take 30-35 minutes! In the days when there is a natural isthmus, you can walk from Rekawa to Kahandamodara by foot for 2-3 minutes only.

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Rekawa Lagoon (Sinhalese: Rekawa Kalapuwa, Kahandamodara Kalapuwa) is a coastal waterbody located in Hambantota District, close by to Tangalle, in the Southern Province, Sri Lanka and it is located 200 km south of Colombo. The lagoon possesses a rich biodiversity with a variety of flora (for example: mangroves) and fauna (for example: fish, crustaceans, birds). From the side of Rekaцa it is customary to call the lagoon the Reka lagoon, and on the opposite shore, locals call this water area the lagoon of Kahandamodara. But we are talking about the same lagoon! But it would be more logical and correct to use the name of the lagoon of Kahandamodara, because the historical name of the settlement, transformed from the Sinhalese words of Kahanda Anda Amodara (Golden fish floating into the delta), and giving the name of the locality, clearly denotes the lagoon belonging to the place and today, too — Kahandamodara («Golden delta»)
Rekawa Lagoon is a comparatively small coastal lagoon with a water surface area of 2.4 km2. The lagoon is connected to the Indian Ocean with a 3 km. narrow inland waterway. Rekawa lagoon is shallow with a depth of averaging 1.4 m and the widest point is approximately 2.5 km (1.6 mi). Most parts of the lagoon are encircled with a mangrove belt. Kirama Оya river (Tangalu Оya river) that enters the lagoon at the sea ward end of the inlet canal is the main freshwater supply. Apart from the main freshwater inflow, there are two small freshwater streams function only in rainy season and provide surface runoff from the catchment. The total hydro-catchment of the lagoon outlet is about 225 km2.
Shrimp fishery is one of the main livelihoods among the lagoonal community of Rekawa and Kahandamodara. However this supports the people only during the shrimp fishery season which extends from October to April. The most abundant shrimp species in Rekawa lagoon and commercially most important shrimp species is Penaeus indicus (White shrimp).

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Ecohydrological impact of the Kapuhenwela causeway
In 1984 the Road Development Authority of Tangalle built a causeway called Kapuhenwela across the outlet canal; around 700 metres from the lagoon mouth to the inland. Water passes under the causeway through twenty three, 23 cm diameter pipes which greatly reduce the volume and speed of water entering and leaving the lagoon system. This causeway has prevented flushing of the lagoon by natural water flow, causing continues sedimentation in the lagoon. In 1999 a bridge of 6.2 metres in length was constructed in place of the part of the causeway in order to improve free water flow. After the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, minor damage was inflicted on the causeway and it was renovated and replaced with eight cylindrical culverts with an average diameter of 79 cm in 2005. Causeway itself and its modifications provoked concern over local resource users and environmentalists as the lagoon hydrology (ex: reduced flushing), salinity and there by the ecology (ex: reduction in shrimp catch) showed drastic changes and variations. Before the construction of causeway, the effective channel cross section was 87 square metres which was then reduced to 25 metres with the introduction of existing causeway structure with the bridge, a drop of 71% of effective channel cross section.

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Mangroves exploitation
Around the lagoon, many mangrove species including Lumnitzera racemosa, Aegiceras corniculatum, Bruguiera gymnorhiza, Excoecaria agallocha, Rhizophora mcronata, Avicennia marina, and Avicennia officinalis are found. In addition to its ecological benefits (ex; shrimp and fish habitats), traditionally, Rekawa and Kahandamodara people have used mangroves for the benefit of the local community, but the increasing population has led to an increasing non-sustainable abuse of the resources. Mangroves have been exploited for timber for building dwellings and boats and fuel-wood for cooking in the area. Recent Researches discovered, even small scale cutting could affect the age composition and reproductive capacity of the mangrove forests in Rekawa lagoon.

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Turtle Watch
Rekawa Beach sits just 7km from Tangalle and is highly treasured for the marine turtles that lay eggs here each night. As a result the Turtle Conservation Project protects the beach, however they do let visitors carefully and quietly watch this wonderful natural spectacle. The nesting normally takes place between 7pm and 3am each night and your knowledgeable guide will take you to the areas where this is most likely. Of the seven species of marine turtles found worldwide, five of them can be found here including the green turtle, loggerhead, leatherback, olive ridley and hawksbill. Nesting occurs throughout the year although there’s a distinct peak-nesting season from March to July.
Five species of turtles struggle ashore to lay their eggs on Rekawa Beach. Groups are led to nest sites to witness these beautiful creatures. Unfortunately, as groups are sometimes huge (up to 100 people; weekends are busiest), some nights the commotion can be deeply disturbing for the turtles. Until management of the project improves, it's difficult to recommend these tours wholeheartedly. It is better to make such tours independently, and clearly understand the importance of observing silence and distance from the turtles, so as not to frighten and harm them.
The rarest turtles to sight are the giant leatherbacks. Make sure and note that torches and flash photography are scaring for turtles, so be very careful.
Unlike the turtle hatcheries on the west coast of Sri Lanka the eggs here are left undisturbed in the sand and are protected in site.

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