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Sandra Scott Travels: Mining Moonstones in Sri Lanka

Last week I asked: What are moonstones?  Semi-precious stones found in Sri Lanka.

Along the coast between Galle and Colombo there are many interesting places to visit.

mining moonstones
mining moonstones

In and around Meetiyagoda there are several moonstone mines.

John and I visited the one belonging to Baruwallage Gems.

Most of the mining is done by hand. Workers dig in deep pits using candles for light.

The candle acts like a canary in other types of mining.

If the oxygen is at an unsafe level the candle goes out.

Once the bucket of dirt is brought up it is washed and potential gem stones are removed.

In the adjacent factory the stones are cut, polished and mounted.

The ones with a blue hue are the most favored.

some turtles are blind
some turtles are blind

Sri Lanka has five species of marine turtles, many of which are on the endangered list.

John and I visited the Sea Turtle Hatchery where Mr. Fernando explained the process of getting the eggs from the beach, incubating them, and then raising them until it is time to return the turtles to the sea.

The females are kept in protective custody until they are five years old and able to survive.

Once a female is about 20 years old it will come back to the beach where it was hatched to lay her eggs in the sand and then she leaves.

The unprotected ping pong-like eggs are easy prey for birds and other animals so they are rescued and cared for at the hatchery.

They also keep turtles that have been injured (mainly in fishing nets), are blind (1 in every 1,000 is born blind) and they also have a rare albino one.

The entire hatchery was washed away in the 2004 tsunami and has been rebuilt with the help of donations from visitors.

Jetwing beach in Necombo
Jetwing beach in Necombo

I am seldom disappointed by a river trip and our boat ride on the Madu River was no exception.

We saw huge river monitors relaxing under a bridge, a young lad rowed out to show us his pet monkey, we passed many fish farms, and boated through some mangroves.

Our first stop was at Cinnamon Island where we learned about growing and harvesting cinnamon.

Then we stopped by a 200-year-old temple.

At one of the tilapia fish farms we stopped and, after some debate, decided to go for it and have a fish massage, which means the fish nibbled at the skin on our feet.

(Good grief will these fish then be served in a restaurant.)

a fish massage
a fish massage

It was very ticklish.

Our last stop in Sri Lanka was Jetwing Beach Hotel in Necombo.

We had an early flight to Bangkok and the hotel is near the airport.

The hotel, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is lovely with a huge beach, a pool, and spa.

The hotel, as part of their sustainability program, grows some of their own veggies and tries to be as “green” as possible.

I like to visit schools when the opportunity arises.

The hotel has a foster school so with the help of the hotel staff, and their equipment, we visited the school and did one of our power-point programs.

While we were at the hotel we learned how to make Fish and Shrimp Curry.

Before the lesson, early in the morning, I went to the wholesale fish market to help the chef buy tuna and shrimp for the class.

The market was massive and every day 1000s of fish are brought in.

Travel Trivia Tease™: What Southeast Asian country is high on Fodor’s “Go List 2013?”

Look for the answer next week.

Mexico resident Sandra Scott and her husband, John, enjoy traveling and sharing that experience with others. She also writes everyday for Examiner.com (rotating on editions … Syracuse Travel, National Destination and Culinary Travel).