Velas Turtle Festival

How many times it happens with you that you reach your journey destination and the first thing you do is this….

That was the 1st time ever in our life that we milk a buffalo and this marked a very good beginning of an eventful trip.

Where were we and why were we there?

We were at Velas, a rustic village situated on the western coast of India in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. Velas is one of the beaches where the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles come ashore every year and lay their eggs.

Since the odds of survivals of these creatures are 1 in 1000, the villagers with support of an NGO, Sahayadri Nisarg Mitra, took up the onus of conserving this unique species.

The eggs that are laid by the mother turtle on the beach are collected by the villagers and brought to a hatchery where they are incubated under a controlled environment so as to protect them from falling prey to predators.

And hence we were present on that very location to witness these tiny little hatchlings take giant steps towards the sea, out in the unknown and on their own.

The Turtle Hatchling Experience: What to Expect

The turtle festival was started back in early 2000s, but has gained a lot of popularity in the past 3-4 years, kudos to Social Media. There are many tour operators based out of Mumbai and Pune that organize a weekend trip to Velas to experience the hatchings.

Since the footfalls on weekends tend to reach around 500-600, being punctual is the key for an unperturbed view of the turtles making their route to sea. The volunteers check the hatchery twice in a day, 6.30 AM in the morning and 5.30 PM in the evening. Hence, make sure you reach there on time.

An important thing to keep in mind here is there is a significant distance of this hatchery from the sea.

The hatchlings are carried in the jute baskets till the cordoned area before releasing them, hence it is advisable that you reach the designated area before it gets submerged in the crowd rush.

The cordoned area from where turtles are released

If you are a photographer, be prepared to get your clothes go muddy, as you’ll be sitting/sleeping on the beach to get the perfect shot of the turtles going in the sea.

When form comes to life

Trust us when we say, despite the chaos when you see the tiny little reptiles crawl their way towards the ocean, it is an out of the world feeling.

Welcome to the world, little friend

The joy of watching them inch past the spectators is beyond what the words can express.

Now my adventure begins!!

The Rural Experience

In our opinion, one must take a break in a rural setting for a day or two. The environment itself will relax you up and shed half of your worries, tensions and work load.

Your day begins with chirping of these cute birds and you can complete your day of cardio while chasing these chickens back to their sty.

As seen earlier, milking a cow/buffalo and then having a cup of tea from that very milk will charge you up for the day.

Take a walk in the beautiful betel nut farms around the village and refresh up on the cool water from the well.

As the lunch time approaches, you feast upon an exquisite and authentic Maharashtrian cuisine. Cooked on wood fire, the flavours give that “dhungar” taste as you indulge in the platter. Our personal favorite was the Jackfruit Sabzi.

One of the finest meals ever

Travel Responsibly

As a foot note, we would appeal to all to be a responsible traveler basis our first hand experience. The tourism department are doing their fare share in promoting and spreading awareness regarding the Olive Ridley Turtles.

But it is the moral responsibilty of each and every person present there to observe and abide by the rules and instructions given by the volunteers there.

We observed that many tourists were trespassing the cordon in an attempt to go near the hatchlings. Some were even entering the ocean despite repeated warnings of not doing so for 15-20 minutes after the hatchlings enter the sea.

Our learning from the incident is that though promotion of eco tourism is necessary, there should be concrete steps taken to ensure hassle free experience. This could be as simple as limiting the number of footfalls per weekend. And it also is the utmost responsibility of the tourists to respect the rules and sanctity of the place while travelling. Enjoy responsibly.