Ratnagiri is a popular tourist destination in Konkan. Every year during the months of March and April, the city gets the spotlight for a unique reason. Hundreds of olive ridley turtles make their way to Velas Beach to hatch their eggs. These little beings come out of the water and make their way out in the sand to bring new life into the world. It’s a beautiful sight to behold and attracts large crowds of people. Let’s find out more about these turtles and the experience of the Velas Turtle Festival in Ratnagiri.
Okay, let’s talk about the center of attraction first. The olive ridley turtles are a species of sea turtles named after the olive green hue of their shell. They look adorable and are pretty tiny. A fully grown turtle will measure up to just 2 feet and weigh less than 50 kg. We are talking about the length of their carapace here. In fact, olive ridley is the second-smallest species of turtle. A newborn olive ridley turtle has gray skin and a gray heart-shaped shell.
Their color changes to olive once they grow older and reach adulthood and the shape of their shell becomes more pronounced. These are found in the Indian and Pacific oceans in countries such as Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Arabia, and of course, India. It is because the water temperature is warmer in these regions. Temperature plays a pivotal role in the life of these little creatures.
Also Read: Best Beaches In Ratnagiri
Don’t many other animals lay eggs? Yes, they do. But the hatching of these turtles is a big deal. You see these creatures come out of the water and onto the sand to lay their eggs. A single female turtle will hatch 100 to 110 eggs and the little ones come out in 45 to 65 days.
During this entire process, the turtles and their eggs are vulnerable to several risks. Other animals such as birds and dogs could hurt them and their eggs. People tend to take away these turtles and sell them illegally. These are a few reasons why their population is under constant threat. So it is necessary that their hatching process goes smoothly and undisturbed.
People who care deeply about these issues are the reason why the Velas Turtle festival exists. Out of all the turtle nests present on Maharashtra’s coast, 40 percent are in Velas. The fest is a joint effort of an NGO named Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra and the local villagers. They protect the eggs from other animals and from being stolen.
The first wave of turtles starts showing up on the coast in February to lay their eggs. This goes on till April. When the eggs are laid, the volunteers collect all the eggs. They are taken to a safe barricaded spot on the beach and checked at regular intervals.
Let’s say three little ones just made their way out of their eggs. The volunteers will gently pick them up and take them to the shore. Now, their life has started, they flip-flap their way through the sand and into the sea. This is their first crucial struggle at the beginning of their life and is an impeccable spectacle to witness. It is this miraculous sight that attracts so many people to this fest.
The baby turtles attract a lot of tourists who cheer them on with smiles as wide as the horizon. The turtles become celebrities, who get clicked and recorded by hundreds. The Mangrove Foundation Forest Department is also involved in this festival. They have installed trackers on some of these turtles to know more about their behavior and life. Documentaries about these turtles are also screened at the festival to make everyone aware of their way of life.
It’s events like these that instill the emotion of love and care towards animals in young minds. If kids attend these events, they get to see the dedication with which the volunteers are working and how happy everyone is when a turtle makes it into the sea. Such events could create a future generation that’s much more humane towards animals and nature.
Also Read: Virgin Beaches In Maharashtra
Ratnagiri comes under the Konkan division of Maharashtra, so the cuisine is Kokani and it is absolutely delicious. Everyone from Kokan is proud of their food and once you try some you’ll understand why! Your visit to Velas is a great opportunity to indulge in some legendary dishes of this region. The cuisine is especially known for its seafood and you can expect fresh fish as Velas is a coastal village. There are tons of other options for vegetarians too.
Finding accommodation will not be an issue at all as many villagers offer food and stay packages at affordable rates. Just check the fest’s official website and you will find all of the contacts required to book a stay. You even opt to stay in any of the neighboring villages but Velas will be the most convenient one.
The festival is a celebration; a celebration of life. But as all of this is entirely a natural process, humans can only ensure that the fest goes smoothly, and that’s about it. The organizers can’t make accurate announcements about when the eggs are going to hatch. So attend this festival with the hope that you will get to see some baby turtles, but don’t expect to see a whole bunch of them.
We are not saying that it’s not possible, lots of eggs can hatch while you are on the beach, but there is nothing that can guarantee this. The majority of the eggs begin to hatch in March and April. The ideal time to watch the hatching is early in the morning around 7 am and then at around 6 pm in the evening.
Also Read: Where To Go For A Wildlife Safari In India
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj airport in Mumbai is the nearest airport to Velas. It is 235 km away. You can hire a private vehicle and reach Velas using the NH 66. You can also opt to travel by public bus from Mumbai Central ST Depot. They will take you to Velas Bus Stop. The entire road trip will take around six and a half hours.
You can reach the village from Mumbai and Pune via NH-66. You can opt to travel by bus and private vehicles. It will take you around six and a half hours to travel from Mumbai to Velas and less than six hours from Pune to Velas.
The closest major railway station from Velas is the Pune junction. It is 200 km away. It is connected with major cities like Banglore, Chennai, New Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, and more. You can opt for a private vehicle or board a public bus and you should reach the Velas bus stop in around six hours.
It is located just under 5 km from Velas and is surrounded by lush greenery on one side and River Savitri on the other. The fort overlooks the confluence of the river and sea. Also known as the Himmatgad fort, it was occupied by many of the most powerful forces in India during different times in history. Today only ruins of this glorious fort remain.
Yet another picturesque village of Ratnagiri district. It is known as the mini-Mahabaleshwar for its cool climate throughout the year. It will take you a little less than two hours to reach, but if time is a luxury you can afford, then you should really go for it. It is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Ratnagiri for its food, temples, and beaches.
Just like Dapoli, this one is also loved for all of the same reasons. Delicious food, a marvelous beach, and peaceful temples, especially the Harihareshwar Temple. Touring different villages is fun if you have the time and Harihareshwar is less than an hour's drive away from Velas. The town is surrounded by three hills - Harihareshwar, Harshinachal, and Pushpadri. The town has some of the most picturesque scenery, with lofty hills and a stunning beach.
In a world where a new incident of animal cruelty takes place almost every other week, events like the Velas Turtle festival help in restoring faith in humanity. It is such events that show us we could bring a positive difference in the lives of these animals. Experiencing the Velas Turtle festival in Ratnagiri will fill you with a new zest for life and love for the animal community. So make sure to plan a trip to Ratnagiri for the next festival!
Where Are Olive Ridley Turtles Found In India?
They are found in several places. The popular areas are Velas in Ratnagiri, Marina beach in Chennai and Devi River mouth, Gahirmatha beach, and Rushikulya river mouth in Odisha. These little creatures sure have a thing for Odisha.
What Does An Olive Ridley Eat?
They are omnivorous so they are not picky eaters at all. Crabs, lobsters, algae, tunicates, and more are all part of their diet.
How Many Eggs Can An Olive Ridley Lay?
They lay clutches of approximately 100 to 110 eggs every season. They usually do it once a season, but sometimes they can do it twice or even thrice.
Are Sea Turtles Decreasing?
Yes, because they face several life-threatening circumstances even before they are hatched. Animals such as dogs, crabs, and ants attack the turtle eggs. Crabs and birds also attack the hatchling while they are making their way to the sea once out of the eggs. Consumption of turtle meat and their eggs, selling them in local markets, using their skin and shell for making wearables and other products, water pollution, and more are all responsible for the decreasing number of turtles.
Which Food Is Ratnagiri Famous For?
Fish curry, phanaspoli, kolaambi bhaat, phanasachi bhaaji, valacche bhirde and sol kadhi are some of the most popular delicacies of Ratnagiri.
Which Language Is Spoken In Ratnagiri?
Marathi is the most spoken language here along with Malvani, a dialect of Konkani. Hindi is also spoken here.
What Would Happen Without Turtles?
Coastal vegetation gets lots of crucial nutrients from the eggs and hatchlings of turtles that do not survive. These creatures consume the seagrass and keep its growth in check, thus maintaining the health of the seagrass. There are plenty more reasons why turtles are necessary.