Olive Ridley sea turtles, an endangered species that can be found in the Indian Ocean, usually find very specific places to lay their eggs in the winter. Lucky for nature-loving Mumbaikars, one such place happens to be Velas Beach on the outskirts of the city.
Each year, in winter, the turtles come to lay eggs and each summer, during the months of April and May, the eggs hatch, and one can witness baby turtles waddling into the sea.
To celebrate this phenomenon, a festival has been arranged by a Mumbai-based tour group, Carvan Trips, in association with two local NGOs — Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra and Kasav Mitra Mandal. The event will take place on April 14.
“I have always been a nature-lover and started Carvan Trips about six months ago. Though I have been a part of the hatchings many times, this is the first time that I’m actually organising the festival,” says Sharad Shah, owner of the tour group.
According to him, the turtle hatching is a beautiful phenomenon to witness, though it depends largely on luck. “It’s really indescribable. Tiny, adorable turtles hatch and waddle into the sea. The NGOs ensure that they make it and that the people gathered do not interfere. You can see dozens of turtles, if you are lucky but sometimes, none of them hatch on the day you visit,” he explains.
However, with the help of the NGO’s predictions, the chances of actually spotting the turtles is higher. “They usually coordinate with us about when the turtles are most likely to hatch and we organise our trips accordingly. Since they have been working in the field for years, they have a pretty good idea about the timings,” Sharad says confidently.
Though the turtle watching is the main attraction of the trip, tourists will also get to explore the area which includes a number of forts and temples as well as a mango farm. A visit to the Bankot Fort ruins will also be arranged.
“It’s lucky that the dates of the festival have coincided with the long Good Friday weekend. This way, we were able to make the event more elaborate and have also had greater participation,” Sharad signs off.