Velas is a small coastal village that falls in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. But what’s special about this village is that the Velas beach is a nesting site for hundreds of Olive Ridley Turtles, one of the most treasured species of marine turtles. These turtles are categorised as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List as their numbers are declining steeply.
What Do We Know About The Velas Sea Turtles?
The Velas sea turtles weigh around 50-60 kg and are 2-3 feet in length. They are olive green in colour, have oar-like limbs and have a nail on each of the front limbs. What is interesting to note is that only the female turtles, never the males (of course), travel thousands of kilometres back to the beach they hatched, and start nesting the eggs in a synchronized fashion. This unique nesting technique is called arribada. The eggs are nested in a conical hole, which they dig with their hind flippers. The hatchlings, which come in the world after a period of 45-65 days, then make their way back to the ocean.
Sadly, only 1 out of the 1000 hatchlings that make it into the ocean survives to adulthood. Most of them die while trekking back into the ocean, during which they are either preyed upon by birds, dogs, etc., or affected by human activities like egg poaching, tourism and unfriendly fishing practices.
What is the Velas Turtle Festival?
Velas hence celebrates a Turtle festival called the Velas Turtle Festival, which is organised every year in March with the help of the NGO- Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM). This NGO has been on the forefront of conversation in the Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg areas, creating mass awareness among the villagers as well as encouraging ecotourism.
Witnessing these hatchlings is a once-in-a-life-time must-have experience.
The Velas beach makes up for 40% of Ridley Turtle nesting coasts in Maharashtra. If you’re looking for a place to spend the weekend, where you can learn and witness something new as well as relax and unwind, this is a good opportunity for you to experience ecotourism and take one step closer to conservation.
How To Reach Velas, Ratnagiri?
Velas is well connected through road and rail from all prime cities of Maharashtra.
By Road: Roads are the widely used medium of transport. Several state run buses and even private operators ply upto Dapoli or Mandangad, after which you can rely on local transport
By Train: Travel by the Konkan Railways. The nearest station is Chiplun and from there you will have to hire a private vehicle to reach Velas.
Ideal Time To Visit: The Velas Turtle festival is celebrated every year during March-April. However, Velas can be visited all throughout the year. Apart from the festival, one can also visit other tourist spots like Harihareshwar, Dapoli, etc., in the vicinity.
Stay At Velas: One can put up in homestays and support the locals there by gorging on some delicious home-cooked meals and experiencing the Konkan culture up close.
Disclaimer: Hatchlings are not always sighted. One must follow the instructions and timings provided by the Festival Organising Committee as well as the Forest Officials
Some Do’s and Dont’s:
- Do not pick up the hatchlings. If you see an injured hatchling, alert the Organising Committee or the Forest Department immediately
- Avoid using lights and don’t make sounds; this distracts the baby turtles and instead of trekking towards the ocean, they will come to you.
- This is an ecotourism festival. Do not litter and avoid the use of plastics.
- Do not cross the barricades and enter the site where the turtles enter the sea.
- Swimming is strictly prohibited as the beach is one of the most dangerous beaches in Konkan.
For more details, click here
Also Read: 15 Luxurious Weekend Stays Near Mumbai