Velas Turtle Festival
Nature provides everything for the man to survive on this earth; but due to our overwhelming desire to command over the nature itself makes this world a vulnerable place especially for those creatures that have very little means to protect themselves. There are several small, medium or big faunas that are getting extinct day by day owing to the callous and obdurate behaviour of human beings towards nature and its wonderfully diverse features. Olive Ridley Turtles are among those numerous other creatures that are dangerously standing on the verge of extinction. And the Velas Turtle Festival is a brilliantly unique occasion to save and conserve these little beauties from getting completely non-extant.
So, Why This Festival?Velas Turtle Festival which is also popularly known as the Konkan Turtle Festival celebrates the mass-hatchings of the little Olive Ridley turtles. This exclusive incident takes place at the broad and beautiful beach of Velas village near Ratnagiri in the state of Maharashtra. Every year during March and April, hundreds of Olive Ridley come ashore from the sea and lay hundreds of eggs on the shore line. Interestingly, the mother turtles return to the sea immediately after laying eggs, abandoning the eggs open and unprotected on the shore.
After a certain period of time of about two weeks, these eggs get hatched and all the baby turtles then take their very first march towards the sea. Amusingly, the female turtles return at the same place where they were born once they become adult and are about to lay their own eggs and do the same thing as their mother once did with them. Sadly, this whole amazing incident gets somewhat spoiled as the abandoned eggs often become morsels for the stray dogs, mongoose or even the human beings! Even if the eggs are lucky enough to get hatched on time, the poor little turtles often do not see the sea-world as sometimes they also become prey of human businesses. The main motto of the Velas Turtle Festival is to save and preserve these marine creatures.
What To Expect at the Velas Turtle Festival?As the serene beach of Velas is bathed in sunlight at the break of the day, the hundreds of little turtles coming out of their respected egg-shells start parading towards the clear blue sea, all along. Some of the sensible and concerned conservationists and environmentalists and the locals of Velas decided to come ahead and protect the endangered species in a fantastic way by arranging a unique festival here at the beach of Velas.
A non-Governmental Organization named Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (NSM) has been solely responsible for originating this brave new way of turtle-conservation. The Velas Turtle Festival was incepted in 2006 and since then, this festival has been taking place at Velas every year during the March end or the mid April. Apart from Velas, all the nearby spots where these conceived turtles nest especially at Harnai, Murud and Dapoli remain well-protected and well-observed during this period of around two weeks by the expert volunteers to ensure that there are no human and natural threats for the creatures. The laid eggs are then carefully carried and collected at the dedicated hatchery which is again well-protected and guarded throughout the phase.
The eggs get hatched naturally under the vigilant eyes of the NGO volunteers and then they are counted and taken to the closest area of the sea. Then, the newly hatched turtles are left on the shore so that they can easily and without any hindrance take their first step towards their own marine world. This baby steps are worth watching for the nature-lovers as the collected mass slowly make their ways towards the water all together with various speed. These steps are more important for the female baby turtles as they record their steps in order to return back at this same spot once they are about to lay eggs. This coming back may take more or less 10-15 years.
During the festival, several nature-loving people gather at the village beach and spend a few days in an eco-friendly environment dedicated completely to the wonderful Olive Ridley turtles. People participating in the fest actually volunteer to help the newly hatched turtles safely return to the sea. The Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (NSM) arranges for the home-stay at Velas for accommodation purpose which in turn, has helped the villagers get economically empowered. The Kaasav Mitra Mandal (friends of turtles) is the outcome of this initiative. The tourists can stay over the Home Stay at a nominal cost accompanied by delectable home-cooked Maharashtrian foods, thrice in a day.
The scenic beauty of Velas sea beach and the stunning picture of scores of baby turtles taking small steps and marching towards their own world would be a wonderful reason to thank the Mother Nature for allowing such marvelous events to take place on earth. Bidding these little turtles a goodbye renders an all new experience for the tourists and leaves a life-long impression on the minds of the onlookers. So, if you want to venture out for this wonderful natural incident, just head for the Velas Turtle Festival and be a part of an amazingly unique and noble initiative.
Things To Remember at the Velas Turtle Festival
- Velas or the Konkan Turtle Festival is an initiative taken by an NGO (Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra) to protect and preserve the endangered Olive Ridley turtle during their mass hatching period; this is not a mere picnic spot.
- The festival site is completely an eco-friendly zone where no usage of plastic is allowed; smoking, consuming alcoholic drinks and any other abnormal or uncontrolled behavior is also strictly prohibited at the site especially when the newly hatched turtles are released.
- Photography is allowed only without using flashes.
- Tourists should carry the necessity and safety products (Haversack, medicine, torch, umbrellas etc.) by themselves as the Home-Stay provides only accommodation and food.
- Foods offered by the Home-Stay are purely vegetarian and Konkani/Maharashtrian in style.
- Pre-booking at the Home-Stay is necessary.
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