Velas turtle festival is a unique event to witness breeding of olive ridley turtles in India. Very few places in India are favorable for turtle hatching and Velas beach in Maharashtra is one of them. Olive Ridley turtles are found only in Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Location Address: Velas beach, Mandangad taluka, Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra (India).
Breeding season: November to March is the main breeding season of Olive Ridley Turtles.
Velas Turtle Festival Background
The state of Maharashtra has a seacoast of 720 kms along Arabian sea. Apart from Dolphins on Maharashtra sea coast, the presence of olive ridley turtles has added a rich biodiversity to Konkan coast. Leatherback, Green Turtle, and Hawksbill are other species of turtles which are seen in the velas turtle festival. In the early 21st century, it was observed that olive ridley turtles come regularly to Velas region for egg hatching.
Species of turtles and different from tortoises. Turtles spend most of their life in the water and come out only for laying eggs. On other side, tortoises spend most of their life on land.[caption id="attachment_1458" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Turtles coming on the beach![/caption]
However, these turtles are now among endangered species. Destruction of breeding habitats, consumption of eggs and slaughter of adult turtles for leather and oil has led to the extinction of Olive Ridley Turtles.
Velas Beach Turtle Festival
Every year a festival to see breeding of olive ridley turtles is conducted by an NGO named Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) at the Velas beach. It takes place somewhere between February and March.During velas beach turtle festival, tourists can witness the egg hatching phenomenon of Olive Ridley at the beach. The view of little baby turtles crawling towards sea water is treated to eyes. A huge number of baby turtles comes out of the eggs laid by their mothers.
It is basically a movement to protect the Olive Ridley turtles. So during velas turtle festival, various volunteers and activist help a large number of baby turtles to reach safely into the ocean.Every year, new groups of turtles visit the Velas beach.[caption id="attachment_1457" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Turtle laying eggs![/caption]
Discovery of Turtles
In the 1990’s one smuggling boat carrying silver was crashed on the Velas beach. At that time, local security forces had caught the smugglers with the stock of silver. However, due to the accidental crash of boat, few amount of silver bricks were submerged in the sea near the beach. After few years, those submerged bricks appeared at the beach so the beach region was seized for investigations. During that investigation, finger tracks of Olive Ridley turtle were discovered. Later on, after further exploration, it was found that villagers used to steal turtle eggs and kill them for selling their meat. After few years, the initiative of velas turtle festival was started for the conservation of these turtles.
Facts About Olive Ridley Turtles
- One mother sea turtle lays about 100-150 eggs in heap shape.
- Olive ridley lays their eggs in a large group which is a rare habit. First, they gather near the seashore in large groups and then proceed towards hatching location altogether.
- Female turtle excavates a hole of nearly 2 feet depth and lays an egg inside it. Then she shields the hole with the help of sand and returns back to the sea.
- Only female turtles come at the breeding location for laying their eggs. After laying eggs, they return to the see and never come back again. So in their entire life span, turtles don’t even see their parents.
- Once baby male turtles enter into a sea, they never come to any beach. They spent entire life into the ocean.
- As the name suggests, the color of these turtles is olive green and they weight as high as 50-60 kg.
- Their food includes Jellyfish, Crabs, Shrimps, Prawns, Rock Lobsters and other Gastropods.
Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra NGO
Velas turtle festival is conducted by Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM). The project for the conservation of these endangered turtles was started by Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra in 2001.Due to the efforts of Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) and Kasav Mitra Mandal (KMM), now turtles visit the shores of Maharashtra safely. Volunteers from these NGO’s does the work of protecting turtle nests in 36 locations across the coast of Maharashtra.The people from NGO’s dig the nests and move the eggs to artificial hatcheries. As per last data received, they have protected 681 nests and released 30,465 baby turtles into the sea.
Velas beach has a very serene and crowd free environment. It is blessed with peaceful seashore, clean sand, and scenic beauty. As very few people know about this beach, it has maintained its natural beauty quite well. However, this beach is not safe for swimming. It is advised not to enter into beach water in security point of view.
IMPORTANT TOURIST INFORMATION
Velas Beach Accommodation / Staying Options: Few hotels and cottages have been established nearby the velas beach locality for accommodation purpose. Local people also offer homestays to tourists at the reasonable price during velas turtle festival.
How to reach
- By Road: You can reach Velas via Mumbai-Goa Highway (NH-17). Take a right turn after reaching Goregaon on NH-17 and proceed towards the beach.
Nearby Tourist Attractions:
- Suvarnadurg Fort
- Harnai Village & Port
- Bangot Fort