March and April 2014: Mass turtle nesting spots to travel to in India

Thursday, 13 March 2014 - 5:40pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Did you know that the elusive and gravely endangered Olive Ridley turtles lay their eggs in the same spot where they were born years ago? Raul Dias lists four hatching sites in India for you to witness this unique phenomenon in March
  • Turtles-come-to-Rushikulya-for-nesting Turtles come to Rushikulya for nesting (Image credit: Rabindra Sahu, RSTPC Odisha) dna

A tropical sea turtle also known as the Pacific Ridley Turtle, Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys Olivacea) are generally found in the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. While an average-sized female can lay hundreds of eggs at a time, barely one or two out of the batch of hatchlings make it to adulthood. This is because soon after hatching when baby turtles try to navigate their way back to the sea, most of them fall prey to ocean predators and sea birds.

Rushikulya, Odisha
Undoubtedly one of the most important spots in the country, where the gentle giants of the deep come to lay their eggs, this beach lies at the mouth of the Rushikulya river in Chilika in the Ganjam district of Odisha. Over 200,000 turtles return each year to deposit their eggs in the white sands from January to March. Called arribadas, the mass nesting spots are thankfully under the protection of conservation groups like The World Turtle Trust's Olive Ridley Turtle Project that work along with the local Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee (RSTPC) formed by the villagers of Purunabandha to ensure the species' constant survival. What's even better is that Rushikulya is not a very popular tourist destination, making it the perfect place to engage with nature at its pure, undiluted best!

Besides turtle watching... hire a local boat and go fishing in the tranquil waters off the beach.

Galgibaga, Goa
While the nearby Palolem beach may be carving a niche for itself as the party capital of South Goa, sleepy Galgibaga in the Canacona taluka is happy to bask in the glory of its status as a safe haven for hundreds of nesting turtles. Every New Year, its residents wait for female turtles to visit and deposit their 100-150 eggs in pits dugout by their flippers and then return to the ocean just as quickly. Those interested in seeing the entire process of nesting to hatching, which takes about 45 days, can hire a beach shack from the friendly locals.

Besides turtle watching... plan a day trip to the nearby Contigao Wildlife Park to sight panthers, hyenas and pesky monkeys!

Velas, Maharashtra
Hugging the state's lush Konkan coast with all its might, the tiny village of Velas has an air of lethargy about it most of the year round. But come turtle season from November to April, its beaches are a frenzy of activity with thousands of turtles depositing their precious commodities in the sand. Once prized as a delicacy by the villagers, today the golf ball-sized eggs are heavily guarded and protected by the very hands-on Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNM) volunteers. But make sure to time your visit to coincide with the annual Turtle Festival around March and April (depending on the nesting). SNM conservationists take you on guided sessions where baby turtles are released at the end of the hatching season.

Besides turtle watching... trek a few kilometres to the north of Velas where you'll find the ruins of the Himmatgarh Fort.

Chennai, Tamil Nadu
This one is a very special entry on our list. No one would imagine that a bustling city could play host to mamma turtles, who return to Chennai's beaches to lay their eggs. However, that said, this is also one of the most affected areas that have seen a steady decline in the number of turtles nesting year after year. Reasons are encroachment on the beach, drowning in trawl nets and poaching for eggs (a thing of the past). But that's about to change, we are told by the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN). Their seasonal Friday and Saturday 'Turtle Walks' are very much in demand. While it may require making repeated calls and begging for a place on the overnight walk, the reward at the end of it is a truly spectacular sight, as you bid a tearful adieu to the little ones who happily paddle away into the vast unknown...

Besides turtle watching... get a little culture into your trip with a visit to the Cholamandal Artists' Village a little out of the city on the East Coast Road.

Oman: at the Ras Al Jinz and Ras Al Hadd beaches.
Sri Lanka: at the Kosgoda and Rekawa beaches.
Costa Rica: at the Nancite and Ostional beaches.
Nicaragua: at the Chacocente and La Flor beaches.
Mexico: at the Playa Escobilla in Oaxaca and Cabo San Lucas beaches.

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