Wohoooo... this sound symbolises the sense of satisfaction and exhilaration when these tiny hatchlings finally touch the water and speed off into the unknown depths of the ocean without knowing what lies ahead of them or how important they are to the ecology of the marine life.
We (two families with kids) drove from Pune to Velas, specially to witness this amazing sight. This turtle hatching festival usually happens from the beginning of March to the end of April and sometimes continues till mid-May.
During the 5 hours’ drive to Velas, we crossed Tamhini Ghat, which is always pleasant, drove through Mangaon, and reached Harihareshwar, where we boarded a ferry to reach Velas. The drive from the jetty to Velas beach was delightful and picturesque, especially the last 10 minutes' drive where the road runs parallel to the ocean, and one can see white waves crash onto an empty untouched beachside! The kids loved the ferry boat ride and were simply amazed by the mechanics of a ferry and its ability to carry so many vehicles across the creek. An experience that they will cherish for some time.
The kids loved the ferry boat ride and were simply amazed by the mechanics of a ferry and its ability to carry so many vehicles across the creek. An experience which they will cherish for somethime.
We were actually under the time gun as we had to reach Velas by 6pm because they released the hatchlings into the sea at sunset. We parked our car and ran the 1 km stretch (in parts, of course, because of kids and partly our own stamina to run on the beach). We took the tickets @ Rs 100 per adult from one of the volunteers there and, on their account, sprinted the last few meters as they had just released one batch of 32 at 6 pm and the other batch of 12 about 5 minutes before our arrival! When we reached the beach, we saw that all the hatchlings had ventured off and started their respective journeys. We got a bit disappointed, but we met Mr. Mohan Upadhye, the man behind this entire conservation project. He is a simple down to earth man who has dedicated his life to protecting the Olive Ridley Turtles. He explained the life cycle of the turtles, where they fit in the food chain, the importance of turtles in marine ecology, and how pollution today is stifling their species.
He also threw light on how the community has played a significant part in conserving these turtles. When asked when can we see the Turtles being released, he advised us to return the next day early morning at 7 am as the next batch would be ready to be released.
The kids played on the beach, we enjoyed the sunset and left for our stay for the night at The MTDC Resort, Harihareshwar. On the way back, we inquired about the first ferry back to Velas and learned that it wasn't till 7:30 am, looks like we will miss the event after all. Speaking with a few locals and telling them that we wanted to see the kasav (turtle) festival, they told us to say to the person at the ticketing counter to arrange for a special ferry at 5:30 am in the morning. We did as we were told, and we booked the special ferry at 5:30 am for Rs 400/- only.
We returned with a sense of relief, knowing that our trip to Velas would not be a waste, and we would have our sighting of the little ones. The rooms at MTDC Harihareshwar were spotless, big, and had a fantastic beach view.
We quickly freshened up and ran to the restaurant in the resort, expecting to eat authentic Konkani food and fill our famished tummies. When we got there, we were disheartened by the fact that they did not have any authentic Konkani food; instead, they had Punjabi and Chinese (likhte likhte hi mera mooh tedha ho gaya, imagine our disappointment!). Anyways we ordered food off the menu, paid our bill, and crashed for the night.
The next day began at 4:30 am, getting the kids ready for a date with the turtle hatchlings. A slight tug of war, a little coaxing, and a lot of, "nahi uthe toh turtle hatching miss ho jayega!" enabled us to leave our hotel by 5:30 am and reach the ferry terminal by 5:45 am.
We reached a deserted ferry terminal with no ferry insight and thoughts racing our minds, and kids asking us, "ferry kabhi aayegi?" We went up to the ticketing counter and knocked on the door. Last night, the person we spoke with emerged and informed us the ferry would be here in 15 to 20minutes. We breathed a sigh of relief and instantly started clicking pictures of the early morning sky and the village's skyline. In a while, we saw the ferry approaching the jetty; we boarded our car on it, and off we went in hopes to see our heroes of the trip!
We reached Velas parking spot at exactly 6:30 am and briskly walked to the beach in about 15 minutes. We were welcomed to the news of "attach 20 kasav sodle" (we just let a batch of 20 go). On further inquiry, we were told the next batch would be released at 7am, so we went to the beach and waited while playing in the water and enjoying the sunrise in the background.
At 7 am, we saw a group of 15 odd people coming towards the beach; one of them was the volunteer who held a green tub with 17 tiny hatchlings. Yaaayyyyy, the kids cried in excitement, "the turtles are here, the babies are here." The other volunteers quickly drew a boundary in the sand, which we were not allowed to cross, and one by one, the hatchlings were put on the beach to start a journey that could last for more than 100 years or be over in a matter of minutes. These hatchlings at first lazily trudged along the beach towards the water, then slowly picked up the pace. They repeated this start and stop pattern until the waves touched their bodies and flipped their limbs harder to be swept away with the tide, leaving behind only a trail in the sand.
It usually takes the hatchlings about 5 minutes from the beach to get into the ocean, and those 5 minutes are a treat for us. So many questions arise while they are moving towards their new home. How do they know where the water is? How do they know where to come back? What will they eat? Can they see? and many more. All of these questions were answered by Mr. Mohan Upadhye with the utmost patience and grace. I will not disclose all this information here as I do not want to rob you of the excitement you will feel when you hear the story while watching them go in the water.
Finally, after 5 minutes, these hatchlings were on their way, and we were on ours. To put it into perspective, we traveled 5 hours to see an event that lasted for about 5 minutes, but still, every minute of that drive was worth experiencing.