Velas Sea Turtle Festival - A journey towards life! - Counting Kilometers

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Velas is a tiny village, barely visible on the political map of India... But once you've experienced the feeling of ecstasy watching cute little babies of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles crawling their way to the infinity called ocean, I bet you can't keep yourself from returning there, year after year! Simply because this place celebrates new life every year! Imagine watching your own child walking their first steps, and imagine the smile on your face watching their cute struggle! Velas is place where you can experience that feeling every year... Read on to learn some insights about this magical event called Turtle Festival happening in the heart of Konkan...

About Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, scientifically identified as Lepidochelys olivaea, is a species of sea turtles found in warm tropical ocean currents of Pacific and Indian Ocean. These turtles are categorised as medium sized, but don't be fooled by that word... The turtles at their adulthood, can weigh as much as 50-60kg and grow up to 2-3ft long from head-to-tail!

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But these babies are only 2-3 inches long, and weigh well under 100gms!

These turtles spend almost all their life in depths of salty waters of the ocean and feed on aquatic animals with shells, jellyfish etc. Though they hate exposure to land, the females still travel thousands of kilometres to lay eggs on soft sandy beaches and yes, they remember their preferred egg-laying site and return exactly at the same site every time for laying their eggs! Every female generally breeds every alternate year. They come to seashore typically after sunset to avoid risks to their own life and their eggs too. They dig pits of around 2ft depth, lay eggs (there can be 100+ eggs in a pit), cover the pit with sand using their fins and vanish into the ocean before first rays of the sun next morning! We must learn from them how to value one's privacy and secrecy!

Olive Ridley Turtles are listed as a vulnerable species by IUCN, and there are a number of causes for their decreasing population.

Consumption of turtle eggs by people in rural coastal areas

Small carnivorous animals like Mongoose, Wild dogs, Monitor Lizards, Foxes etc. feed on turtle eggs if nesting sites are exposed by any means.

Slaughter of turtles for leather and oil is still practiced in some underdeveloped coastal belts.

Even after successful hatching and entering the ocean, only about 1% of baby turtles survive to adulthood.

What is a Turtle Festival

It is well known that Olive Ridley Turtles favour secluded beaches on Konkan coast for their nesting sites. Every year, hundreds of female turtles come ashore and lay thousands of eggs before returning to their home ground i.e. deep oceans! The eggs are totally unattended through their entire course of incubating, and such is the plight of a turtle's life that the babies might never see their parents throughout their lifespan, let alone getting some parental love and care!

Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra, an NGO established in 1992 decided to be the parents to these babies, at least through their course of life on land! They, in association with a few residents of Velas, founded Kaasav Mitra Mandal which takes care of safety of turtle eggs and ensures their safe passage from land to ocean, where they are left to thrive on their own for the rest of their life!

After the females dive back into ocean post laying eggs, the volunteers scan entire beaches to locate nesting sites and dig them open. All the eggs are taken out and brought to a controlled hatching ground where they provide identical environments for incubation, plus safety from predators! All the data is recorded and tracked to estimate the dates of hatching. Turtle festival dates are announced every year based on this data.

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Volunteer picking baby turtles to release them in ocean

Velas Turtle Festival is celebrated when newly hatched turtle babies are documented and safely released back in the ocean, on the same day of their birth. It is true that a human cannot control their survival after entering water, but Kaasav Mitra Mandal is doing their bit by maximising birth rate, merely by averting pre-hatching loss of eggs due to different causes listed above.

How to reach Velas

Velas is a tiny village located on the Konkan coast, in Mandangad taluka of Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra.

It is approx. 240kms (5hrs drive) from Mumbai and 200kms (4hrs drive) from Pune. One has to travel via Mangaon - Ambet - Mandangad route to reach Velas. Private transport is the best option to reach here. MSRTC has bus services connecting Velas with some major places nearby, though very limited in numbers.

Nearest railhead is Khed on Konkan Railway, which is around 80kms away from Velas. One has to take a public/shared transport from Khed to reach here.

Nearest airports are in Mumbai and Pune.

Though you can drop in at Velas any time by your own vehicles, the village has very limited options for accommodation and is fairly crowded during the days of Turtle Festival. Hence, checking with a reliable source beforehand is advisable. Many tour operators have their fixed date packages to visit Velas and experience Turtle Festival, which generally include transport to-and-fro ex-Mumbai/Pune, so it might sound a more dependable option especially in peak crowded days.

Dates of Velas Sea Turtle Festival

Olive Ridley Sea Turtles visit the seashore in winters (Starting November) to lay eggs. It takes around 65-70 days for those eggs to incubate. The volunteers analyse all data and forecast the dates of hatching. Exact dates of beginning and end of Turtle Festival may vary slightly every year, but usually the eggs start hatching by the end of February and continue till mid-April.

Important points to remember

As it has been repeatedly said in this article, Velas is a tiny village and one cannot expect any luxury of any sorts during their time in Velas. The only available means of accommodation are homestays, and all they serve is local cuisine (mostly vegetarian).

As it is a site of ecological importance owing to turtle nestings spread across the beach, they have imposed a strict ban on camping anywhere on the beach and no one except volunteers are allowed to venture on the beach in darkness. Littering anywhere on the beach during your visit can land you in trouble as well.

They have cut-off all the paths leading directly to the beach, so if you are dreaming of taking your vehicle into the sands, please wake up!

The hatching ground is protected by fencing and only volunteers are allowed to venture inside.

As there is no human interference in actual process of incubation and hatching, there can be a day (or a spell of days) when none of the eggs hatch, hence sighting of baby turtles is not guaranteed even during the period of Turtle Festival.

Baby turtles are released in the ocean every morning between 7 to 7.30am and in the evening between 6 to 6.30pm. This is not a recreational process, so they do not entertain any delay for any reasons. Whether you reach in time or not, the hatchlings will be released as scheduled!

While on the beach, one must obey the instructions given by volunteers and respect the space barricaded for baby turtles to crawl into waters. Baby turtles have weak fins and can float back to shore due to strong waves. Hence, it is strictly prohibited to venture in the ocean for at least an hour after releasing the turtles.

Velas beach is not safe for swimming and many deaths due to drowning have been reported in the past, so it is advisable to focus on prime purpose of your visit and leave the village with sweet everlasting memories.

Personal Experience

I first visited Velas in March 2019. I remember it as one of those most precious and cherished moments of my life, as I was walking back from the beach totally lost of words, trying to relive the sight of those tiny creatures flapping their fins aggressively, pushing their cute selves towards infinite depths of Arabian Sea, totally unaware of the plight of life ahead... All I could do is breathe in the moment and wish them a 'long' life and hope that someday in future, some of them might visit Velas again, to initiate another journey of Life!

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The cutest race I've ever witnessed!
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And then, they disappeared!

Watch for my first-hand experience of Velas Sea Turtle Festival.

Places to visit around Velas

You can add some of these places to your itinerary and make a long weekend plan to visit Velas during Turtle Festival.

Maharashtra's Longest Zip Line - 500mtrs

Bankot fort

Harihareshwar temple



Kelshi beach

Yakub baba Dargah

Kelshi Kadyavarcha Ganapati


Dapoli - Dabhol


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