Took the MSRTC Mumbai-Velas bus at 2:00 pm from Maitri Park, Chembur to reach Velas, a small coastal town in Konkan at 8:30 pm. Was picked up from the bus station by our host Mrs. Palshetkar whom we had booked directly through snmcpn.org site and were welcomed to a traditional maharashtrian dinner in her house. The village is a perfect example of eco tourism.
Of the entire Olive Ridley turtles which come to the western coast of Maharashtra to lay eggs, almost 40% come to Velas. As the eggs were being stolen and then sold in the open market or destroyed by dogs on the beach their count came down drastically in the last few years. Thats when Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra took the project of conservation of these declining turtles.
Today after the female turtles come to land dig an egg chamber and lay their eggs in the wee hours of the night in the winter months, the eggs are relocated by volunteers to a safer place on the same beach around 1 feet below the ground at early hours in the morning. This process brings down their hatching success rate to 60-65% from the 90% when left in their natural settings. Each female lays around 80-150 eggs at a time.
After around 55 days the eggs hatch and the hatchlings surface to the ground, they are then taken towards the sea and kept at a distance of about 10-15 metres before the shore and allowed to make their way into their homes. The sight of seeing these little creatures walk into their homes is interesting.
This entire program is done twice in the day at 7 am and 6 pm, provided the hatching has happened.
Afternoon was spent at Bankot fort at a distance of 7 km from Velas.
Evening was again at the beach followed by watching a documentary on conservation activities done by SNM.
Next day after the beach visit, we took the bus to the nearby pier, jetty to cross the creek and again dumdum (local rickshaw) to Harihareshwar temple and beach. Again dumdum to Shrivardhan and a bus back to Mumbai.
Some interesting facts about turtles-
-Male sea turtles never return back to land.
-Higher nest temperatures produce a majority of females while lower temperatures
produce a majority of males.
-Sea turtles cannot retract their heads into their shells like other turtles making them vulnerable to terrestrial predators.
-Adult leatherback turtles weigh almost 600 kegs and are upto 2m long.
-A female turtle may sometimes crawl out on the beach to lay her eggs but decide not to nest due to artificial lighting or people on the beach.
-Only one out of 1000 hatchlings reach adulthood.
-And, the female turtles swim over 3,000 miles, returning to their natal beach to lay eggs.