The Konkan region is known for its scenic beauty, pretty white sandy beaches and the lovely sea food. Being closer to Mumbai, Pune and Goa brings many tourists here who are looking for an escape for the weekend. This coastal belt is also one of the prime areas of India where the endangered species of Olive Ridley Turtles visit to lay their eggs. Most of these beaches are away from the civilization and make perfect setting for the mothers to lay their eggs. In the last few years, some local NGOs have taken it upon themselves to make sure that no harm is imposed upon these eggs and the hatchlings get to go back to their home instead of an animal or bird eating them after or before they are born.
All the seven species of marine turtles are under the list of endangered species. Understanding the need of their conservation and safekeeping, the NGOs and Maharashtra’s wild life department have taken it upon themselves to help with the conservation. As the part of this initiative, two of the biggest spots where Olive Ridley Turtles visit to lay their eggs have been marked as protected areas. As a result, the movement of turtle conservation at Velas and Anjarle has been so successful that Velas itself is now contributing to 40% of egg hatching and turtles returning to the sea in the whole Konkan Area.
You too can be a witness to this extraordinary event and experience this wonder by yourself. The Velas and Anjarle turtle festivals are two prime events organized during the time when the eggs start hatching.
Velas Turtle Festival
Velas is a small, beautiful town filled with clear sandy beach and dense mangroves. The cleanliness of this beach and its distance from anything commercial proves to be a perfect setting for the mother Ridley to visit and lay her eggs. The number of eggs laid on Velas beach is the highest on the Konkan Coast and hence the turtle festival goes on for more than a month.
How to reach Velas
Velas is 3 hours away from the biggest town, Dapoli. Those who are driving will have no problem coming from Pune or Mumbai as the roads are well marked. If you are coming by bus to Velas then you travel either to Mandangarh or for Dapoli. DO NOT CHOOSE DAPOLI AS THE PLACE TO STAY IF YOU WISH TO SPEND TIME AT VELAS.
Buses coming from Pune and Mumbai have more frequency to Ratnagiri and Chiplun. From Ratnagiri, you’ll find a connecting bus to Dapoli or Mandangarh. Upon reaching Mandangarh, you can either wait for a bus going to Velas leaving at intervals of 3 hours or walk into the market and take a shared jeep for INR 50.
Anjarle Turtle Festival
Olive Ridley arrives at Anjarle Beach quiet late so the turtle festival starts only in April. A small conservatory keeps some 150 eggs for hatching and protection. As the beach is away from any kind of artificial lighting, the guarantee of baby hatchlings reaching to the ocean is pretty high.
How to reach Anjarle
Considering that you are traveling from Mumbai, Pune or Goa, you can take a bus or train till Ratnagiri. Once you are in Ratnagiri, you’ll find frequent buses for Dapoli from where there are buses to Anjarle. Staying at Dapoli will ruin your chances of seeing the turtles hatch as the first bus from Dapoli leaves at 6:45 AM.
If you have a private cab or driving by yourself, you should make sure that you leave from Dapoli by 5 in the morning so that you are able to see the turtles being released in the sea. Staying in Dapoli will keep you in an area with phone networks and connectivity but you’ll miss the scenic beauty offered by Anjarle.
Stay at Velas and Anjarle
Velas and Anjarle have been developed to sustain local tourism. As a part of this initiative, a number of stay homes have been opened here so that the locals find a way to earn their livelihood without getting to the need of selling turtle eggs. You’ll find a stay home for INR 800 to 1500 depending on the amenities and the kind of room you require.
Both Velas and Anjarle are devoid of Airtel or any other phone network. Although Idea is better than other networks in this region but connectivity is still limited inside the town.
Hatchling Release at Velas and Anjarle
Both Velas and Anjarle beaches have conservatories where the eggs are marked and released in the sea on a daily basis. You can either visit the beach at 7 AM or 6 PM as the dim light is the best time for the baby turtles to find a way home.
Things to keep in mind while enjoying the turtle festival
Velas and Anjarle are highly sensitive areas in terms of ecology. The burden of making this event successful is not only the responsibility of an NGO or the forest department. When you are here, try not to bring your vehicle on the beach area. A small walk will only keep you healthy. Although there is no rule against parking vehicles near the beach but it makes the whole area very crowded.
A lot of people come here with kids and instead of educating them about the importance of conservation they just let them throw stones inside the conservatory. Making hoo haa noises will only startle these little hatchlings and they won’t come out thinking of a possible danger.
Velas and Anjarle beaches are not like Goa where you can throw a plastic bottle thinking that someone else will come clean it for you. So when you visit turtle festival, try bringing back your garbage. An NGO or a local asking the same is pretty insulting, trust me.
Velas and Anjarle have a lot of potential in terms of environmental conservation. Turtles are the oldest species on the planet and have been around since the times of dinosaurs. Humanity’s greed has finally brought them to closer to extinction. It is commendable to meet a group of dedicated people who leave their lives behind for months so that they can make sure that these babies reach their home safely.