About Velas Turtle Festival
This festival is about witnessing the rare and endangered Olive Ridley turtles taking their first step into this world. This eco-tourism initiative has been started by Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNMC) in 2006 being one of the leading NGOs in Maharashtra to spread awareness and promote nature tourism with the help of local villagers. This festival is held at Velas, a coastal village in the district of Ratnagiri, Maharashtra every year between February to April during the turtle hatching season. Animal lovers flock every year to watch these baby turtles being hatched and released into the vast Arabian sea.
Olive Ridley Turtles Journey at Velas
The Olive Ridley turtles are delicate sea turtles mostly found in the warm tropical areas of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans predominantly in Mexico. These turtles being olive green in color weigh around 50-60 kg and almost 70 cm in length ( Approx 2 feet). They are mostly carnivorous, feeding on creatures such as jellyfish, snails, crabs, and shrimp. These species are termed as endangered as sadly there are around only an estimated 800,000 nesting females left in the world. Back in 2002, SNMC found out that Velas beach was one of the many locations where the female turtle came to lay their eggs. These eggs that were being consumed by either humans, dogs, birds or wild animals. Post educating the villagers on the importance of saving these endangered species, The Kasav Mitra Mandal was initiated in Velas, which helped in conserving nature and also created an opportunity to boost the economy of this village via tourism. It is believed that these turtles travel thousands of kilometers each year to their breeding site in Velas, as this was the place themselves were born. The nesting season starts from June to December and the female of this species always return to the same spot every year during the late hours making a pit of about 1 meter deep with the help of their flippers and lay about 100 eggs in just 45 mins, cover it up with sand and then returning to the sea. The SNMC Volunteers then collect these minuscule eggs, almost the size of a ping pong ball and incubate them for 55 days in a big hatchery constructed on the beach by the locals. These batches are marked by its date and left to incubate naturally. It is a nerve-racking and magical moment when the volunteers lift each basket to check if any baby turtles have been hatched and release them into the vast sea just like a newborn human baby takes its first step into the world.
Best Time to Visit :
Velas beach can be visited throughout the year however if you are keen to watch the baby olive ridley turtles, the best time to visit is between February and April.
There are 2 sightings scheduled every day, one in the morning between 6.30 am to 7.30 am and the other in the evening between 4.30 pm to 5.30 pm. There are no entry charges to view this festival. The sightings of the baby turtle are on pure luck. Visitors are requested to follow announced dates as they are predicted by an NGO with the constant study.
How to reach Velas :
- By Bus: Velas is easily accessible by road and we opted to take the MSRTC Buses which plies twice everyday from Dadar east ST bus stand directly to Velas one is at 12.30 am in the night and reaches at 6.30 am so then you can straight rush for the morning turtle sighting and the second bus leaves in the afternoon at 12.30 pm and reaches at 6.45 pm where you can witness the evening sighting however we cannot guarantee the latter as it can reach later due to traffic conditions. Please note these are standard basic buses without any amenities. MSRTC does not run any Volvo/luxury buses directly to Velas. Please make sure to book your bus tickets online through the MSRTC website or their mobile app. Alternately you can also book through Redbus. One way fare to Velas by MSRTC ST bus is INR Rs. 290.
If you happen to miss either of these direct buses to Velas, you can hop onto any buses which go to Srivardhan, Harihareshwar, Dapoli and alight at Mangaon. Then take a connecting bus from Mangaon to Mandangad and then another bus to Velas. However, be mindful that the last bus to Mandangad leaves at 9 pm. You can also manage to get shared autos costing Rs. 600 per person all the way from Mangaon to Velas which is approximately a 2 hours 30-minute ride.
2. By Car/Bike: If you don’t prefer traveling by buses, then you can just drive or ride down to Velas which is around 230 km from Mumbai approximately 7-8 hours considering 1 or 2 halts in between.
3. By Train: You can also opt to travel by train all the way till Mangaon and then preferably take a bus or a shared auto, but do make your train reservations in advance.
Where to Stay at Velas :
If your looking for some luxurious resort including an infinity pool plus buffet breakfast and dinner, then stop reading this blog post right away.
However, if you want to be surrounded by nature and experience living in a simple homestay and taste scrumptious homely coastal food along with the villagers then you are in the right place.
Velas has several local homestays with basic amenities and shared bathroom wherein they charge a nominal fee. We stayed at one such homestay named Shri Sadguru Krupa and it was a no-frill simple mud and brick house provided with a mattress, pillows, drinking water, power point, and a shared bathroom. We were only charged Rs. 300 per person (Room Only), lunch/dinner cost us Rs. 150 for Veg and Rs. 250 for Non-veg and Rs. 50 for breakfast.
If you wish to visit Velas, you can definitely connect with Vijay Saldurkar on +919325922412
Nearby Places to Visit :
- Bankot Fort: Also referred to as Himmatwala or Victoria fort is located around 5 km from Velas Beach.
- Harihareshwar Beach: One can take the ferry boat from Veshvi Port to Baghmandla Port and visit the nearby Harihareshwar Beach and temple.
- Srivardhan Beach: One can also visit this 3 km long calm and clean beach located around 20 km from Harihareshwar Beach.