What could be purest treat to your eyes then to see the little ones taking its first step? What if you get a chance to witness the same with baby turtles? Just at the imagination of this site, I couldn’t stop myself from going to Velas turtle festival this year. So there I was. To a new place, for a new surprise.
As usual I opted to visit this place with my very own group Mumbai Pune Adventures. This time it was Swapnil, Girish and me to guide a group of 17 people. It was 16th March when our journey began at 10 p.m from dadar where AC bus was arranged for us. Few of us got in from Vashi and Kalamboli as well. Post the bus got house full and stomach were satisfied with Mc D treats, the actual fun ride began when Girish made everyone play games which really helped us connect well with each other. The entire joy ride continued with laughter, games, chai ki chuski breaks and mini naps until we reached velas village at around 4:30 a.m. The village was super clean and damn beautiful with row houses having verandas, plants, variety of trees and rangolis in front of each houses. The houses were made up of natural flooring of cow dung that kept the houses cool and gave a perfect indian touch to it. The plan of staying in such lovely place filled me up with excitement.
After having a little rest we left for the beach to watch release of baby turtles. The beach was approx. 2 km away from the village which includes a walk of half a km between the narrow road surrounded by mangroves. Just after passing this route you get a glance of the beach. At the start of the beach there is a patch of huge trees which will definitely remind you of some filmy scenes.
The beach was indeed very beautiful with dark but soft sand, water with waves emerging from 3 sides and big brown rocks on the back side. In between the beach there is a big barricade built where the eggs of turtles are kept digged approx. one feet under the sand as per the dates on which they were found. It takes around 45 days for the eggs to hatch and as the date comes near to due, a big wooden bowl (tokri) is kept over that place. We came to know few of the interesting facts throughout the stay. Olive ridley turtles are one of the most treasured species among the marine world. One female turtle gives around 65 to 70 eggs on an average at one go. If the climate is cool, the changes of male birth is more and if it’s hot, more female turtles are born. Once entered the sea, male turtles never comes out of the water while females come out to lay eggs. After the females lay their eggs, these eggs are collected by the ngo people and are kept in the barricades in the same pattern of the nest. Onces hatched, baby turtles are released only during sunrise or sunset as it is believed the the babies follow the sun light or its reflection to get their paths into the water.
Our hearts and minds were racing with full excitement to see the babies come out of the sand. There were 3 patches from which the eggs were expected to hatch. As the ngo guy opened the tokris one by one, our excited eyes were filled with disappointment as there were no eggs hatched. Still having the hope to see the turtles in the evening, we continued with our fun on the beach. We clicked like hundreds of pics each time with variety of poses. The enjoyment of splashing water, playing with the waves and having me time was worth cherishing.
Post this dhamaal masti we were back to village with our empty roaring stomach. Delicious hot poha and upma with masaledar tea was kept ready for us. We stuffed ourselves completely, freshened up, took rest and ya most importantly played uno games with lots of cheatings, personalised rules, funny arguments and stomach hurting laughter. Then was the time to visit Bankot fort. This fort had a beautiful view of bankot creek. As usual we followed the tradition of photo shooting on various angles of the fort.
Then we headed back to the village as it was time for a full fledged thali of mouth watering maharashtrian village food. Trust me!! this perfectly spiced food can beat the taste of any five star hotel. Post this heavy lunch, few of us decided to sleep while few uno enthus continued playing the cards. The happiness of sleeping in verandas has seriously no words! At around 5pm we had another round of tea after which we left for beach again.
We eagerly waited for the dipping sun to reach a point when turtles could be released. As it struck 6:20 in the clock, the ngo guy opened the door to get into the barricade. We watched him will full excitement as he opened the tokris one by one.
first, second, third and our faces again dropped with huge disappointment this time. To cheer up each other we played kho kho on the beach till the time it was too dark to even see each other. That was a memorable moment though!! We reached back to the village, had lovely food again and took some rest. Few of us went for a walk sharing horror stories in the dark. Then was the time to say goodnight.
Next day was the last day in velas. We woke up at 5:30 in the morning at left for the beach to try our luck for the last time. This time our hopes were little faded but as they say, nature keep surprising you at any moment. As the sun woke up, the ngo guy headed towards the tokris to lift them up. First one only had sand under it. The moment he lifted the second one, six baby turtles popped out of the sand. Entire crowd clapped and hooted with cheers!! Baby turtle were then kept in the tokris and taken for release. At about 2 meters away from the sea two parallel lines were made in between which turtles were released. We were made to stand behind the two line to watch them move towards water. The moment of those babies taking their first steps while crawling into the sea was the happiest moment of my trip!! It seemed like 6 of them were running a race to get into the water. One of them came crawling near my leg seeming to give a cutest pose. Well I was lucky i guess. As they touched the water, waves would come to take them away into their house. I just couldn’t stop smiling remembering that moment!!!
After waving goodbye to the turtles we had breakfast in the village along with fresh nariyal paani. We said a final bye to the village and left for harihareshwar temple. It takes a ferry to reach there as the places is surrounded by water. The location at which the temple is situated was damn beautiful. We played around the water and rock for some time and then shopped for local items in the tiny market out there. We had our lunch in Gokul restaurant which is located near the market. The food was awesome again!!
With a big smile on each ones face, we left for mumbai. Sleeping, playing, chatting we reached kharghar were another surprise was waiting for us. A choco loaded cake!!! Our bus was parked on the busy street where we all got to the back seat of the bus to celebrate anniversary of MPA. Yes!! You got it right! MPA had completed one year on the auspicious day of Gudipadwa. Sweetening our mouths with chocolate cake we then got down to our respective places carrying thousands of sweet memories and bunch of new friendships with us.
It was indeed a great and memorable experience. If you are a big fan of nature’s surprises, you should definitely visit this place during turtle fest…