- Ajaz Shaikh
Velas Turtle Festival - Olive Ridley Conservation
Velas is famous for the Olive Ridley Turtle, which is an endangered species of sea turtles. Velas is a small village about 5 kms from Harihareshwar across the Bagmandala creek. Every year the Olive Ridley turtle population visits Velas to lay its eggs.
Ten years ago, before the conservation effort started, most of the Olive Ridley turtle eggs were either consumed by humans, dogs and other wild animals. An NGO named Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra and the Kasav Mitra Mandal (KMM), committee has taken the initiative to conserve olive ridley turtles by providing protection to their eggs during the period of February to March. The NGO also organises the festival which offers the experience of witnessing the first steps of the baby Olive ridleys
How to Reach From Mumbai?
The road is the best way to reach Velas via NH-17 which is the Mumbai-Goa highway. A right turn from Goregaon takes you straight to Velas. The total drive should take close to 6 hours. Several buses are run both by private and state bus services to take you up to Mandangad or Dapoli, from where you can take local transport for the rest of the journey.
Direct S.T. buses from Mumbai are available for Velas. There’s one bus at midnight that reaches Velas at 6:30 AM in the morning and there’s another one that leaves Mumbai at noon and reaches Velas at 8:00 PM.
Those taking the Konkan Rail route should board trains till Chiplun. The distance from Chiplun Railway Station to Velas is 107 km and takes around 3 hours to reach Velas by road.
No Luxury Hotels Or Deluxe Rooms
Velas Turtle Festival is a 2D/1N tour from Mumbai and Pune. Thus, making it the best weekend getaway at the end of winter. You can directly drive down to the destination else you can opt for group tours. There are no luxury hotels or Deluxe rooms for Velas Beach Stay. A full-fledged homestay system was started to accommodate visitors during the festivals. Besides getting to simple village life and home-cooked Maharashtrian Food you're indirectly supporting the cause, 10 per cent of the homestay earnings go toward the turtle conservation project. SNMC/Tour Operator/House Owner arranges a video session at night for all visitors with detailed info about the fest and turtles of Velas Beach to generate awareness.
If you want to know all about Olive Ridley Turtles and Velas Beach Turtle Festival. Here is the detailed travel guide for your tour planning and plotting.
Village Of Turtles
Velas is a beach on the western coast of Maharashtra State in India, where the fest is organized annually. The Velas Turtle Festival dates are not fixed as it depends on the eggs laid by Female Turtles. Mostly, it is in the month of March. Velas Beach Turtle Festival is organized by Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (SNMC) which decides the annual fest dates.
At 7 am, when most are waking up to a lazy weekend, Ratnagiri's Velas Beach is buzzing with activity. Visitors stand on either side of a roped aisle, cameras in hand for what's one of the years most waited for red carpet walk. As volunteers release the day's first batch of Olive Ridley Turtle hatchlings cameras goes off. Babies Turtle make their way into the sea guided by the morning sun.
Locals are involved in every step of the process: surveying the beach for eggs, collecting and transferring them into artificial hatcheries which are monitored till the eggs hatch. The babies are then collected and released twice a day i.e. in the morning and evening. Timings are Morning 7 – 7:30 am and Evening 6 – 6:30 am. The sightings of a baby turtle are on pure luck. Visitors are requested to follow announced dates as they are predicted by an NGO with the constant study. Every turtle hatched out of an egg goes back into the sea on the same day.
Only to Return
On release, when the hatchlings head to the sea, they record the place's geomagnetic field intensity, remembering it till they return as adults. This is a key moment in their lives. Fifteen years later, the females from the batch will reappear to nest and lay eggs at the exact spot of their birth. They will hatch 50-60 days later and the cycle goes on.
The remote village of Velas would have stayed in oblivion if it weren’t for the Olive Ridley turtles that brought international attention to this place. Enclosed by mountains on its three sides with the lovely Velas beach on its fourth side, this small village also has a historical connection as it was the hometown and birthplace of Nana Phadnavis, who was a powerful minister of the Maratha Empire.
If you want a beach vacation with a rustic, isolated feel, Velas beach fits your itinerary perfectly. Velas Beach is also the perfect places to enjoy sunrise and sunset.
Bankot Fort / Himmatgad Fort/ Fort Victoria
Bankot Fort is a very old coastal fort. After conquering, it was renamed Himmatgad by Marathas. Later, after the fall of Suvarnadurga, the British changed the name to Fort Victoria. Bankot fort used to hold the commanding position on the traditional trade route of Savitri River. Approximately, it takes half an hour to reach the entrance of the fort. There is a wide and safe route to reach the top of the fort. There are two entrance gate & one Nagarkhana from where the Savitri river is visible. A beautiful piece of history can be explored on Bankot Fort.
Harihareshwar Beach & Temple
Kalbhairoba Temple on Harihareshwar Beach should be visited first before visiting the main Shiv Linga. There are two Beaches with pristine beauty. Certainly, it is the most preferred destination for people from Mumbai & Pune. Harihareshwar beach is less crowded and one can relax in a natural ambience to make a weekend trip amazing. Thus, it makes the best weekend destination for tourist from all over Maharashtra. On the second day of the tour, Harihareshwar Temples and beach exploration is planned by the majority of the tour operators.
The place is also home to the confluence of river Savitri and the Arabian Sea. The temple is also known as the Kashi of the South as people come here in large numbers to perform the last rites for their loved ones.
To summarize, Velas Turtle Festival is a kind of experience that one should have once in a lifetime. But, make sure you check the Velas Turtle Festival dates and then visit the Velas beach. As there are no hotels, your stay will be in rural Velas Beach Stay Homes on sharing basis during the Festival.
Listen To Me:
Talk to the native villagers gently and give respect to them, because you are their guests.
Very important to
carry a torch with extra batteries (Extra batteries for backup). Don't rely on your phone’s torch - preferably buy a headlamp.
Carry some warm clothes, the temperature could drop at night.
Wear a comfortable collar t-shirt (preferably dry-fit and full sleeves) and comfortable trousers (no jeans or shorts).
Velas beach is very risky for swimming. It is strictly not allowed to enter into beach water considering the safety and security.
Turtle sighting is a natural phenomenon and is a matter of luck.
Velas has no cellular coverage however wired phones are available with an STD facility for calling home.
Velas does not have local transport, so it advisable to travel by private vehicle.
Carry an Id proof.