Tread softly, don’t speak, don’t flash a torchlight…you could be just metres away from a several million year old tradition in nature! Thousands of new lives are in the making here and you don’t want to be an unwelcome intruder.
As Green Sea Turtles lay their eggs on the moonlit sands of Ras al Jinz beach, in Ras al Hadd wilayat, they aren’t quite oblivious of human activity around them. And as batches of curious visitors gather around their nesting pits in the darkness of night, with a spectrum of murmurs which they think are inaudible, the huge, humble amphibians have no option but to stay put with their task.
This is one explicit activity which people from around the world flock to Oman to witness from June to September when the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Located around 250km south of Muscat, Ras Al Jinz beach is one of the largest nesting sites for endangered Green Sea Turtles in the world.
Each year, thousands of sea turtles migrate to the Arabian Peninsulato lay tens of thousands of eggs in a natural habitat which has been preserved by the authorities at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve. Visitors are offered a chance to witness the turtles laying eggs during the wee hours while some may even be lucky to spot other species of turtles that pass by, including the Loggerhead, Leatherback, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill turtle.
The beach lies around 60km from Sur City, the capital of the A’Sharqiyah South Governorate and is said to have once been a safe haven for ships during storms. It has been proclaimed as a turtle reserve in view of the fact that annually turtles come to the shores to lay around 10,000-13,000 eggs. The hatching season is from October to November every year when the hatchlings finally make their waves into the foamy waves to begin a new life, and by and by continue a tradition which their ancestors have been doing for millions of years.
Visitors to the reserve have the option of either staying in the facility at the reserve or in nearby hotels in Sur. The reserve offers two guided, 1km walks to the beach daily – one late in the evening and one at dawn – which give visitors a chance to see the sea turtles up close in their natural habitat as they each lay around 100-120 eggs in the sand.
The guided tour begins in the main reserve centre before which visitors are divided into batches, and they later depart to the beach along with guides who deliver elaborate instructions to maintain silence, not use torchlights or do anything that would disturb the habitat of the nesting turtles.
The walk in the dark, cool sands is real fun, as one approaches the nesting site in silence, to be beckoned by the guide to form a ring around a nesting turtle. What you then see is something to be captured for posterity but one has to do it clandestinely, without flashes or sounds, so as not to disturb the huge turtle which has to labour for hours to lay its immense batch of eggs.
While the late evening walk has its own beauty, accompanied by the sounds of insects and the waves ashore, the dawn walk has a unique charm, as one gets an opportunity to see the horizon light up in varied hues of amber, crimson and gold while seagulls announce the culmination of your trip with their shrill cries.
Dos and Don’ts
At Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve, booking your tickets or stay in advance is highly recommended to avoid disappointment.
The walks are usually conducted at 8:30pm and 5:30am but these timings can be changed by the authorities, depending on the prevailing situation at the beach.
The peak turtle nesting season is from June to September but a few turtles can be spotted throughout the year.
It is advisable to go to the beach with a guide as they know well where to spot nesting turtles. You don’t want to end up trampling a pile of freshly laid eggs!
Don’t attempt to be smart and use your flash for a quick photo of a nesting turtle – you might end up disturbing them and compel them to abandon their task.
Noise, too, is unwelcome at the beach. So avoid whispering or exclaiming – do that when you get back to your hotel.
Explanation to young children may be done before or after the trip to the beach. Avoid being an ideal parent in front of the turtles, they don’t applaud your parenting skills.
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