The Journey of the Olive Ridley

Every year Olive Ridley turtles make the journey to beaches around the world to nest. I had the opportunity to witness what happens after the little ones are born.
Countless times on nature channels I had watched footage of Olive Ridley turtles emerging from their nest and making their way to the sea. This was a long time ago and somehow I assumed that this occurred in a country other India. So when a friend called me and mentioned that there was a weekend excursion to watch this very phenomenon I signed up for it with little deliberation. I needed to get a break from the city life in any case.

A midnight departure and a bus journey of around 6 hrs was supposed to to get us in time to watch the morning session for the hatch lings. Unfortunately the bus took a wrong turn somewhere and recovering from that mistake costs us enough time to miss the morning session. We did spend some time at the Velas beach before returning to our home-stay for breakfast and a little rest. The nice thing about the beach is that it is explicitly allowed only for turtle watching. No other water activities occur there and the waves are not recommended for wading into. This is why the beach continues to remain clean and beautiful.

Other than the hyacinth the beach is thankfully free of trash. One of the other reasons for keeping humans off the beach during the nesting season is the nature of the mother Olive Ridley. Once she digs a nest, lays her eggs and covers it up her responsibility as a mother ends. So she does the best to lay her eggs on the beach she perceives as the safest and gives her babies the best possible chances of survival. These facts we learnt on short visit to the local forest official’s house where we were shown a very interesting documentary on the turtles. He was an earnest guy who we could see was genuinely motivated and wanted to make people understand the importance of conservation.

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The Olive Ridleys have many threats both natural and man made. This has made it necessary for conservationists to build an enclosure on thehe beach that you can see above. The sticks placed in the sands indicate the location of a nest. The ones with a cane tokri and jute sack cover indicate eggs which are almost at the end of their nesting period.

Since we missed the morning session we would have to wait until the evening for a chance to spot the turtles again. So we killed time by walking up to a small fort nearby called Bankot. It offered up some gorgeous views of the ocean and since it wasn’t too crowded with tourists also made sitting there a relaxing peaceful experience. The interesting thing about the fort is that a lot of it’s actual history is shrouded in mystery. So even though it was discovered in the 1700s it’s actual date of origin continues to remain undetermined.

One of the nicest things about getting away from the city and visiting a village are the variety of rustic houses that you get to see. Sloping roofs are the most common aspect of the houses and are a real treat to the eyes

When we went back to Velas Beach for the evening session uncovering the nests showed us no hatchlings had emerged. So we just spent some time enjoying the sunset and the beautiful sand.

When we went back to the beach the next morning we got lucky as 3 baby turtles had emerged from the sand. The thing to understand was that for some people who had come there expecting hundreds of baby turtles emerging from their nests and making their way to the sea it would turn out to be a disappointment. It was sad to hear some people muttering that since only 3 turtles were seen it wasn’t their money’s worth. It was a sad line of thinking that really annoyed me. It is important to understand that this wasn’t some kind of a show or spectacle that you paid an entry ticket to. The presence of only 3 turtles actually indicated a very sad state of affairs and truly showed how much the turtle population had gone down over the years. That aside the watching these tiny creatures flip and flap their way towards the sea is a wonderful sight. When one them finally makes their way into the waters there it evokes several emotions in the mind. The feeling of triumph knowing that the baby turtle has completed it’s first and most important journey of it’s life. The fact that only 1 in a 1000 baby turtles makes it’s way to adulthood makes one wonder, pray and hope that the baby has a bright future in store.

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1 Comment

  1. Great article Shantesh. Well captured.

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