Trip Diary: Velas

 

Trip Type: A group trip with Travel Trikon

Every year, during the time of Feb and March, the villagers get ready to host the tourists who want to witness the first step of the baby turtles in the sea. This village is named Velas. The place is located in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.

Close up of the turtle

Two years ago, when I shifted to Mumbai, I read about them and wanted to visit these little turtles. But the time and fate need to align for something to happen. This time, it aligned as Travel Trikon, a travel group, had its  Velas trip dates which aligned with my holidays from office (Life of a Corporate Traveler). And therefore I booked.

I don’t mind being alone in the groups, and that was not really my worry when I booked. I just sent a small prayer to the nature gods to let me experience the turtles once. The turtle sighting is like the sighting of any other wild animal. They might not be seen necessarily. The trips are organized according to the presence of the eggs and hatching cycle, but still, there have been instances when the babies were not ready to get out at the time of the sighting. Luckily, out of three sightings, two of ours were successful. We saw a pair of baby turtles on one morning and a set of four on another.

A walk to the sea

Turtle Watch

I felt gratified seeing their first step. Like all the babies, their steps are wobbly. They are turtles– slow, leathery– at times it felt that the baby is too tired and wants the wave to come and pick it up. But after a few seconds of rest, it continued its journey. As all of us sat across the barricade, clicking the pictures, marveling at how small they were, and wondering whether it will be able to reach the waters, the baby turtle moved on, saying goodbye to the sandy shore. Only female turtles return back to the same shore for laying their eggs; male turtles belong to sea forever.

Trip report:

Our trip started, for me, at Vashi at midnight by bus. We spent the whole night in the bus and reached the village by 5:30 a.m. Two halls were booked (one for females and one for males) where we freshened up and had a cup of tea. The journey to seashore from there took around 15-20 minutes of walk through the village. The village people were all up and going about their businesses. The shops were being opened, the women were cleaning their houses, you could even smell the rice being cooked somewhere– mornings surely are busy in the villages.

It is another ten minutes walk through mangroves and sand to reach the beach. I am really slow at walking in sand. But the plus point of walking slowly was I could breathe in the slightly cold air and listen to so many birds. Half of them, I couldn’t even recognize. I got the first glimpse of a common kingfisher(all thanks to my slow speed). 😛

Mangroves of the beach

The turtle hatching is checked at a fixed time every day– 7 in morning, around 6-ish in the evening. We were there much before time. Since it was my first time ( and of many others in the group), we were all jumping around (literally since we were told that beyond the big barricade were the eggs under the basket). Some of us (ahem, I!) wondered if they will allow usto go inside. (I am clueless like that at times, and no, we were not allowed inside.)

Turtle Eggs

The volunteers checked the baskets, and we were lucky as it was announced that there were two turtles under the basket. All other baskets gave nothing to us, but the person inside informed us that there was rustling, and chances were we might get to see the turtle in the evening too. Yay!

Next was the walk/run towards the barricade. I had no idea that they were going to set another barricade, but they did set it. Few meters away (50m?) from the sea, they put these chains, and everybody took their places around the chain. I got a far-off place, but I guess it was made up by my camera. I managed some good shots. The turtles’ slow walk helped me to capture them in my lens as did the enthusiasm of the other photographers there. The public around cheered the turtles on, and when they touched the water, claps resounded on the beach.

Rest a minute

 

Water and turtle

Once the turtles were there, we all had a small introduction round. And then we were free to explore the beach (some did play Frisbee, but my athleticism was finished by sand walking). It was one of the cleanest beaches I had seen. The blue of the sea, the brown of the rocks, and the peacefulness– it was indeed a heaven for my senses.

Velas Beach-2

Velas Beach-3

The group and frisbee

After around an hour or so, we left for our homestay where we were served breakfast of bhajini vada and curd and upma. I, in my whole food-tasting life, have not tasted something as tasty as that bhajini vada. (Recreation attempt for the same have given me mediocre results. *sigh*) We rested for some time, and next stop was the Bankot fort.

The breakfast of Upma

It’s a military fort, and hence, there were not many stories that I could make there, but it was an okay place. I enjoyed the view and the colors of the stones. But I guess that was that. It was just too hot for anything else except photography and conversation. And there were just too many people there for a small fort. Honestly, if somebody asks me to go there solely for the fort, I might give it a pass. But since the group was good, people were fun, and there were models for my photography, I enjoyed that too.

Fort and sea

Road to Bankot Fort

Next stop was back to the homestay where we were served lunch in the traditional style on banana leaves. No complaints about the food here. I wondered if they will take me as a Paying Guest if I think about taking a retreat there because of that food. Evening again was meant for turtle watching, but sadly no turtles this time. However, there was the sunset and evening life of village to be encountered. Dinner was served at the homestay in the same style. The night we dedicated to be near the sea from the other side and wished (in vain) to see the stars.

Lunch

The next day dawned and this time, I left early to capture some of the birds I had seen. Did not have much luck except for this oriental magpie robin, heron, and the woodpecker. There were other birds too there, but I am not that good of a photographer to capture them. I was either too late or had the wrong lens or the wrong vantage point etc.  We also got to see 4 turtles this time. It was equally delightful as the first time, and I had better vantage point too.

My first woodpecker pic

 

Oriental Robin Magpie-2

Another breakfast of sabudana khichdi was on the line. But what took the cake for me was Sol Kadhi. This was this my first time tasting it, and I just could not stop at the one glass. I needed one more glass, and then another. This thick, sweet cum salty, slightly pink drink became the highlight for me. I never realized I could love coconut this much.

After breakfast, we reached Harihareshwar. I missed the temple itself and went directly to the rocky side of the beach. Another clean beach with fresh air and roaring waves. It even rained, and it felt like nature was acknowledging all my awe for the landscape. We crossed the rocks to reach the beach while the tide was rising slowly. The furious beauty of waves increased as we crossed the area and walked towards our designated lunch place.

Harihareshwar Beach

After the lunch, it was the time to say goodbye to the location.

The best part of the trips:

  • Turtles
  • Food (Yum!!!)
  • Group
  • Pristine Beaches.

Not so good parts of the trip:

  • The fort
  • The summers
  • The night journey in the RTV bus to velas. There just wasn’t sufficient space to sleep with the bags all around.

Will I like to repeat the experience? Definitely, yes.

Planning Tips:

  • Keep a day extra for yourself because everything is the natural process. There is no guarantee of the turtle sightings.
  • Do not disturb the turtles, birds or even the villagers.
  • Homestays are available there and must be selected for the food alone.
  • There is no phone network at many of the places in the village. So plan accordingly.

Recommended For: Kids, Adults, Silvers, Friends, Solo travelers if you are okay with being left alone. 

Trip can be taken on your own or it can be taken with any of the travel groups out there. These days the trips are also organized to Anjarle village which is a relatively newer start.

Explore the whole album:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskWPGkB8

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