Aftab H. Kola
Published — Wednesday 24 October 2012
Last update 31 October 2012 7:42 pm
From June to October, the beaches around Ras Al-Had in Oman attract an increasing number of tourists. These aren’t here to enjoy the sun, sea and sand, but to watch green turtles lumbering up the shore to lay their eggs at night.
Green turtles have been thronging Omani shores for more than 7,000 years.
Ras Al-Had, near Sur, is a primary nesting habitat for green turtles. It is also known for well-sculpted mountains and archaeological sites which skirt the beach. With the completion of the new Quriyat-Sur highway, access to the Ras Al-Jinz Turtle Reserve has never been so easy.
In 1992, the government of Oman signed the International Convention for Biodiversity. In a determined bid to promote the conservation efforts a Royal Decree established a Turtle Natural Reserve in 1996. The protection of turtles in the Indian Ocean and South East Asia became a priority for the government of Oman.
The facilities at the Ras Al-Jinz Turtle Reserve in Ras Al Had have been upgraded and the reserve expects a 20 percent increase in visitors. During last year’s season, 9717 tourists watched the turtles nesting at the beach. Vijay Handa, general manager of the turtle reserve said, ‘Keeping in mind the increasing demands for accommodation at the reserve, we are adding 12 luxury air-conditioned tents on a hillock near the beach. Our multi-cuisine restaurant Sambuk dishes out lip-smacking breakfast and meals.’
Ras Al-Jinz Turtle Reserve recently opened a Turtle Visitors’ Center. The museum is especially dedicated to the life cycle of the sea turtle and the archaeological findings at the site.
The night turtle watching tour, escorted by professional guides, starts at 8.45 p.m. while the dawn tour takes off at 3.45 a.m. Nesting takes place only at nights.
The reserve and the nearby beaches host about 30,000 green turtles annually which migrate from the Arabian Gulf, remote pockets of the Red Sea and the Somali coast. The turtles return once in two or three years to the same beach for nesting.
During the reproductive season, adult turtles travel to the vicinity of the nesting beach, where they roam the waters up to several months. The migratory corridor serves as a mating station, also called the internesting habitat.
The green turtle is one of the most endangered species in the world. They live in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. These turtles spend their entire lives in the water, but the female species have to come on to land for nesting
As the turtles come on the beach, they rest for a moment, take a deep breath and start excavating a nest in the sand by using their fore flippers. An extraordinary sight to watch!
Half an hour later, a carefully crafted egg chamber is ready. The turtle starts laying the eggs and soon the nest is filled with approximately 120 soft white eggs, resembling ping-pong balls. She covers the pit with sand to hide the eggs from predators and slowly makes her way back into the water.