Come March, the sleepy little village of Velas in the Konkan belt of Maharashtra throngs with travellers and bustles with activity - the ‘Velas turtle festival,’ an annual event dedicated to the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles takes place. Held at the Velas beach of Ratnagiri, 200 kms from Pune, the Velas turtle festival has been gaining much popularity in the eco-tourism sector both nationally and internationally. While the activities of conservation of turtle eggs take place at the beach, the natives of the pristine coastal village offer visitors many exhilarant local activities and culinary experiences, turning the festival into a cherish worthy multi-day event.
Velas Turtle Festival 2020 - Dates & Timings
February - March 2020
Batch 1 : 29th Feb - 01st March 2020 Batch 2 : 07th - 08th March 2020 Batch 3 : 09th - 10th March 2020 ( Holi Festival Special ) Batch 4 : 14th - 15th March 2020 Batch 5 : 21st - 22nd March 2020 Batch 6 : 28th - 29th March 2020
Batch 7 : 04th - 05th April 2020 Batch 8 : 10th - 11th April 2020 Batch 9 : 11th - 12th April 2020
The laying of eggs usually begins from February, and the process of turtles coming to the beach to the hatching of the eggs continues through April. The festival, mostly a conservation event of sea turtles and a celebration of its natural process breeding, do not have any set dates. However, the activities and tourist influx are at its peak during March and April.
Where is the Festival Held? - Venue Details
The Velas Turtle festival is held at the beach of Velas in Ratnagiri, 200 kms from Pune.
There are no entry fees to the festival.
Velas turtle festival is one of the most celebrated eco-festival in India - an event that sees tourists, travellers and volunteers throng from around the globe. Some come to care for the tiny turtle hatchlings, some to capture in their frames the little two-legged creatures crawl their way to the ocean, and some for the wholesome eco-tourism experience by the beach!
It is a memorable experience for travellers — one that lets them enjoy their time while also give back to society and mother nature. The advent of the festival has led to the economic upliftment of the villages around the Velas beach, needless to say, the number of sea turtles has grown invariably.
An experience of the turtle festival is also ideal for children. For the young ones, otherwise buried in the digital universe of tablets and cell-phones, this festival is a welcome episode amid nature.
Photos of Velas Turtle Festival
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About Olive Ridleys Turtles
The Olive Ridleys turtles had been declared 'endangered' long back. Hence Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra(SNM), a nonprofit organisation joined hands with Marine Conservation Society and the local community in 1992 and since then, have dedicatedly worked towards the conservation of this exotic species of turtle.
Mostly during February and March, a number of Olive Ridleys come to the western coast of Maharashtra to lay eggs, of which, 40% proceeds to the beach of Velas. The sea turtles reach the beach late at night, and each female lays around 80-120 eggs, which are then guarded against predators and poachers by a group of dedicated volunteers.
The eggs were previously sold in the open markets or destroyed by dogs, but this conservation effort ensured a sizable rise of the Ridley family. The volunteers immerse the eggs into a safer nest in the sand, and after an incubation period of 40 days the hatchlings emerge and makes their way to their home in the ocean.
The releasing of hundreds of turtles into the ocean is one of the most delightful sights to behold - an event that attracts nature lovers, first-time visitors, and shutterbugs alike. The releasing of turtles takes place twice a day, once under the gleaming rays of the morning sun, and once again in the sultry evenings.
Added to this unique spectacle is the unforgettable eco-village experience, where visitors can stay at the home of the locals and interact with the people of the coastal village.
How to Reach
The nearest airports are the Pune International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at Mumbai. The nearest railhead to Velas is Chiplun. Buses and cabs are available from Chiplun to Velas, and it takes around 2 hours to reach the destination. By road, one can reach Velas via the Mumbai-Goa highway NH-17. It takes around 5 hours to reach the village from Mumbai. It is 200 kms from Pune. Buses to Velas are available both from Pune and Mumbai.
Where to stay
Travellers can lodge at the several homestays at the eco-village of Velas. Accommodation is offered in simple no-frills Konkani style houses at affordable rates. The stays usually consist of simple, homely dormitory style rooms. Alcohol is strictly prohibited in Velas village.
An itinerary of 2-3 days is ideal for those wanting to experience the entire process of breeding, hatching and releasing of turtles into the sea, as well as enjoy the eco-tourism activities offered by the village community.
Visit the beach at the wee hours or evenings to witness the glorious sight of baby turtles taking their first steps to the ocean. The timings are 7.00 am to 7.30 am and 6.00 pm to 6.30 pm. To watch the turtles' hatch eggs, head to the beach for a stroll at midnight hours.
At the homestays, you can enjoy authentic Konkani meals - the little village is well known for their fresh and delectable coastal preparations. One can relish the organic, local fruits, interact with locals, and enjoy time at the serene ambience. The experience of a peaceful rural lifestyle is a memorable part of the trip for visitors from the city.
There are several multi-day packages for the ‘Velas Turtle Festival’ offered by travel agents and tour guides. Volunteering opportunities, usually for one week or more, are provided by the Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra NGO.
Places to visit in Velas
There are several sites that travellers ought to visit if visiting Velas. Bankot Fort, well known for its history and breathtaking view of Velas beach is an important site in Ratnagiri. A trek starting from a hillock west of the nearby Bankot village leads one to the fort. It is made of Lateritic rocks and offers magnificent sea views. There are two temples devoted to Shri Rameshwar and Kalbhairav gods near the fort. Harihareshwar and Shrivardhan are two pristine beaches that one could visit during the trip.