Muscat Daily

JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THESE...

- Hu­bert Vaz Animals · Wildlife · Oman · Muscat · Arabian Peninsula · Sur · South Governorate

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 Penin­sula to 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 A'Shar­qiyah South Gov­er­norate and is said to have once been a safe haven for ships dur­ing storms. It was pro­claimed as a tur­tle re­serve in 1996 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 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.

• 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 cam­era 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.

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