Velas is a coastal village which falls in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. The place is well known for its beaches which reflect nature in its best preserved and pristine form. Besides Velas beach, here are several other tourist attractions at Velas including the Bankot Fort and the Harihareshwar Temple. However, of lately, Velas has been attracting tourists more for its Velas turtle festival Maharashtra than anything else. Hundreds of Olive Ridley Turtles, one of the most treasured species of marine turtles, come ashore at Velas beach for breeding and lay hundreds of eggs.
Velas is located 245 kilometres from Mumbai and takes approximately 5 hours to reach. The distance between Velas and Pune is 200 kilometers, and the drive time is approximately 4 hours. The option of staying on the beach at Velas is not available. However, you could stay at one of the homestays near the beach. To reach Velas Beach from Mumbai It is possible to travel by car or by regular state transportation buses. The nearest railway station from Velas is Khed, at 80 kilometers, from where you have to take state transport buses to Velas.
This is not just another animal festival nor is it a festival where turtles are displayed or exhibited. It is a festival where you witness that first important journey of baby Ridley turtles. Yes it is their first important baby steps as they crawl towards to the open sea very important for the young female turtles, as once she turns an adult, she comes back to the same beach to her birthplace to lay her eggs, sometimes the return journey for the female turtles can take as long as 15 years. But alas! As the mother leaves the eggs on the beach to hatch, it falls prey to predators like dogs, mongoose, and even humans, thus endangering this remarkable species.
They say when God closes one door, he opens another. Thanks to the huge effort of the Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra to conserve the Olive Ridley Turtles along with the natural beauty of this village that shares the vast coastline of India, these baby turtles live to return back to their nesting sites.
Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra has been organizing the Velas Turtle Festival every year since 2006 and this year too due to their untiring efforts, we will witness the Velas Turtle Festival. During the Velas Turtle Festival newly born sea turtle hatchlings are released into the ocean. The Velas Turtle festival is one of the most happening and most talked event of the year in and around Mumbai, with hundreds of nature lovers and photographers eagerly awaiting its commencement.The Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra along with the active participation of the local villagers from Velas has formed the Kaasav.
Olive Ridley Turtle scientific name is Lepidochelys olivacea and it weighs about 50 kg.Its length is around Two feet.The shape of the Turtle is generally smoother,flat and tent-shaped with five or more pairs of scutes. Their breeding season is throughout the year but mainly in November.Their Eggs Deposition time is Nocturnal.Approx 1-3 times they have a frequency in a breeding season and the duration between the deposition of consecutive eggs is about 20-28 days.Olive ridley turtles length 100-120 number of eggs and the Incubation length period is 45-55 days.Currently the species is endangered due to the consumption of its eggs, destruction of breeding habitats, and the slaughter of adult turtles for leather and oil.
Velas Turtle Conservation Centre with the help of the local villages over a span of a decade had help tremendously with regards to Velas turtle conservation efforts in turtle hatching. The working module is simple and easy to follow 24 x 7 vigilance is maintained by the villagers during nesting times. There is a hatchery built for safe keeping the eggs laid. Once the female turtle lays her eggs, they are collected and then incubated for 45-60 days. Once hatched these baby turtles make their first journey towards the sea. Turtle Festival The Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra have worked together with the villagers every Turtle Festival to help conserve and preserve Olive Ridley turtles which are soon disappearing. The Velas Turtle Conservation is a project that is under the wings of Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra Mandal which empowered villagers by starting Home Stays to host the tourists visiting during this period.
We at Treks and Trails India are a trekking group in Mumbai that work in tandem to help support the conservation efforts at Velas. Velas turtle festival dates is announced by taking into account the number of females turtle that have come in during the last winter season. Based on this, estimated hatching expected dates are announced. However, it is a natural phenomenon and cannot be predicted exactly.
The purpose of the festival is to educate the local and tourists alike to ensure that protection is provided to the baby turtles in the best way possible. Efforts include keeping the eggs safe from natural predators like, dogs, mongoose, snake, and even humans or from a crow or eagle waiting for a tasty snack on the baby turtle taking its first walk. The real challenge lies in waiting patiently with hope as not all eggs would hatch into babies. Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra mandal efforts are designed to make sure that these risks are minimized. Turtle festival Velas Maharashtra is one of a kind near Mumbai also termed as Marine Ecology Study Center.
The Velas Beach from Mumbai is a good 5 hours drive. The beach is a remote isolated beach where you don’t find the usual pani puri wala or the regular golawala seen on Mumbai beaches. Enjoy the solitude offered by this beach and let the waves wash your feet. Locals do not recommend venturing into the waters. Warnings such as "Swimming prohibited" are put up on the beaches. Velas beach from Pune is a pleasant drive especially late in the afternoon. Velas Turtle Village as the village is now famously called offers multiple stay options. Treks and Trails as a trekking group conducts tours to Velas turtle beach. Last year we visited Velas at least 4 times during the Turtle festival. Turtle hatchling is a natural phenomenon however opportunity to witness it cannot be guaranteed.
All arrangement during the turtle festival is done by villagers of Velas. Over the last few years, Homestay has received excellent support and guidance by locals, Gram Panchayat and the Forest Department. Comfortable homestay is available with Kaasav Mitra Mandal with home cooked Maharashtrian style vegetarian food breakfast, lunch and dinner and tea. Homes are comfortable with bedding and modern toilets attached. These local villagers open up their hearts to welcome strangers and act as perfect hosts. The warmth of their acceptance will remain in your heart forever. Treks and Trails India organize trips to Velas every year.
Himmatgarh The name Bankot is derived from “Bavanna Kot” a Marathi phrase meaning fifty - two forts. The Great Shivaji Maharaj captured this tiny fort and added it to Swarajya, which was the fifty second fort and hence the name “BanKot”. It is a coastal area on the Arabian Sea with attractive beaches.
Harihareshwar is a town in Raigad district, in Maharashtra, India. It is surrounded by four hills named Harihareshwar, Harshinachal, Bramhadri, and Pushpadri. The river Savitri enters the Arabian Sea from the town of Harihareshwar. Towards the north of the town is the temple of Lord Harihareshwar, said to have been blessed by Lord Shiva. Hence Harihareshwar is often referred to as Dev-ghar or “house of God”.