Velas Turtle Festival is organised Every Year since 2006 by Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra. Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra has empowered villagers by starting Home Stays to host the tourists visiting during this period. This year Sahyadri has handed over the turtle festival to the villagers of Velas. All the arrangements for the turtle festival 2014 will be done by local people. Many Families have registered under Velas Home Stay and hosted almost 3,000 tourists in Turtle Festival 2012-13.
During the Velas Turtle Festival, newly born sea turtle hatchlings are released into the ocean. Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra have involved the local villagers from Velas and helped them form Kasav Mitra Mandal Turtle Friends. Over the last 6 years, Homestay has received excellent support and guidance by locals, Gram Panchayat and the Forest Department.Comfortable home stay 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.
Treks and Trails since 2012 has been visiting Velas Village for Turtle Festival. Our first batch was held on March 15th and March 16th 2014 we gathered at Dadar Swami Narayan Mandir our usual meeting place all arrangement had been made at Velas in advance. We started our journey at 11:00 pm and we took the following Route - Mumbai - Khopoli - Khalapur Road - Pali - Goregaon - Mandangad - Bankot we reached Velas at around 5:30 am the road after Goregaon is in bad condition you cannot drive the bus at good speed here also do not take more than 25 seater bus as road are very small one lane only after Kelshi Phata.
We had our morning tea and visited Velas Beach for our first session of Sea Turtle Hatchling. Velas Village is a clean village with warm people who welcome you into their home and lives when you visit during the Velas Turtle Festival food is excellent and stay very comfortable. You can either walk or drive till the bridge where you see a huge board pointing towards the Velas Beach.
You need to walk for 10 mins from here till the beach. Sea Turtle Hatchlings are released at 7 am sharp every morning so if you are late you will miss it. Manohar Upadhya incharge of site at Velas Beach Turtle Nest, he conducted a check of nest sites and found no Sea Turtle Hatchlings. It also depends on Turtles if they don't decided to come out you wont spot them. We were given a small brief about Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra by Manohar Upadhye and their various work conducted across Sahyadri. He invited all visitor at 7 pm to watch a documentary about their work and turtle conservation at his home.
We left Velas Beach for our home stay which was very comfortable and clean we were served Poha / Upma / Tea for breakfast we all went to sleep after breakfast. We were up before lunch had our baths after lunch we played some games and took a relaxing afternoon nap. We left for Bankot Fort around 4.30 pm in the evening after tea which is 3 kilometers away from Velas Village. It is also known as Himmatgad it offers a beautiful view of the ocean and has many mango plantation near it.
We visited the Velas Beach Turtle Nest site again at 5.45 pm for evening turtle release session. Normally turtle prefer morning time to Hatch as explained by Manohar. We were again disappointed since no turtle hatchling were found. This year 2014 nest are less as compared to previous year it also depends on luck. We left for our home stay and had our dinner enjoyed playing many games had an early dinner went to sleep praying sunday will be lucky for us.Treks and Trails team woke up all friends early we reached the beach at around 6.45 we noticed a lot many villagers were present so we were excited and got an idea there may be turtles so many people have come to control the crowd.
A lot many people had come on Sunday the crowd was swelling and anticipation was high, Mohan checked the nest and Olive Ridley Turtles had hatched every one was so elated. Villagers went ahead near the shore to create a small barricade and people we asked to stand around it and watch them crawl into the ocean. Everyone ran across to get the best position to click pictures and see them crawl into the ocean.
Manohar set them free within the barricades new hatchling started walking towards the ocean. After 10 mins they reached the waves and floated away into the ocean. We were so happy after the release everyone had got what they had for at Velas Turtle Festival. We left for Harihareshwar temple after the morning session we took a ferry from jetty. Ferry is available every 30 mins from each side it can accomodate two Mini Bus and Two Cars and Few bikes and passengers.
Treks and Trails after visiting Harihareshwar temple and beach, we had our lunch at local restaurant. You need to book your lunch plate in advance since hotels cook on order mostly waiting period can be 1 to 1 1/2 hours so book and visit the temple and surroundings.
We took the Shrivardhan Bypass Road to Mhasla to Mangaon to Wakad Naka to Pali Village to Khalapur Road to Khopoli to Kalamboli to Mumbai we reached home by 9.30 pm.