“Take a walk with a turtle. And behold the world in pause.”
A humble wrinkly friend, flippers in the sea, rambles in the sand. Though might seem so peaceful within, is armoured with a shell to shield from the predators. These reptiles (testudines) are called turtles when reference is limited to mostly aquatic species and tortoise when referring to land dwelling species. My interests to watch a turtle life closer led me to Ras al Jinz, a turtle reserve beautifully conserved in Oman.
This is an undisturbed landscape with least human activities in and around the location. Look at the crowd during the peak season you will realize this could be one among the most famous turtle reserves where public has an opportunity to watch the most nested concentration of Chelon on the shores of Indian Ocean. The best time to visit this place would be between May and September. If you are getting skeptical about the words ‘Summer’ and ‘Beach travel in Oman’ going together, the temperature there, between 25 °C to 35°C will ease your plans.
After a wait of almost three weeks we managed to get the booking at the Ras al Jinz hotel, which offered us a wonderful stay with guided tours to the reserve. We were two families travelling from Muscat. Mid of august on a weekend, we started at 11 a.m. from the city and reached the hotel at 2.30 p.m. The space planning and the interiors of the hotel are all turtle themed. Known for their hospitality in Oman, you will be greeted with Kawa and some fresh dates as you enter. We rested in our ‘Carapace’ (rooms in the hotel) for a couple of hours. In the evening sipping some tea we were off to take a tour around the hotel.
Ras al Jinz hotel view from the entrance
The waiting area opens to the ‘majlis’ the traditional seating arrangement made on a mat spread on the floor. Moving further you will be led to the museum, a small yet very informative space. The museum area starts with a short introductory video on turtle life in Oman. The types of turtle in Oman, their life cycle and food habits are depicted in unique ways. This museum describes the depiction of turtles in the various mythologies as a warrior and emblem of wisdom. Other than exhibiting a glimpse on the civilization in Oman, the museum educates us on their traditional making of ‘Dhows’. When impressed, you can plan a visit to the boat making industry in Sur. You can either play the questionnaire game or read books stacked in the library zone, to gather more information about the turtle. After this visit, we routed to the Eco –tents. The weather was pleasant and cloudy. As we climbed the hillock, we captured the view of the Eco tents against the beautiful scenic background.
Inside view of the museum at Ras al Jinz
Watching the sun set, we headed towards the eatery to munch some snacks. This tour included tickets for two shows. The first one was at 8.30 p.m. and the next at 5.00 a.m. As the clock ticked on 8 the hotel was flooded with tourists. People from different countries with friends and families gathered in excitement. People staying in the Ras al Jinz hotel made it to the first lot. Pitch dark, a tranquil night just the clear dark sky and the roaring sea at distance. The guide with us gave us some brief instructions and then we walked down to the beach for about 15 minutes until we stopped at the first nest.
There were nearly 5 turtles spotted. We were divided into smaller groups and refrained from using camera with flash as it could disturb the turtle. The sand bed dug here and there makes you stumble. This reserve is known for the nesting activity by Green Turtles. The Arabic name for this is ‘Hamas’ or ‘Shiree’. These turtles survive on sea weed. They make long distance migrations however return to their birth location again to lay eggs. They lay about 100 eggs in a clutch within 20 minutes of duration.
Turtle rambling back to the beach
The first spot was a pit dug for 2 feet by a turtle with the sand heap all around it. The guide expected her to be 45 years old. She was inside the pit laying eggs hastily. Following this was the process of camouflaging. The guardian mother secures her babies within the pit when she flippers the sand back into the pit. She dug false pits around her nesting pit to trick the predators. The kids made grumpy faces as she splashed sand while camouflaging. She slowly moved out of the nesting area and made her way back to the sea with no signs to return to check on her babies. The turtles are ‘phototactic’. As she approached the beach ‘the stars of the beach’, the plankton twinkled to show her the way to the water. Watching her disappear amidst the waves, we returned back to our Carapace.
The next morning was beautiful. As we walked towards the beach again, the golden rays pierced through the mist. The hills on both side of us and the tides that hastened to reach the shore made a perfect picture. We saw some turtles ramble back to the sea. The guide was kind enough to help two of the baby turtles struggling to reach the sea. It is believed that just 5 of 1000 turtles actually survive. After this beautiful morning walk we enjoyed the delicious breakfast at the restaurant. It was a good wholesome meal. After a couple of hours of rest we set our journey back to Muscat at 11 a.m. It was a delightful experience. The effort made to preserve the natural landscape is a welcoming initiative to the bring home different turtle species. Wish to return here next year and enjoy my stay at their eco -tents.
Images : Akash MV
Editing: Shruti Baindur
Muscat – Bimmah- Sur- Ras al Jinz
You can book your stay at Ras al Jinz through booking.com. You can also stay at Ras al Hadd or Sur. However it would be convenient to stay in Ras al Jinz as you can just walk down to the reserve from the hotel.
We stayed at the Ras al Jinz hotel. The booking was from 2 p.m. of a Friday to 12 p.m. of Saturday. The package included our stay, tickets for two turtle shows and a complimentary breakfast.