Every evening especially during peak season, you’ll find Ali al Muhrabi surrounded by people. His profession requires him to be both knowledgeable and accommodating and his disposition and state of mind usually set the mood of what the tour would be like. Ali has been working as a guide for Ral al Jinz Turtle Reserve for years now and comes along with the job is the well-rehearsed warm smile and easy-going personality. His years of experience is betrayed by his confidence, and speaking in front of large groups, he can spurt information after information about the turtles that call Ras al Jinz home.
“We receive at least 250-300 tourists per day from October to March when the temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius or lower and between April to September when it’s usually hot, we receive at least 100-150 guests all enthusiastic to see the turtles,” he shared. His role goes beyond directing people where to go and how to act around turtles. His priority is always in sharing the information regarding the importance of the reserve and protecting the environment. As a consequence, he becomes an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Oman has been blessed to become home for these gentle creatures — amphibians who are threatened by changing climate and humans’ wanton activities. and disregard for nature
“Oman has five types of turtles which are the green turtle, the loggerhead turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the olive ridley turtle and the leatherback. They are distributed in different places in the Sultanate but primarily in the island of Masirah and Halaniyat,” he said.
He added, “Here in Ras al Jinz, we mostly have the green turtles. They are fascinating creatures. By the time they become 25 years old, the turtles begin to mate. They are also migrants and some come from different parts of the world like Yemen, Australia, India, Somalia and Maldives. Every three years, they come back to the places where they were born — usually when the weather is a little bit warm and the waves high enough that it’s easy for them to nest.”
“Even the nesting process is quite a complex one. When the turtle comes to the beach, both the front and the back fins dig the hole. The back fins usually dig deeper, about half a metre into the ground. It is where they would lay the egg. A mother turtle can lay around 80-120 eggs. Once it finished laying eggs, it will cover the hole and dig another hole nearby which would serve as a camouflage to confuse predators and humans,” Ali shared.
“The eggs will take around two months before they hatch and for one nest, all the eggs can hatch in three to five days. Once they hatch, all the small turtles will all rush back to the sea. They will swim deep and far into the ocean continually for three days. If they survive, they will surely be back after 25 years and will live for 80 or more years feeding on marine algae and small tuna,” he said.
Ali believes that protecting the turtles is also part of humanity’s job.
‘It is the reason why I love my job because it gives me the opportunity to educate other people. As I pass the knowledge along to them, it creates awareness and once they learn the necessity and the importance of their role, it is easy for them to become volunteers in protecting the environment and the animals,” he said.
Ras al Jinz and Ras all Hadd are considered environmental treasures of Oman. Located about 45 kilometres from the city of Sur, the Omani government established a reserve through the power of a royal decree issued on April 23, 1996. These sites are of great importance for the survival of this species of endangered turtles. Each year there are about 6,000 to 13,000 turtles nesting in this region, according to official statistics.
Ali is not seeing himself slowing down as a guide anytime soon. When you pay Ras al Jinz a visit, he will perhaps be your guide and just like the previous thousand people he offered his warm smile and educated, you too will learn a vast amount of knowledge in the course of one tour.
And perhaps, you’d end up becoming a champion for the protection of these animals.
Mohammed al Shabibi