Ras Al Jinz is a natural reserve for Green Turtles and is considered one of the largest nesting sites in the country. The locals of Ras al Jinz are educated on conservation, and the villagers lead the tours and help to run the Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve along with the on-site accommodation.
The nesting season begins from June and continues up to August while the turtle hatching season begins by the end of August and continues up to November. Ras Al Jinz night tour starts at 8:30 PM and morning tours at 5:00 AM. The timings vary according to the month and season.
We stayed at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve which is a convenient option to enjoy both the night and early morning turtle viewing tour.
A memorable experience
We started our 3-hour drive from Muscat to Ras Al Jinz at 6:00 PM on a Thursday evening. We reached Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve by 9:15 PM. The receptionist greeted us with a warm smile and assisted us with a bell boy to carry our luggage to our room.
The turtle viewing night tour begins at 8:30 PM from the reserve. Despite reaching an hour late, the staff arranged for another guide to take us to the beach to join the tour. The turtle nesting ground is 10-15 minutes walk from the reserve. The pitch dark beach was complemented by the half moonlight and a beautiful starry sky. The strong cold winds blowing across us made us forget the scorching temperature of Muscat.
As we approached the nesting grounds, the undulation of the sand underneath increased and we were advised to stay quiet and follow in the footsteps of the guide.
The guide spotted a turtle and we followed him as he lit the way with a small torchlight. We were told that lights can misguide baby turtles which is why it is very important to limit them while on the beach. When the hatchlings spot the light, instead of going towards the sea, they would follow the light. Thus we were not allowed to each carry a flashlight.
It didn’t take long for us to find a giant turtle nesting. We had to surround the mother turtle in a semi-circle at her rear end (to not disturb her). Before she lays her eggs, she digs a nest about a metre long and maybe about a metre deep with her front fins. She lays about 50-100 eggs in one sitting. After she is done, she spends hours covering up her nest and travels a bit further to dig up another hole. She does this as a decoy for the foxes and hawks to protect her babies.
As we explored more of the beach, we spotted about 10-15 turtles, few arriving from the ocean to the beach, few laying eggs, few covering their nests and few making their way back to the ocean.
At one point, as we sat watching a turtle lay eggs, there was another turtle covering her nest and another approaching towards us. It was truly a magical experience to witness the birthing phenomena of these beautiful creatures under the starry sky with cold winds sprinkling tiny droplets of water from the sea across our face. We couldn’t wait for our morning tour.
The morning tour began at 4:50 am from the turtle reserve. As the sun rises, you can see the magical sight of enormous mother turtles making their way back to the sea.
We first spotted a mother turtle busy covering up her nest and I managed to capture her colourful sandy skin.
Further along the beach, a second female Green Turtle had just finished burying her nest in the sand. Then she dragged herself across the sand and slowly began making her way back towards the water.
As we explored the beach and spent more time we witnessed about 6-8 mother turtles. We were taken aback seeing the entire journey of these amazing creatures from coming to the beach, to laying the eggs and then tp heading back to where they were supposed to go. I saw my parents behave like small little children with the happiness and excitement of spotting the turtles and chasing their trails.
While we were watching these turtles make their retreat to the ocean, our Omani guide pointed out small baby turtles in the sand, hatching from their egg shells and desperately trying to move towards the ocean.
By now, the morning sun was up, and stretching along the sands were turtle trails leading into the ocean. We are taking back with us an enchanting trail of memories and are sure to return again!
Text and photos by VAISHALI SINGH