Muscat: The nesting season for turtles is in full swing on the sandy beaches of Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve Centre. Oman is home to five species of turtles.
They are Green Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Olive Ridley Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle and Leatherback Turtle. Of these, four species lay eggs on the beach.
The population of green turtles is the largest in the Indian Ocean. It has one of the biggest nesting sites in Ras Al Hadd sanctuary, the largest nesting site in the Indian Ocean.
Nesting began at the end of May this year, weeks earlier than usual. This has been attributed to the relative warmth of the coastal waters.
The early kick-off of the nesting season may portend a record number of nests by August, when nesting typically ends. "We are expecting more than 15,000 turtles at Ras Al Hadd which is an internationally renowned nesting site sanctuary for the turtles," said Vijay Handa, General Manager, Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, which is a part of the Ras Al Hadd sanctuary.
During the nesting season, adult female loggerheads, some weighing as much as 150kg, leave the sea at night and lumber onto the beach. They use their rear flippers to dig a shallow pit in the sand, a protective cavity where the eggs will incubate.
Handa said June, July and August are the best months to see these turtles in the Ras Al Hadd sanctuary. "Watching green turtles nesting on the sea-front with only the roaring waves breaking the eerie silence under the moon-lit sky is an out-of-the-world experience at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve," he said.
Despite travelling more than 300km, a large number of people return to Muscat without seeing the turtles as they don't book in advance with the turtle reserve management company that is managed by Omran.
Due to heavy rush, the rules have been relaxed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs where another 100 persons can be accommodated to see these turtles.
"We used to take 100 persons in five batches at 9pm and 4am. Now we have started taking 100 more people in batches at 10pm. The daily number of visitors now has reached to 200 people at night and 200 in the morning," he added.
Handa said that the increased capacity is mainly for hotels which are situated in and around Sur to accommodate their guests. "Besides, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs has started opening up Ras Al Hadd if there are too many bookings at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve Centre. Though it is not a guided tour, the visitors here can see turtles," Handa said.
With a perfect ambience and picturesque setting, Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve Centre has already turned out to be one of the much-sought after places for turtle watching.
At an additional rate, visitors can avail eco-friendly tents that are equipped with modern amenities. They are located on a hilltop at a stone's throw from the reserve. If you don't want to strain yourself, a golf cart is available to ferry you from the luxury tents to the base camp.
These tents have been imported from eco-structures in Australia and are the first of its kind in Oman.
These luxury tents are wind proof and rain proof , and have been tested in cyclone-hit areas as well for their safety standards.