The world of nature is closer than we think and can offer up some moments to treasure for all time. Swati Basu Das visits the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, and encounters some tiny reptiles that are just raring to take it on.
Located 250 kilometres from Muscat, Ras (meaning ‘cape’ in Arabic) Al Jinz is the Arabian Peninsula’s very own ‘land of the rising sun’.
A jewel in the crown, this eastern-most tip in the Ash Sharqiyah governorate of Oman is clearly so much more than that.
The 42km stretch of coastline from Ras al Hadd to Asilah displays an array of natural wonders and archaeological sites.
The loud whistling of the sea-breeze, the swashing of the waves, the soft, soggy sands and the quirky rock garden on the beach all make for a remote, serene landscape.
Set between the cliffs, the vast and flat beach has long been beloved by endangered green sea turtles.
Researchers believe this area to be the most significant nesting site of green sea turtles in the Indian Ocean.
A sanctuary here has two beaches – Beach A and Beach B. Each is separated by rocky cliffs and hillocks.
The nesting ground here is eerie and calm, and nature is left undisturbed. The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve promises a safe nesting cycle.
Said Al Araimi, operations manager at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, says: “Stretching over three kilometres in length, this sanctuary is the only place in the world where the Green Sea turtles come to lay their eggs every single night. The climate here is perfect for them to nest throughout the year.”
Depending on the quality of sand, a female marine reptile will choose a spot here to dig her nest
The one she builds will be either near to the sea or a bit farther. According to marine biologists, eggs laid near the shore produces male turtles and those farther from the sea will produce females.
Her choice thus determines the gender of her babies. The distance from the sea and warmth of the sand will also help in the process.
Turtles make their presence felt everywhere on the beach – be it the nests, false pits or the trails they leave behind.
Nasser Al Zadjali, the Eco-Guide/ Ranger at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve says: “Sometimes the female will dig in the sand, and if she finds it is not soggy enough she will return to the sea without laying eggs but will be back after a day or two when conditions are apt. Otherwise, she will waste her eggs in the water.”
Around 4.15am, we start our one kilometre walk to reach the site. Only a faint light coming from the ranger’s torch is there to guide us in the dark.
Nasser Al Zadjali leaves no stone unturned to bridge the gap between visitors and the one-metre-long matured female turtle laying her eggs in front of us.
At dawn, this turtle is ready to head back to the sea. The misty morning spreads throughout the horizon. A thick layer of sand on her carapace is evidence of her labour. From digging a 1.8 metres deep pit, laying her eggs and covering them to digging up yet another ‘camouflage nest’ to mislead predators means at least three hours of arduous labour.
The mother-child bond ends the moment the mother heads back to the sea. Once the babies hatch they have to survive on their own. Two months from now, the hatchlings will surface from under the sand. They will then creep towards the sea, gearing up for the “lost years” (from hatchling to adulthood).
Fluorescent blue waves keep flashing in the dark as they hit the shore. We are standing amid a moment of unadulterated nature.
Nasser says: “The hatchlings follow the light from the horizon and the glowing waves to reach to the sea. The babies born here will return to the same shore for nesting.”
As the day brightens up, two turtles, a male and a female, can be seen floating on the shallow water near the shoreline, and they are getting a bit amorous.
“While female returns to nests on maturity, male waits offshore to caress his beloved. They never forget the coast where they were born. They will continue this cycle until their death,” says Nasser.
It’s indeed the return of the native. And the cycle of life begins here.
When to visit:
Green sea turtles nest throughout the year. Monsoon is considered to be the peak season. Rain and monsoon fog make for a perfect environment for nesting. In July and August, nearly 80 turtles throng the beach. June to September is the high season, and around 40 turtles can be spotted. The lean season has a minimum of five to 20 nestings per night. An overnight stay at Ras Al Jinz Eco-tents at Ras Al Jinz is sure to make you feel at one with nature.