OFFBEAT BREAK FROM MUMBAI & PUNE: ROAD TRIP TO TURTLE FESTIVAL,VELAS !

img_8444
My friends at beach of Shrivardhan

Every year in March and April, the sleepy nondescript village of Velas becomes the center of attraction during the Turtle Festival. Every morning and evening, the turtle hatchlings are released by volunteers in to the sea at Velas beach. A temporary ramp is created on the sand by barricading it from 2 sides. The tourists and wildlife enthusiasts stand on either sides and witness this awe inspiring phenomenon, agape mouthed. The turtles are released in the sea just few hours after they emerge from the eggs. They have never seen the sea before nor even their mother. It’s surreal indeed to watch them instinctively crawl towards the sea, meeting their destiny.

img_8275
The little chap we bid adieu!

One weekend, me and my friends Rahul, Shishir and Vipul wanted to break away from the mundane destinations around Mumbai. After much thought a road trip to Velas was zeroed in on. It’s not easy to reach Velas via public transport and hence calls for a road trip. The presence of virgin beaches and fun activities around Velas make it an ideal destination to go to with friends.

img_8107
Yes, this ferry can carry all this and more!

It took us approximately 4 hours from Kharghar (Navi Mumbai) to reach Harihareshwar. Powered by CEAT tyres, our Maruti Baleno zoomed past rivers, forests, farmlands and villages making pit stops for chaha (tea) and Vada pao. As the car made its way up the hilly terrains, our hearts raced in anticipation of what was in store. It was exciting to know that we would be carrying our car in the ferry. This was the first time we were doing so.

img_0436
Me, Shishir and Rahul (in car) Pic credit – Vipul Sinha

As the 4 of us, all guys gang, waited for ferry, I wandered away intrigued by the women picking shells from the marsh land. Curious to see what they were up to, I walked towards the mangrove belt only to have my slippers swallowed by marsh beneath my foot. Needless to say, I broke my slippers as I pulled my legs up. What followed next is anybody’s guess! My friends were waiting for me on a dry patch to unleash their jibes and insults at me. Ah, the perils of traveling with friends! I washed my feet (and sins) from a tap nearby and geared up for the ferry ride.

img_0418
Me messing around (Pic credit : Vipul S.)

img_8069

It was exciting for us to load our car in the ferry. We waited for a truck (Yes, a truck!) to disembark. It’s a tricky process since the space is less in a ferry as compared to a regular curb. A co ordination amongst us led to smooth parking of car (in reverse gear) in the ferry. The ferry ride over the Savitri river was pleasant and quick. Bankot Fort 4 kilometres away, offers nice views of Savitri river merging into Arabian sea at Velas.

img_0424
You can break my slippers, but not my spirit (Pic : Vipul S.)

We drove on a road which ran parallel to the backwaters. Soaking in the breath taking views we headed to a villager’s home for a staple Maharashtrian meal. It comprised of varan (lentil preparation), valachi bhaji (field beans) and farasbee chi bhaji (French beans). There are many traditional homes near the beach meant for turtle festival. Many of them serve meals and offer accommodation. Though we did not stay but loved the simple and healthy food.

Pics above : My friends enjoying a Maharashtrian meal at a local’s home!

I regret not having stayed in one of the huts. Friends wanted a hotel with a pool! Traveling with friends always comes with some kind of compromise or the other. We lazed around the beach, some faked a trekking expedition. (He to me, “Can you please make it look like as if I am on some great trekking expedition!”) , some of us dozed off on the trees, some of us (well me) clicked it all.

img_8188
Friends dozing off! Monkey style,eh!

While sun started to bid adieu, we zoomed our car towards the Velas beach. As we reached the venue, the last song the car played was, “Ho Shubharam, haan shubharam, mangal bela aayi!” (It’s time for a great beginning now that the auspicious occasion is here!)   Eerily, those lines from Bollywood film Kai Po Che suited the turtle baby aptly who was soon going to take its first baby steps towards the sea, his/her new home.

img_8273

कासव बघायचे असेल तर वेळासला या

(Marathi Translation by Pradnya K)

Post sunset, we decided to drive to Shrivardhan. We checked into to a comfortable resort (Yes, with a pool) and wasted the night just relaxing on a hammock by the poolside. The next day, we headed to the beach some 2 kilometres away, goofed around for few hours and returned to the resort for a round of swimming in the pool. The beaches in this part of Maharashtra are clean, safe and virgin. It is a nice option if you want to spend a weekend away from the crowded beaches of Maharashtra.

(Me in my different avatars (Pic credit : Shishir Sahni & Vipul Sinha)

This is what road trips do. They cement a lasting bond amongst friends. It was the first time I had met Rahul and we had planned many road trips (Alibagh, Lonavala, Panchgani, Igatpuri, Nashik etc) after this maiden journey.

img_8222
I loved the drive on this road. So did my friends!

MY MORAL POLICING:

  1. Be responsible and don’t initiate a stampede in a bid to get a wow shot. The main aim here is conservation and not one upmanship game of who gets better picture.
  2. The turtles are tiny and in the stampede, they might crush under your feet.  Especially, don’t stand in the sea water while the turtle marches on the sand, because once the turtle is in the water, the chances are higher that it comes under someone’s feet, due to no visibility. Reason out to someone who’s doing it. Scold them if you have to.
  3. Choose a spot on sand before the turtle’s march begins and stick to it throughout the turtle’s journey.
  4. Very important: Once the turtle takes the final plunge in to the sea, MOVE AWAY FROM THE BEACH. Do not goof around in the sea for reasons stated above. If at all, you can’t stop entering the beach, do so at least 1 kilometer away from the release spot.
img_8252
The volunteers checking each basket for any new hatching!

How to reach by car: Once you reach Harihareshwar head to Baagmandla and board a ferry for Velas. Load your car on the ferry and reach the venue within minutes. There is a ferry every half an hour.

Buses are also available from Mumbai to Shrivardhana/Harihareshwara. You can start the car trip from Shrivardhana/Harihareshwara too.

When to go: Every year, the event is held every day from March beginning to April end. Morning time is 7 a.m. and Evening time is 6 p.m.

Equipment to carry:
A good 18-135mm lens or a 55-250mm telephoto lens in case you fail to manage a vantage point near the turtle.

img_8314
The Velas Beach!

Also keep an eye on:

  • Unique architecture of the village homes.
  • Village life, landscapes and people
  • The road running parallel to the beach, esp. at sunset.
  • Local food
  • Sea gulls at the beaches
img_8171
You can stay at a local’s home!

TOP TIP:

1) The best vantage point to click the Turtle’s march is at the middle of the barricading.  Stick to this point and strictly don’t run after the turtle once it moves past you. Chances are you will get the best possible shots.

2) It is very much possible that no egg hatches on the day you arrive. Keeping a buffer day is advised. Remember you have 2 chances in a day. When we visited, there was only one turtle which hatched.

3) One can visit these places in months other than March and April too. There’s a lot to do/see/eat here, turtle or no turtle!

img_8160
I would advise you to stay in one of the local’s home. I regret staying in a resort, mainly because I missed out on an immersive experience!

Enjoy:

  • The virgin beaches in this area are clean and secluded.
  • Binge on some authentic coastal food.
  • Stay at one of the many resorts in Harihareshwar or Srivardhana.
  • Alternatively, experience the village life by staying in the locals’ huts at Velas.
  • Take the breezy ferry ride, esp, at evening and night.
img_8359
You know what F.R.I.E.N.D.S are for?

ROAD SAFETY:

While road trips are fun, it is important to keep in mind basic road trip mandates:

  • Don’t drink and drive. No matter how much cool you think it is, what is wrong is wrong.
  • Never overspeed. Remember the joy of travel also lies in the journey than in the destination alone. Adjust the speed as per the road conditions. Keep an eye on your speed limit.
  • If you see a shepherd crossing the road with his cattle or wild and domestic animals crossing the road, allow them to pass first. Remember, you are in their territory.
  • Always carry a spare tyre and a jack so that you may change a punctured tyre by yourself. Our car was punctured en route and luckily we had a spare tyre. The friendly locals helped us changed it.
  • Many people ignore seat belt. Did you know it takes just few seconds to wear a seat belt? If you know what I mean?
img_8379
I have to do this, on the trips I remember to do this!

Kasav Mitra mandal is doing an amazing job of restoring turtle population. For routes, perfect road map, accommodation details, meals details and more information on turtles and the conservation program, please visit their website

The view from my #SoulWindow is full of variety!

img_0491
Road trips make for great photo ops, such as this one. Cars can be used in a creative way to take memorable shots. The kinds which will make you smile 5 years down the line. (Pic credit: Vipul Sinha)

Note: I’m chronicling my road trip adventure for CEAT Tyres in association with BlogAdda

Spread the love, share this blog

Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration : abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

img_0433
Me (Pic: Vipul Sinha)

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

.

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “OFFBEAT BREAK FROM MUMBAI & PUNE: ROAD TRIP TO TURTLE FESTIVAL,VELAS !

  1. Great to find this destination. I’d heard of turtles in some other beach destinations in Goa and Odisha but had no idea there was something so close to Mumbai! When I think of it, I never explored enough when I was living in that city!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Post well made and I can see all you guys smiling and happy about this experience! Well done, unfortunately I have never been in Mumbai even in India, but of course, this place is on my bucket list! Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a well written post. Thank you for sharing your awesome trip. It looks like an amazing place and I love your pictures of the turtles. I would have thought not many people are aware of this amazing place. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really great and detailed post. I really love to travel on the road and see every day a new place 🙂 . I’ve never been in India, but it is surely on my bucket list and since a very good friend of mine is from Mumbai, we gonna visit the country just like you 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sounds like you had a great trip to Mumbai with your friends. We alternate our trips with friends and on our own for many of the same reasons. Sometimes we want to have the local feel or even just a smaller type of hotel. It’s harder to accommodate everyone’s needs the more people you have.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are so lucky to have witness such an emotional event. I think that watching the baby turtle’s hatch and head for the ocean is one of nature’s most beautiful and delicate moments. I would love observing their journey from the egg towards the ocean.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve seen your posts earlier, and I have to tell you that I absolutely love the perspectives that you highlight with your travel stories. A turtle festival is definitely a unique aspect, and then the way you’ve put in words the little details of your trip!

    Keep writing, keep traveling, keep exploring!

    Parampara-Parichay
    http://awaradiaries.com
    India

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What an awesome experience! We have always wanted to watch baby turtles make their way to the ocean. The staple Maharashtrian meal looked delicious! I can agree that as much fun it is to travel with friends and/or family it can be tough to all agree on decisions. Regardless at the end of the day you go to bed knowing you had another fun day and it seems like y’all certainly did! Awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Knowing about this destination for the first time. This is one nature activity I have been wanting to participate for a long time. There is one similar activity near Chennai too. The local experience you had seems so good.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Never knew about this turtle season, it is one of the most lively destinations had been over to Hareswar in 2001 in the coast route, we discovered the Kuda caves which was barricade, literally no soul or civilization. It was errie but it was daytime….thank god. Good detailed description of your trip…..

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s