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Turtles in Oman
The coast of Oman is birthplace to most of the world population of giant green turtles.
There are five kinds of turtles in Oman – Green Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, and the Olive Turtle
At Ras al Jinz, some way along the coastline from Sur and 3 hours away from Muscat, the beach is protected for the safe breeding of these wonderful creatures. Here you can witness enormous turtles building a nest, laying eggs and you can see the tiny hatchlings appearing out of the sand as they emerge from eggs laid previously. Because turtles come to the beach constantly, you can see all of these stages during one overnight stay.
There are two viewing sessions each day with limited space, so it’s best to book beforehand. If you are staying in Ras al Jinz Hotel, then part of your package is turtle spotting so no there is need to book separately for the viewing. (prices here). The other advantage of staying at the hotel is that you are closer to the beach so you don’t have to get up quite so early for the 5 am start on the sand. All the other accommodation places are much further away.
The evening trip starts at 9 pm. This is because the mother turtles crawl up the beach at sunset and if they are disturbed at that time they may go back to the sea and release their eggs in the water.
We met our guide around 9 and there was a fairly long wait while spotters at the beach looked for nesting turtles (the beach is enormous and it’s pitch black unless there is a full moon). Once the spotters find nesting turtles they inform the guides and the trip can begin.
After the long wait we were keen to get going, so we followed the guide with small torch lights which we had to switch off when we reached the beach. We were told that lights can misguide baby turtles and instead of going towards the sea they would go to the light. We found a giant turtle nesting. Before she lays her eggs she digs a nest about a metre and a half long and maybe 900mm deep with her front fins. If you want to observe it you need to stand at the back (to not disturb her) She works hard and you can easily get hit by flying sand as the turtle digs
After digging the hole she starts laying about 50 eggs. They are a white/yellowish colour and the size of a golf ball. After she has finished, she will then spend hours covering the nest and then she will keep digging and moving soil around to mislead predators about the location of the eggs – mostly foxes for whom eggs are a great snack. Turtle digging the nest
Depending on the season you can find from one to hundreds of turtles nesting on the beach. It’s hard to say how many are there in the dark of night. The morning session starts early and as the sun rises you can see the magical sight of enormous mothers and tiny hatchlings as they all make their ways into the surf.
Since there is more light in the morning, after following the guide to the beach, you spot turtles on your own. The only rules are don’t touch the turtles and don’t pollute the beach.
Baby turtles are so small and cute and they seem so helpless. We didn’t touch them but whenever we spotted them we made sure to chase away seagulls and crabs which are their biggest predators. Only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survive to adulthood.
After their first crawl down to the water, a female turtle will stay in the sea for twenty years or so before coming back to the very same beach to lay her eggs. How they know where to come back to I don’t know. Male turtles never again come to land after their first trip down the sand
We have been to Ras al Jinz reserve three times, as we found watching these strange animals a really magical experience. Twice we stayed at the Turtle Beach Resort – currently under refurbishment. It was a great place for a short holiday as well. Once we stayed in Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve hotel which is the most convenient place to stay if you want to see turtles.
Ras al Jinz has a museum which has lots of info about turtles and it’s kid-friendly.
The best season to see turtles in Oman in July – October – then you can see almost hundreds of them nesting.
And trust me if you are in Oman seeing turtles is a must.
If you travel around Oman with kids, have a look at this 10 Days in Oman with kids
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