Sea turtle reserve Ras Al Jinz
Oman is home to four different types of turtles, and the sea turtle reserve Ras Al Jinz allows visitors to get up close to the amazing animals.
One cannot help but be fascinated when one stands in the dark one late night on a beach in Oman and sees a giant sea turtle that has crawled all the way up on land, has dug a hole bigger than itself and has walked time to lay its eggs. It is a unique experience for the whole family and a different way to travel.
We checked in for one night at the Ras Al Jinz Sea Turtle Reserve on our trip to Oman. The reserve is a few hours drive south of Oman's capital Muscat.
Here we were installed in a tent and it was definitely a luxury tent with air conditioning, television, double beds, dining table and two terraces. One terrace had a view down to the beach, where we were to go down later in the evening and - hopefully - see sea turtles.
We had gradually traveled around a few days in Oman and had already become very fascinated by this amazing country. It is so hospitable and there is plenty of sunshine and not least the mysterious, ancient Arab culture.
We had been recommended to travel to Oman if we wanted to experience the real thing Arabia filled with friendly and welcoming people. And so far we were certainly not disappointed.
Even though we were already so happy for Oman, we had not imagined what a great experience awaited us. The events of the ensuing evening have settled very clearly in our memories. Both with us adults and with our boys of four and six years.
Out in the dark to find turtles
Kl. 20.30 we arrived at the reception on the reserve. We were going to meet a group that was going down to the beach and hopefully see some turtles. It had gotten dark and was already over the boys' bedtime, so we were a little apprehensive about what it was we were heading out on.
While we were waiting to leave, we could appropriately study the signs that hung around: "Make sure your children do not run or make noise, as it scares the turtles". Yes, we just keep our little tired boys calm…
We walked in the dark for 20 minutes down to the beach and there we were asked to wait as the guides had to see if they could find some turtles. Our guide just wanted to tell you that it was low season for turtles, and by the way, it was also a full moon. And the turtles are not fond of light, so the guides were not sure they would find any.
Then we stood there in the dark trying to keep the kids busy in a quiet way while we crossed everything there was to cross so we could then just see a tiny little turtle when we were there now.
"Mom, I'm most looking forward to seeing the turtle lay eggs"
While we waited, four-year-old Mikkel said, "Mom, I'm most looking forward to seeing the turtle lay eggs." And I thought in my quiet mind that he probably could not help but be disappointed, because then we should be lucky if we just saw a turtle. Seeing it lay eggs gradually seemed like a bit much to demand.
But after what felt like 15 very long minutes, the guides came back and told that they had found a turtle. But first it had to finish digging its hole and start laying its eggs. If it detects us humans before then, it will turn around and go back into the water. So we waited a little longer - Finally we were allowed to go all the way down to the beach.
One had to constantly keep an eye on all the holes of the former turtles that one could easily stumble into. Benjamin actually spotted a turtle in the dark right next to us. But it had apparently been allowed to lay its eggs in peace by the guides. When we got to the selected turtle, the guide lit a small candle. There was just enough light for us to keep up.
The newly hatched turtles
The turtle laid its eggs. You could see the eggs coming out. There was something really fascinating about seeing this great animal embark on this process, which has been going on for so many, many years. The kids were absolutely thrilled and so were we adults.
When everyone had been allowed to look, we moved on to another guide who showed us one of the little newly hatched turtle cubs. Exactly how sweet and fine it was. It is unbelievable that such a small one can even get out of his egg and begin his journey out into the world - and hopefully find his way out into the water. Completely without the help of a mother or father.
Eventually we walked again past the adult turtle that was now in the process of burying the eggs by pushing sand over the eggs with its mitts. What a job it was doing!
The turtle's dangerous path through childhood
Ras al Jinz is a turtle sanctuary where they work for the survival of sea turtles. The turtles have tough survival odds. According to our guide, about three turtles survive until they become adults, and that is three out of 1000 eggs.
The turtle lays 100 eggs at a time, and to lay the eggs it must first crawl all the way up from the sea up to the beach. Then it has to dig a hole that is big enough for it to lie down in it. Then it has to lay the 100 eggs, dig the hole and even make a new "cheat hole" next to it to fool the enemies. And then eventually it can crawl exhausted back to the sea. It does this three times in a couple of weeks, and then it only comes back a year later.
So in order to save the few cubs that actually survive, it is important that we humans do not create obstacles for the turtles. They have plenty of enemies in the animal kingdom in the form of, for example, foxes that eat the eggs from the nests, birds that eat the newly hatched turtles or sharks that eat the adult turtles.
Of course, their eggs also need to be cared for. If a car drives over the nest, it will be catastrophic. And light confuses the little newly hatched cubs. They use the reflections of the waves to find their way out to sea when they have come out of the eggs.
Therefore, if there is a light disturbance in the form of car headlights or camera lights, they may use all their strength to walk around the beach and follow the light without finding the water.
Turtle cubs in Sri Lanka
We've been on before Sri Lanka and see a 'turtle hatchery', i.e. a turtle hatchery. It is a place where the eggs are collected from the nests and made sure that they are hatched in safe surroundings. The young turtles are allowed to grow a little big before they have to ensure their own survival in the sea. No doubt more turtles must survive that way.
In return, it was really fascinating to see the turtles of Oman in their natural surroundings. And when you keep human pollution away from them, as you do in Ras al Jinz, you definitely help the turtles along the way!
One simply can not help but be fascinated by the fine animals. I hope that one day we can also experience them out in the water. It must be one of our next travel projects.
Have a good trip to Oman!
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