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The giant and the new-born turtles of Ras al Hadd

One of the things Eugenia ended up regretting the most of not coming with me to Sri Lanka, was to miss the chance I had to visit the giant turtles of Hikkaduwa.

That’s why, when we got to Oman we knew we had to visit some turtles on the east coast. We thought that would take place in the quite known reserve of Ras al Jinz but as a matter of fact, as usually happened to us, we ended up changing our plan and visiting them at Ras al Hadd, following the recommendation of our Couchsurfing host.

Let’s get to it step by step!

 

 

    Ras al Hadd VS Ras al Jinz

To be honest, if you check some turtle viewing online, you will find information only about Ras al Jinz, that is the easternmost point of the Arabian Peninsula. It’s known for being a breeding ground for green sea turtles and also other kinds.

We were staying at Sur, a charming city on the coast 50 kilometers away from Ras al Jinz, and when we told our host we were thinking about going to this nesting beach, he said that no way he would let us go there! That he would get us to Ras al Hadd because it was not touristy at all and actually was way better.

Ras al Hadd it’s only 20 kilometers away from Ras al Jinz and when we got there, we were almost the only tourists since there was just another couple, who they told us they got there with another local also.

One of the lost new-born turtles before the guard brought it to the sea

One of the lost new-born turtles before the guard brought it to the sea.

 

The entrance for Ras al Hadd is 1 OMR (2,5 USD) while for Ras al Jinz it goes from 5 to 7 OMR (13 to 18 USD). As our Couchsurfer told us, Ras al Hadd it’s actually larger than Ras al Jinz and they receive more or less the same amount of turtles per year. On the other hand, at Ras al Jinz there is a museum that you can visit also.

 

    Best season to see the turtles

Now probably you will be asking yourself which is the best season to get there to see all this, right?

The main season for turtles hatching is from June to August, but if you get there on May —as we did— or September, you will still get to see many turtles coming over to lay eggs and small turtles getting born and going to the water.

giant turtle in the beach

You may think that summer in Oman will be too hot, but as a matter of fact, while it’s true that all over the country is really warm, in these two beaches is really fresh even in the middle of summer.

If you go there during the rest of the year, you will be able to see some turtle but with much fewer possibilities, as they only go to the coast basically to check it.

 

    Turtle viewing

If you want to see plenty of turtles, you should do it at night until the early morning. During the day you may see some, but it’s not until it gets dark that hundreds of them go there to lay their eggs.

The most important thing you should have in mind is not to disturb them, moreover when they are making holes in the sand —it can take them hours!—, because if they feel stressed they will leave. Turtles don’t hear too much but they have an awesome vision. So as long as you have no light with you and you are not in their camp of vision, you can chill around in silence. So of course, if you want to take a picture, definitely forget about your flash!

You will see that once they finish, they will head back to the sea. And two months after the eggs that were just laid will be ready to be broken by really tiny turtles.

The guard touching one of the turtles

The guard touching one of the turtles.

 

So you can imagine the vast quantity of huge turtles laying eggs and new turtles hatching out of their eggs that you can see, know that sea turtles can lay more than 100 eggs per clutch and that they lay several times per season.

New-born turtles sometimes don’t know they should head to the sea and instead they head to any bright light they see. That’s why there is only one big light in the center of the beach with the guardians, so in case some recently hatched turtles get lost, they will go there and the guardians will bring them to the water.

A few lost new-born turtles about to be brought to the sea by the guards.

 

One of the best things about experiencing this with locals is that they will know a lot about it. In our case, our host told us that he used to come to the beach when he was a kid with his father, so they could spend hours watching adult turtles coming and leaving, and new-borns going to the sea to start their life.

Also he told us that the sex of the new turtles will not be determined during the fertilization but will depend on the temperature where the egg is laid. Being so, the eggs closer to the sea will be fresher and they will be males. On the other hand, eggs that are further from the seacoast will be warmer, so they will be females.

The unmistakable trace left by adult turtles on their way back to the sea

The unmistakable trace left by adult turtles on their way back to the sea.

 

In order to finish, I just want to add that while Ras al Jinz will be quite full all over the season and Ras al Hadd will not, during weekends the second one will be really packed also. Since it’s way fresher in here than in Sur, Muscat or the northern part of the country in general, you will find many families going there to escape the high summer temperatures.

 

    Where to sleep?

➡ In our case, we stayed in Sur using Couchsurfing, but if you prefer to have your privacy in a hotel, in this city you will find different kinds of accommodation and from there you can go one night or early morning to either of these two nesting beaches.

➡ If you want to stay in Al Hadd, you will find a few possibilities also, being the cheapest the Ras Al Hadd Guest House, which is less than 1 kilometer away from the beach and it’s actually the best rated on Booking.

➡ If you like wild camping, you will be really glad to know it’s possible to camp on the beaches next to Ras al Hadd or Ras al Jinz.

➡ If you prefer not to trust our Couchsurfer advice, and still want to go to Ras al Jinz and sleep there, you can sleep at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, but let me tell you that it’s way more expensive.

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