The Ras Al-Jinz Turtle Reserve, Oman, is one of the best places in the world to come and see endangered giant green turtles who come ashore here to lay their eggs in the warm sands of the Arabian peninsula. About three hours east of Muscat, on good, mainly empty roads.
It has to be dark before the turtles will be tempted onto the beach. At around 9pm the scouts go down to beach first to report back on what turtle activity there is. Visitors are then gathered into smallish groups waiting for the first part of the process to be over. Only when the turtles have dug their sandy nest and laid their eggs can you get a closer look. The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the hatchlings – nearer to the sea, and so cooler, they are male, further away and they’re female. The turtles that come to nest here were born here themselves. Over 20,000 turtles are thought to come each year to this area.
After listening to the guides explaining the magical life cycle of the turtles, the children were absolutely amazed by their first sight of a just hatched baby turtle scuttling towards the sea in the moonlight. It’s all I could do to stop my 7-year-old daughter’s hands from scooping the hatchling up - happily, it made it into the waves. Several more followed suit, but it was the giant females we were really here to see. Finally the guide signalled that there was a giant turtle just a few metres away finishing laying her delicate eggs. We were silently gathered around her impressive hulk and watched her flapping the sticky sand over her nest and saw her lumbering towards the waves to carry her back to her underwater life. The children were open mouthed in amazement.
The children then made sand angels in celebration at seeing the turtles and at being able to break their silence. We piggybacked them to our tent as they chatted about the experience. I did manage to tempt them back on the beach again just before sunrise to see yet more turtles, as there are less visitors at this time of the day. It was amazing to watch the sun glitter above the horizon as the children dug for crabs and chased the seagulls away from snatching the hatchlings.
The accommodation can be found in within the reserve and includes a few brand new luxurious tents situated 200 metres up a hill, away from the main reserve building. Larger than most two bedroom flats, our family of five was cooled by a air conditioner bigger than an American fridge, shearing at least 15 degrees off the 40 degree temperature outside. They have private bathrooms, TV and mini bar. Carapace Lodge inside the main building at the reserve has more conventional rooms. The only dining option is within the reserve and it offers a buffet breakfast and supper which was ideal, and had a good range of international and middle eastern food.
There’s a small informative and interactive museum at the reserve, detailing marine and conservation issues related to turtles, which is well worth a visit.
When To Go
Turtle watching is a year-round activity, but the numbers of turtles can be affected by both the weather and sea conditions. Oman is a perfect winter destination, so ideal for half term breaks and winter holidays. From around October to April the temperatures range from mid-twenties, to the thirties in late spring.
The Ras Al-Jinz Turtle Reserve prices:
It is only possible to visit the beach by joining an escorted tour and the numbers are restricted, so it’s definitely worth booking in advance www.rasaljinz-turtlereserve.com
- A family Luxury Eco- Tent costs £200 per night for a family of five. Staying at the Carapace Lodge – Family air-conditioned room with bunk beds for family of four costs £175 per night. Both prices include the guided turtle watching at night or dawn, breakfast, museum entry, and all taxes.
- Bespoke Tours arranged around Oman www.audleytravel.com
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