WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS: VIPURVA PARIKH
A few years ago, Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra, an NGO working towards wildlife conservation in Maharashtra, invited me to photograph turtle-nest hatchings in Mochemad, a small fishing village on the coast. Mochemad is a typical fishing village with a Ganpati temple at its centre, and sandy lanes all leading up to traditional homes. There are no hotels or restaurants; I stayed with a local fisherman, who graciously offered me his porch to sleep on and three meals a day.
Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra has been successfully working towards educating the locals on the fragility of the existence of olive ridley turtles. There has since been a significant decline in the poaching of turtles and their eggs.
A couple of days into the trip, the turtle eggs hatched. I’ve seen some pretty amazing sights on my travels, but few come close to watching baby turtles dig their way out of the sand and take in the world around them. With tiny flippers and soft shells, they waddled across the sand and instinctively made their way towards the ocean.
As tempting as it was to pick them up and carry them to the surf line, making this long and arduous trek is crucial for the hatchlings. It is during this walk that they memorise the location; when the females come of age and are ready to nest, they must make their way back to this very same beach.
Everyone on the beach broke into applause as the hatchlings finally reached the surf line. Tiny flippers, which seemed quite useless on sand, turned efficient and helped the babies paddle gently into the receding tide. Watching it happen was one of the most humbling and heartwarming experiences I’ve had.
“We do what we can,” said the conservation volunteer next to me, “but there’s literally an ocean full of challenges ahead of them. We hope they make it on their own and we hope the females come back to this beach some day.”