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A road trip to see the Olive Ridley hatchlings

Trips are not always planned. Sometime they take days, months or years to realise and sometimes they just happen. A similar thing happened with us which led to one of the many unforgettable trips we have done till now.

It was a fine April morning, while I was preparing myself to attend one of my subject papers for the third semester of my MBA. Little did I know that I would end up skipping that and instead go on a road trip to Berhampur to see the Olive Ridley hatchlings.

Baby turtle moving towards sea
Freshly hatched Olive Ridley heading towards Bay of Bengal

When I arrived at the test centre due to some technical failure to login, I was not able to appear the test. Disappointed, that I have to reappear for the subject next semester which would affect my scores for the ongoing semester, I called Durgesh to pick me up. He tried to reassure me. After a few minutes he received a call from his friend who shared the news of the hatching of the Olive Ridley turtles near Berhampur and on the spot we decided to go on a road trip to see them. The disappointment of the failed login vanished and we got busy packing for our road trip.

Olive Ridley nesting
Female Olive Ridley turtle returning to Bay of Bengal after laying her eggs. Eggs take upto 45-50 days to hatch after that.

Berhampur is just 170 km from Bhubaneswar by road. The three and a half hour drive was smooth and scenic. With good roads of NH16 and greenery on either side of the road, three hours did not seem too long.

On the way there are several places of interests. Mangalajodi, Barkul, Chilika, Banapur, Barbara - are some of the best places to spend an afternoon or morning for wildlife or leisure. One can book eco-resorts and hotels to stay for the night in these places as well.

Bhubaneswar-Berhampur Tourist Places
Tourist places on the way to Berhampur while driving from Bhubaneswar. Map courtesy: Odisha Tourism

There is a temple called the Ugratara Temple, located just before Mangalajodi. It’s a temple situated in the middle of a forest and is very popular among the locals. People organise picnics during the winter months here. It is very common in Odisha to have such outdoor feasts in the winter months especially at popular pilgrim spots. We also like to come on this route for the delicious crab and prawn masala/ curry that the famous Chilika Dhaba serves. It is a good desi restaurant that has been here since as long as I can remember. Though the decor and people working there might have changed, the food still evokes fond memories of my past visits.

We did not stop at any of these places since our destination was far and the sun was setting. We had planned to reach Berhampur by 6pm because after sunset, the national highway becomes busy with transport trucks and also it is safer to cross the ghat roads in the daylight. However we did stop briefly for tea and to take a few pictures of the Chilika Lake that is visible from the ghats.

Mangalajodi near Chilika is a birders paradise

Chilika Lake is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest coastal lagoon in the world. It is a prominent wintering ground for the migratory birds which travel from as far as Siberia to escape the harsh winters and take shelter in the warm waters of the lagoon. Along with migratory birds, the lake also offers an ecosystem which sustains a large number of native as well as endangered species of plants and animals. The view was beautiful but we had a destination to reach. So we left the place. This was to be explored another time, another day.

At around 6.30 pm we reached Berhampur, followed our map route till Durgesh’s friend’s house. I was introduced for the first time to their beautiful family of three. After chatting and snacking it was decided that it would be better if we wait till late evening to see the hatchlings. So we went out after 9 pm to the mouth of the river Rushikulya & Bay of Bengal where the mass nesting of Olive Ridley sea turtles takes place.

Turtles in their nest
How the turtles emerge from the nest (Photography is done with red tinted light to avoid disturbing the hatchlings)

To our good luck, we watched the hatchlings come out of the sand at couple of spots on the beach. It was thrilling to see these newly hatched turtles rush towards their destination, the sea. Any light disturbance can make them move towards the source of the light thus we ensured the hatchlings did not move in the wrong direction. We sat there for some time, watching the newborns take their first dip in the sea. It was really satisfying!

Nesting site
Baby Olive Ridleys coming out their nesting site

After spending some time on the beach, we returned to our friend’s place for dinner. Next day we started early as I had my semester examination scheduled before noon. I prepared for the exam on our way back to Bhubaneswar.

Three days later, we also celebrated our first marriage anniversary, with family and friends and then we went to Bhutan for a twelve days trip. That was yet another memorable experience. Worth to mention that my exam paper for Operations Research went surprisingly well and I ended up scoring my best for the third semester in that subject!!

#oliveridley #seaturtle #marine #wildlife #odisha #berhampur #bhubaneswar #roadtrip #quickgetaway #local #travel #photography #ecotourism #responsibletravel #conservation #bayofbengal #arribada

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