Sur to Nizwa, Oman
Before leaving the region of Sur, I paid a visit to Ras al-Jinz, a tiny beach which belies its immense importance to several endangered turtle species; loggerhead, green, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill. On a small stretch of sand under honey-colored cliffs, female turtles come up on to the beach at night to lay upwards of 100 eggs deep in the sand.
After about 50 days the eggs hatch all at once, and guided instinctively by the moonlight the tiny black creatures, about two inches long, set off determinedly for the sea. Only a few meters separate their birthplace from the ocean but they are treacherous – birds, crabs and foxes catch them on the sand, and if they reach the ocean alive, fish and sea birds await them. For this reason they swim far out to sea for hours after hitting the water. It is not surprising that only about 1 of every 50 survives.
The government of Oman is arguably the most proactive in the Arab world with regard to conservation in general, and the turtles are no exception. Many have had little satellites attached to their shells so their movements can be tracked to enable us to learn more about them. The day of my visit a dead turtle lay on the beach – a female who for whatever reason had not made it back to sea, (males do not leave the sea). It seemed symbolic both of the struggle the little hatchlings face at the very start of their lives, to the ongoing pressures turtles face as adults sharing their habitat with increasing human encroachment and the attendant detritus that 21st century man in the form of 6 billion people brings to the earth.