I am just back from a short but hectic trip to Rushikulya rookery and Chilika lake in Orissa. Vasant J. Sheth Memorial Foundation, the NGO wihich I work for, has sponsored a Sea Turtle Interpretation Centre at Rushikulya beach, near village Purnabandha in Ganjam district of Orissa. Rushikulya is one of the largest sea turtle rookery in the country apart from Gahirmatha and Devi river mouth in Orissa. Our Foundation supports the efforts of the local conservation group Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee which has been doing excellent work in protecting the sea turtle nests, eggs and hatchlings since many years. Mr. Rabindranath Sahu and other volunteers of this group are instrumental in the protection work.
'WOW' is only expression I had on my face after being witness to the mass nesting (arribada in local language) of Olive Ridley Turtles . All the sunburns I got due to excessive road travelling on a two-wheeler in 42 deg. C was all worth it. From Feb 16th to Feb 24th, more than 1,40,000 Olive Ridleys have layed eggs on the Rushikulya beach. As I stood on the beach at night, turtles came out from the sea, crawling apparently with great efforts, reaching beyond the hightide mark and digging the pits with their flippers to lay a clutch of around 120 eggs. All this in a span of 60-min. The experience of watching these giant 60-kg creatures sitting right next to them was simply awesome. The mornings I spent on motorised dinghi (a small boat) watching the turtles swimming in the sea, occasionally coming up on the surface to breathe and then diving back in to the emerald green waters. The entire episode was right out of a National Geographic film!
I also spent a couple of days in Chilika lake, the largest brackish water lagoon along in the country and a Ramsar Site. Though didn't get enough time for birding, could manage just about two boat rounds in the lake. The round at Satapada was a memorable one since I saw around 7-8 Irrawady Dolphins playfully swimming in the lake, occasionally jumping and blowing air with 'puffff' sound.
The mass hatching will take place sometime in the first week of April 2006. Those who can plan a trip here may do so during this period.