Fours species of turtles nest in the coastal areas of the UAE and Oman, including the green turtle (Chelonia mydus), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), olive ridley turtle (Lepydochelys olivacea) and the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). The IUCN Red List categorizes Chelonia mydus as endangered and Eretmochelys imbricata as critically endangered (IUCN 2001). In Oman, the Ra’s al Hadd National Nature Reserve, 400 km southeast of Muscat, offers spectacular viewing. Here green turtles nest year-round and the site is considered to have the largest nesting population in the Indian Ocean, thought to exceed 20,000 (Baldwin 1996). Masirah Island contains the worlds largest nesting population of loggerhead turtles, with an estimated 23,000-30,000 females nesting every year (Baldwin & Al Kiyumi 1999).(Information from WWF.)
Two years ago at Ra’s al Hadd, Oman I joined a night-time turtle walk to see them laying eggs and the hatchling’s journey to the sea. These enormous, lumbering creatures land, dragging themselves up the beach to lay their precious eggs, then back to the ocean to glide away gracefully in the waves. The baby turtles scramble across the dunes to plop into the water and their fate. Beautiful creatures, sadly prey to man’s carelessness.
Walking the beaches of the Arabian peninsula too often you come across dead turtles, plastic waste and propeller injuries often the case of death. Strange bone shapes litter the beaches, turtles leaving their skeletons to the sea…
At Khor Khalba, a wetland reserve on the East coast of UAE, a bridge crosses the estuary onto the Khor (island) and turtles can be seen swimming beneath you. A wonderful sight to spot them gliding up out of the depths to surface for air, their beaked head swivelling around, then under again for a graceful dive out of sight. It’s not often you are able to see turtles swim, so it was a pleasure to stand awhile on the bridge photographing them.