The number of domestic and foreign visitors to the Ras Al Jinz turtle reserve in the Ras Al Hadd district of wilayat of Sur last year reached 48,700. Of them, the number of foreign visitors was 37,044 and domestic visitors was 7,373. Some 1,498 visitors were from the GCC countries.
Some 771 students of the Sultanate also visited the reserve, while the number of visitors from other Arab countries was about 2,061.
The turtle reserve is one of the most important tourist destinations in the Sultanate. It is frequently visited by people from inside and outside the country across different nationalities. The Ras Al Hadd district of wilayat Sur situated in South Al Sharqiyah Governorate has a lot of natural elements, including tranquil beaches and moderate weather through the whole year. The turtle reserve of Ras Al Jinz was a major tourist attraction last year. The reserve has huge tourism potential for the whole year, as it is very attractive; a large number of turtles nest on the beach of the reserve, said Vijay Handa, director general of the Ras Al Jinz turtle reserve.
He said that there were a number of programmes and attractive offers designed for tourists last year. They included many special packages for schoolchildren to watch the turtles at sunrise and in the evenings, including watching dolphins, touring on bicycles and visiting Omani houses to learn about the culture of Omani families. Handa said that turtle watching was one of the most important environmental tourism activities in the reserve. The reserve has a rare species of sea turtles, green turtles. Ras Al Jinz is one of the largest reserves in the world for this endangered species, he said. Handa also said that watching turtles in the Ras Al Jinz reserve was conducted in a calm and orderly manner so as to not cause fear or disturbance to the turtles and harm them. He added that there were clear instructions for visitors before they start the turtle-watching process. He pointed out that the best time to watch turtles was during the summer, between May and September, as this is their nesting period.
He further said that the visitors can also enjoy other activities during their stay in the reserve, including an interactive museum which informs them about the turtle life cycle, information on their development and types, as well as a wide range of facilities for visitors to learn about the wonders of ancient turtles. Handa said that the management of the reserve was currently renovating the rooms, reception, waiting area, and improving the nesting beach to reach a world-class level. We are currently managing the reserve, adding mountain trails around the area for visitors, he said.
The visitors of the Ras Al Jinz turtle reserve can stay in 31 accommodation units, as well as well-equipped tents. The facilities also include a restaurant which can accommodate 60 people and offers outstanding food. It has a library equipped with the best audio-visual devices and books, and a souvenir shop.
Number of turtles
Said bin Juma Al Araimi, Director of Operations at the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, said that the number of turtles in the reserve varied since its establishment in 2008, based on the environmental conditions of the area. The reserve currently has about 80,000 turtles of different varieties. The number of nesting green turtles in the Ras Al Jinz reserve is between 6,000 and 13,000. They come from the coasts of the Sultanate and neighbouring countries such as the coast of the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea, in addition to the closest shores of Somalia.
Watching turtles is one of the activities organised by the guides for tourists in the reserve. There are five rare varieties of turtles: the Green Turtle, the Loggerhead Turtle, the Hawksbill Turtle, the Olive Ridley Turtle, and the Leatherback Turtle. They cross the territorial waters to the shores of the Sultanate. Ras Al Hadd has moderate weather and in the summer, temperatures range from 25 C to 36 C, which are suitable for turtle breeding and nesting.
The Ras Al Jinz turtle reserve also has archaeological sites, which are around 6,000 years old. They showcase fishing and trade activity, which Omanis practiced in ancient times, as well as green turtle nesting areas, which are about 12kms long and overlook a 45km-long coast.
On the projects underway at the reserve, Al Araimi said that with regard to the ongoing developments at the reserve, so that they do not affect the turtles in the area, environment-friendly camps have been set up.  We are working to improve the facilities so that they reduce threats to the environment, including the adjacent museum, scientific centre and the hotels surrounding the reserve.
Al Araimi said that the reserves added value to the tourism sector as sustainable tourism products, based on the use of natural heritage and realisation of the importance of environmental sites. He added that the reserve was aimed at preserving wildlife and turtles. In addition to this, they play a role in social development as they create jobs and help in increasing awareness about the environment among the people of the area.
The reserve is aimed at protecting the turtles by preventing human practices, which threaten the lives of the turtles. There are several threats caused by human beings: trade in meat and shells, disturbance during the nesting process and the dumping of garbage, especially harmful and non-recyclable waste. They are also threatened by the harsh rays of imaging devices and vehicles near the nesting areas.
About her visit to the turtle reserve, Samira Al Riyami said:  The site is beautiful. We enjoyed watching the turtles dig into the sand and the young turtles hatching eggs. The trips were well organised, the guides explained and interacted well with the visitors.
Tourists also visited the museum, known as the Turtle Visitor Centre and enjoyed the site. The museum offers tourists information about turtles at the reserve.  The museum of the reserve was beautiful and useful,  said Ali Al Hajri.
Haitham Al Jahwari, who visited the park twice, said the reserve was known for its marine environment, for turtle watching and other activities. He added that the reserve provided an account of the social and environmental condition of the Sultanate and information about the species of turtles in Oman.
Al Jahwari said that it was important to get information about the destination before visiting it to avoid practices, which harm the natural elements of the site. Awareness is necessary because these are external influences, which change the normal course of life of the organisms at the site.
News Source: Times of Oman