Because life is a beach

Jan 12, 2012, 06:52 IST | Dhvani Solani

... and much more. This time, skip your annual pilgrimage to Goa. Instead, drive down to revel in a Malvani sea side surprise. Clear waters, secluded coastlines and the quiet life promise to make it a memorable weekend getaway

... and much more. This time, skip your annual pilgrimage to Goa. Instead, drive down to revel in a Malvani sea side surprise. Clear waters, secluded coastlines and the quiet life promise to make it a memorable weekend getaway

So what if you dub yourself as more than just a regular beach bum. After all, you like the sun and the sea and revel in the art of doing nothing, save getting an even, chocolate-y suntan.

However, if you've seen, eaten and lived your way through Goa, no worries we suggest you change tracks and look for a fresh trail, closer home.

Halt a couple of hours before the bohemian capital of the country, in Malvan, to unravel some of south Konkan's best-kept secrets.

We zoomed through the Malvan-Tarkarli-Devbagh stretch to suggest three heady activities to sink into after you're done drooling at the sight of powder-white sands.

Fortify yourself
From the beach at Malvan, you can spot Sindhudurg, an imposing citadel that gives a sturdier appearance when you notice the gleaming waters splashing all around it. You hop on to a ferry that takes you to the island fortress that was built by Chhatrapati Shivaji in a way that the enemy wouldn't know where the entrance lies.

Exploring Sindhudurg is an enriching experience

The well-preserved fort has zigzag ramparts with 42 bastions, scattered temples and tanks. Over 2,000 khandis or 15,000 tons of iron were used in the castings and the foundation stones were laid firmly in solid lead to endure the incessant pounding of the sea.

Take a book along, and settle yourself at the edge of one of the semi-circle towers facing the endless sea, and see the sun get swallowed by the glimmering waters.

Traveller's Tip: Visit the fort's main attraction: Shivaji's shrine, which has a unique 'Malvani' Shivaji made of stone, with his head covered with silver. The image is nothing like what we read in our history books, In fact, it bears a resemblance to some of the locals in Malvan!

Take the plunge
Since the crowds haven't discovered the charms of this stretch as yet, the Arabian Sea's pristine waters off the Malvan coast are still free of plastic waste, and project a kind of visibility that one typically finds hard to believe about any beach that shares a certain proximity with Mumbai.

Snorkeling against the backdrop of the massive Sindhudurg fort
makes for a memorable take-home

You will find dozens of touts on the pier that takes you to Sindhudurg fort, and in little stalls on the beach, offering to sell you a snorkeling experience for as little as Rs 250.

Choose one that promises to give you at least a half hour in the waters, and you will soon be zooming off in a speedboat to a spot in the water against the backdrop of the imposing Sindhudurg fort. The waters here are placid and visibility is high.
Breathing through a snorkel takes some time to get used to but soon the sight of schools of fish swimming around you, close enough for you to touch them, will distract you from the inconvenience of breathing through a tube.

Your guide should ideally take you on a swim around, sharing with you information about the names of species spotted in these calming waters. Take care to not tread on the spectacular yet fragile corals underwater; we were lucky to spot a few that displayed a stunning maroon shade. Be forewarned, watch out for sea snakes!

Traveller's Tip: Carry your own snorkeling gear. Having to bite on a snorkel, which a few other hundreds might have used prior to you isn't appealing. It doesn't help that this share-for-all gear is cleaned with seawater and toothpaste. Check out the Dive Shop at Bandra (65177381) where you can buy a snorkeling kit for Rs 4,000.

Spot the dolphin
If you want to escape the popular Tarkarli and Malvan beaches, stay along one of the modest accommodations on the Devbagh beachfront, which is further ahead.

Nivati Beach Cove

The little fishing village lies ensconced between the sea and the Karli River, and the locals would be glad to take you for a dolphin-spotting ride in their country craft. While the bottleneck dolphin remained elusive (there were sightings the previous day, much to our dismay), the two-hour trip was worth it.
One of our pit stops was the gorgeous, secluded cove of Nivati with a beautiful stretch of white sand, sharp rocks and a hill that you can easily climb to get rewarded with a 180-degree view of the sea.

Next up was the Tsunami Island, a soft sand heap in the middle of the Karli River, so named because it had mysteriously appeared after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

The narrow stretch is only big enough to host a banana boat, a couple of water scooters and some kayak, for watersport lovers.

Traveller's Tip: Bargain with the watersport companies here. We kayaked for just Rs 40 per person.

How to get there
Kudal is the nearest railhead, about 7-hour-drive from Mumbai. From Kudal, you take an auto to Malvan, which is 1 hour 15 minutes by road. Buses ply every half hour. If you are taking your own vehicle, Tarkarli is roughly 546 km (Panvel-Kochi Road, NH17) from Mumbai. State Transport buses ply to Malvan / Tarkarli too.

The best way to wind through the Malvan landscape is to have your own mode of transportation. Waiting for a local bus that might not arrive, or a jeep that ferries people around, might mean long waits.

MTDC Tarkarli (02365-252390) is a good bet. There are lots of homestays around too. If you seek more solitude, check out a range of accommodation available on Devbagh beach. We stayed at Siddhivinayak Beach Resort (02365-248407, 09404448687), which is by the beach, has decent rooms and serves some of the best food we've ever had.

> Tuck into Malvani food at this seafood haven.
> Eat at least one Ukdiche Modak and drink at least one glass of Sol Kadhi.
> Swim in the Tarkarli beach waters.
> Take an walk on Devbagh beach, to watch fishermen bring in their daily haul.

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