Boat your way here

Jan 23, 2014, 08:00 IST | Ruchika Kher

Far from the hustle and bustle of city life lies a quaint and picturesque island, Sildongri, with just 45 families that have adapted to a minimalist way of life. Ruchika Kher explored this wonderland where 'me-time' acquires a new meaning and peace is what people vouch for

We often get so consumed in the course of our daily, deadline-ridden, fast-paced existence that we forget to appreciate the tiniest but the most significant facets of our lives. Most of us have forgotten the pleasure of listening to the chirping of birds, of waking up to the freshness of the air and experiencing the wind on our faces, essentially on a nippy evening. Sildongri — an island nestled amidst the Daman Ganga river and divided into two regions — one side lies in Gujarat and the other falls in Dadra and Nagar Haveli made us remember all that and more. Realising its distance from the mainland, we were nothing short of being thrilled to remove ourselves from the humdrum routine and bask in the glory of nature.

One has to boat for an hour to reach Sildongri. Pics/ Shadab Khan

While leaving from Mumbai, we embraced the thought that this will be an off-beat vacation unlike the typical shop-eat-laze around-sightseeing kind of trip. It took us almost five hours to reach the Panoramic View Point of Sildongri. The place is the central point from where one can take boats for the island. Since, boating all the way to the island takes an hour, taking off right away would have been a daunting task — especially with the sun directly overhead. So, we decided to head to our lodge and return in the morning.

You can spot different species of deer at the Satmalia Deer Park, near Silvassa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli

Water, water everywhere
Just 15 minutes away, lies the Dudhni Lake, a popular boating spot for tourists with colourful shikara-type boats dotting the scenic place. Our resort being situated at the other end of the lake had us preparing for our first boating trip. In a mere 15 minutes, we were on the other side and ready to retire for the day.

Next day was an early morning, for we wanted to reach the island before the sun was entirely up. Hence, we left without much ado and reached the point from where we needed to fetch a boat to reach the island. While on our way to the green patch of land surrounded by water, we started chatting with the rower while sensing the tranquility that suddenly enveloped us. The rower, Mahesh Waghare, was an inhabitant of the island. While his father deals in wholesale selling of fish, Waghare has completed his Bachelors in Education. The island has one school with one teacher, who takes classes till the fourth standard. For medical facilities, crossing the lake and coming to the city is the only option.

If you like Warli paintings, get a chance to learn the art from artists proficient in the medium; (Top) One has to boat for an hour to reach Sildongri. Pics/ Shadab Khan

Humble means
After a long chat, clicking shots and playing with the pristine water of the river, we reached Sildongri that welcomed us with a strong wind and left us waiting for sunshine. Silence is the first thing that struck us when we set foot on the island. We entered from the Gujarat-end of the island, and the tranquility fascinated us. While we were free to roam around in the open places that were marked with agricultural spots at regular distances, Waghare took us to his place for some rest. The house, with Warli paintings on the wall and the door, pointed towards an inclination for art amongst the inhabitants. The backyard was a storehouse of fresh vegetables that were ready for harvesting and grains, mainly rice and wheat, were also seen getting preserved.

We then decided to walk around, the wind being our faithful companion. Coming from a city like Mumbai, which is forever packed with people, being able to see people far and wide on the island was quite a contrast. Once we reached the top of the mountain, after a tiring trek, we could see the entire area and the river in the backdrop which could very well befit a postcard. On a parting note, the fact that people live in the area and even for shopping use boats, and not cars or two-wheelers, was beyond imagination for us.

Inhabitants of the island preserve rice and wheat for as long as a year

Other attractions around

> Warli painting demonstration by an artist
> Tarpa cultural dance
> Boating at Dudhni Lake
> Satmalia Deer Park
> Vasona Lion Safari

How to get there

Sildongri (If one intends to enter from the Gujarat-end) — 180 km from Mumbai.

>>  One needs to take the road till the Panoramic View Point and then take a one-hour boat to the island.
>>  There are no hotels or lodges to stay in Sildongri, so one would have to take the boat back to the Panoramic View Point. Kauncha, which is 20 minutes from the point offers a few options, including the Himai Van resort near the Dudhni Lake.
>> Best time to visit is the monsoon period since the island is full of greenery at that point. If you don’t want to take a risk during the monsoon, November to March is a good time to visit as well.
>> Boats from the Panoramic View Point are available for the island only till 7 pm in the evening.
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