Travel special: Tales from the lighthouse at Khanderi Island

Updated: May 27, 2015, 14:37 IST | Suprita Mitter |

Located just 9.5 km from Alibaug, the Kanhoji Angre Island, popularly known as Khanderi, makes for an engaging getaway, with its historic fort and lighthouse, and, of course, a heady boat ride during high tide, to reach the island.

When we heard about a trip to the sleepy island of Khanderi (Kanhoji Angre Island) off Alibaug, it came as a surprise. Curiously, it had never surfaced on itineraries or weekend escape plans. Keen to explore this site, we signed up for a day trip. The group of 14 met at the Gateway of India for the 8 am ferry to Mandwa.

(Above) Night view of the lighthouse at the Kanhoji Angre Island.
Night view of the lighthouse at the Kanhoji Angre Island. Pic courtesy/Rajesh Madao

The journey took 75 minutes and was more convenient and also cheaper (Rs 150) than reaching by road. From Mandwa, a pre-booked cab took us to Awas Beach Cottage where the group freshened up. Breakfast included hot Poha, Misal Pav and tea. Ensure you tuck into a hearty breakfast, as you will need all the energy to get through the day, as we were to discover. Post breakfast, we drove down to Thal, which is a 15-minute-drive, and boarded a speedboat for Khanderi island.

Khanderi Island, Maharashtra.  Pic courtesy/Rajesh MadaoKhanderi Island, Maharashtra. Pic courtesy/Rajesh Madao

All at sea
Stepping into the speedboat was a task as this was during high tide. By the time we boarded the highly unstable boat, we were drenched. A co-passenger lost her footwear while another constantly requested to get off as she was highly sceptical of the safety measures on board. Soon after we had left the shore, someone pointed out that there were no life jackets on board.

A speed boat approaching the Kanhoji Angre Island
A speed boat approaching the Kanhoji Angre Island

Many passengers requested that we turn the boat back to collect them but the boatman didn’t seem keen. So, we set off on high speed, on rough sea and reached the island in about 30 minutes. The rest of the ride to the island was uneventful apart of the scorching heat and a few splashes from the giant waves. Our group was divided into half (seven for each boat ride). After the first batch reached the island, the same boat returned to Mandwa to bring the rest of the group.

A slice of history
The island has a fort, which our guide, Shanker Aiyar said was initially built by the Portuguese in1678 and was later occupied by the Marathas to lodge their army and navy. The island is named Kanhoji Angre after an admiral who took charge of the Maratha navy in 1708. He created a base on Khanderi island and attacked British merchant ships, winning many sea battles for the Marathas. Khanderi island was renamed in his honour in 1998 on the occasion of 125th anniversary of the Mumbai Port Trust. We walked along the remains of the fortifications and reached a beautiful lighthouse at the island summit that was built by the British in 1852. The fort itself offers great vantage views.

Atop the summit of the lighthouse, the group listened to the guide who shared valuable information about it
Atop the summit of the lighthouse, the group listened to the guide who shared valuable information about it

We spotted impressive iron canons en route to the lighthouse. Prior permits are needed to enter but the local caretaker was kind enough to let us in. We climbed the narrow, winding staircase, and settled down right at the top, already tired from trekking in the heat. The caretaker was knowledgeable. He told us that the lighthouse is a 17m high tower with an elevation of 47 metres. We saw the light that guides the ships; a prism or a sphere of mirrors surround it. The light was converted to a solar power-based modern light in July 2008, and the lighthouse is now fully automated. It helps local fisher folk who do not have modern technology like GPS.

Bring on the adventure
The island has drinking water but no food stalls or restaurants, so we suggest you carry some eatables with you. We were to head back to the Awas Beach cottage for lunch. We boarded the speedboat. This time, the boatman felt that all of us could fit in, as a second trip would mean some members waiting at the island for half hour. We sped off, this time with life jackets and calmer waters. Mid-sea we could feel the motor coming to shutting point; our boatman informed us that the boat had run out of fuel because the overload had caused excess fuel consumption. The boatman made SOS calls to his team to send fuel across. This didn’t reach us till we reached the shore on the other side an hour later as we had drifted the distance! The heat and humidity didn’t help the patience levels of our co-passengers.

When we reached ashore, and headed to the cottage for lunch at 4 pm, we were famished, with sand and salt sticking on our hands and feet. The local fare of steaming rice, Bhakris, Black Chana, Dal, Bhindi and Mutton Curry helped us regain some strength. Next on the itinerary were water sports activities, near the Mandwa jetty. We didn’t make it before 6.30 pm, until when activities can be conducted. The long queues at the Mandwa jetty concerned us, so we joined the queue for the last ferry to Mumbai at 7.30 pm. The island is worth a visit but too much of anything, including adventure, might not be good!

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From Mumbai 96.1 km

Overview: Kanhoji Angre Island is situated opposite Thal fishing port in Alibaug. The island can be approached by sea from Thal 4.5 km and Alibaug 9.5 km via the jetty to Mandwa. This can be hailed from Gateway of India.

Going solo:
If you’re keen to go for this trip by yourself, hire a speedboat from the local fishermen of Thal or Kihim. The speedboat service to the island is available till May 30, and will resume post the monsoons.

>> Don’t litter the beach
>> Carry snacks and adequate drinking water
>> Insist on wearing life jackets

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