Surfing, snorkelling, sportfishing, parasailing, mangrove tours, turtle nesting, ATV adventures on sand dunes to rides in glass bottom boats, India’s East Coast is an adrenalin-packed adventure, discover ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY
Though India’s west coast is a well-established adventure hub with hotpots like Karwar, Dandeli and Goa besides offbeat activities like surfing at Mulky and snorkeling at Nethrani Island, the eastern coastline has its share of surprises.
Adventure Sports at Tajpur, West Bengal
Unlike touristy Digha, the quiet Tajpur Beach is Bengal’s latest adventure hub. It lies just 16km east of Digha, sandwiched between Shankarpur and Mandarmoni, one of the few motorable beaches on the east coast. Several nature camps and local outfitters organize a range of adventure activities. There’s parasailing, kayaking, snorkelling, coastal biking and treks, rubber boat propelling, even water zorbing! For sports climbing, try the 35-feet high artificial rock wall at Tajpur Retreat Hotel, besides a high-rope activity system within the campus itself. http://www.tajpurhotel.com
Turtle nesting at Gahirmatha, Orissa
Witness the migration of Olive Ridley sea turtles at the Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife sanctuary. Every year in November nearly one hundred to five hundred thousand turtles throng the coast of Orissa to mate and nest. Gahirmatha beach, which separates Bhitarkanika (India’s second largest mangrove forest) from the Bay of Bengal, is the world’s most important nesting site for Olive Ridleys. Do a coastal walk to understand the phenomenon as you explore a vast tract from the old lighthouse near Batighar to the mouths of the Maipura, Rushikulya and Devi rivers. For a bit of surfing and yachting, head south to Gopalpur.
Surfing at Rushikonda Beach, Vizag
The serene Rushikonda Beach at Visakhapatnam, a city named after Visakha, the Goddess of Valour, is perhaps the most promising wind surfing site in Andhra Pradesh. After explorations a few years ago proved successful, the beach is now the adopted home of surfing enthusiast Melville Smythe who teaches the basics at his Waveriders Surf School (Ph 9848561052).
Sportfishing off the Chennai coast
For a taste of saltwater sportfishing, hit the high seas off the coast of Chennai for Giant Trevally, Barracuda, Barramundi, Yellow Fin Tuna, King Mackerel, Wahoo, and Sail Fish. Fishing is as per catch and release and a few angling operators in Chennai offer 2hr, 4hr and 8hr packages to estuarine sanctuaries, breakwaters, wrecks and offshore ledges. Blue Waters offers trips aboard heir 28ft craft Sea Hawk (Ph 044 42102287, 9500032662/9 www.chennaisportfishing.com) while Barracuda Bay has a 27ft 120 hp boat Mako Polo (Ph 9841072072. http://www.barracudabay.in)
ATV rides off ECR
Scarcely 6km after the Crocodile Bank on ECR (East Coast Road) and 8km before the Pallava maritime capital of Mahabalipuram lies the perfect pitstop for adrenaline junkies. Located at Pattipulam, OffRoad Sports (Ph 9840922122 Email firstname.lastname@example.org http://offroadecr.com) offers the thrill of ATV adventures on a 5-acre racetrack or cross-country trails through casuarina woods and on beach dunes. Popular with first-timers, kids and families as well as experienced hands, they also run a dedicated ATV club for off road enthusiasts.
Diving/Surfing off Mamallapuram and Pondy
If you thought you had to go as far as the Andamans or Lakshadweep to dive, here’s some good news. Temple Adventures (Ph 9789844191, 9940219449 http://www.templeadventures.com), a PADI certified scuba diving outfit is located near Indira Gandhi Sports Complex on Covelong Road. Get snorkeling lessons for Rs.800/hr and surfing (Rs.800/3hrs) with bodyboards, surfboards and equipment on hire. Experienced instructors will teach you to scuba dive off the Pondicherry coast with Rs.1,500 for a Try Dive and Rs.2,000–21,000 for PADI courses. For surfing, contact Kallialay Surf Club (Ph 9442992874, 9787306376 email@example.com)
Mangrove tour at Pichavaram
Just 14km east of the temple town of Chidambaram explore the world’s second largest mangrove forest through boat rides. The TTDC Arignar Anna Tourist Complex (7am–6pm) has a view tower (Rs.5/head, 2 min) and a boathouse with several boats that tour the Pichavaram backwaters. The boatmen double-up as guides, listing everything from bird species to Latin names of local flora to the films shot here. The charges for rowboats and motorboat range from Rs.110 for 2 people to Rs.2000 for 8 people. To catch an early morning boat ride, Saradharam Eco Resort (Ph 04144 221336, www.hotelsaradharam.co.in) near the view tower is a convenient perch for overnight stays with decent rooms and fresh seafood served at their rooftop restaurant.
Glass bottom boat ride at Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park
One of world’s richest marine biospheres, the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve near the Pamban Bridge to Rameshwaram is home to rare marine flora and fauna. Go for leisurely boat rides at Thonithurai (8km from Mandapam) or opt for glass bottomed boat rides organized by the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust at Mandapam Beach Park (Ph 9443112740; Rs.5 adults, Rs.3 child, Rs.5 swimming pool, 7am–5.30pm). Glass Bottom Boats (Rs.50/head, 8 persons/trip) are available from Mandapam Beach Park. Contact Wildlife Warden, Mandapam (Ph 04567 230079)
Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the November 2012 issue of JetWings magazine.