The tranquil beaches on the Bay of Bengal are no longer poor cousins of Goa. The thirst travel to lands – and seas – unknown has sent Indian flocking to pristine coasts, untouched yet by commerce
Awise man once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” With proven results of the anecdote from our past experiences, and an unambiguous urge to deal with the modern-day phenomena called quarter life crists, two friends along with your’s truly decided to quit our jobs/take sabbaticals to travel, a few months back. Not the usual type of travel though; but a two-month-long backpacking trip.
Inspired by a backpacker, who had nor too long ago travelled around the coast of Madagascar, we decided to explore the entire coastline of mainland India and experience life on the waterfronts for ourselves – starting from the Bay of Bengal in the east, then descending south along the Eastern Ghats, before meeting the Indian ocean and moving up the Western Ghats along the Arabian Sea. The fact that such a trip had hardly ever been accomplished in the country made it all the more exciting.
On the one hand, we did all of what the glamorous side of travel speaks of – discuss life with people who didn’t speak our native tongues, listen to music not found on the internet and gorge on rustic Indian food. On the other, we also accepted to live through what they don’t often tell you about travel – to be tired and sweaty and dirty without having a place to sleep at night, to get lost and struggle to find our way back, to appreciate the struggles and hardships as much we wanted to admire the beauty of the wilderness.
Given the spontaneous and eccentric nature of the trip, the outcomes too were nothing short of compelling. One of them was the pleasant surprise that the East Coast proved to be. It was a conscious effort to start from this side of the peninsula, since not much had been documented about it as compared to its western counterpart. And it definitely did not disappoint. While a cluster of small islands in the southern parts of West Bengal made for adventurous destinations, the shores of odisha flaunted the vivid colours of daily fisherman life and their sumptuous local meals. Andhra Pradesh’s coast felt like an exciting roller coaster with its undulating terrains and Tamil Nadu’s beaches and historic towns summed up the beauty its terra firma.
Here, we share with you the most interesting destinations from India’s eastern seashores, so that you don’t have to think too much while packing your bags for the coast when you finalise your plans.
STOPOVERS ON THE BAY OF BENGAL PERIPHERY
THE SACRED COLOURS OF GANGASAGAR (WEST BENGAL)
Sagar Island or Gangasagar lies on the continental shelf of the Bay of Bangal, about 100 km (54 nautical miles) south of Kolkata. A pilgrimage destination for locals, the place has a myriad of mythological stories and exotic varieties of fish meals to offer. The approach includes a ride on an fascinating scooter van from Harwood Point and a unique ferry ride from Kachuberia amid the intersection of the Ganges with the Bay of Bangal.
Best time visit: Gangasagar hosts a colourful festival at the Kapil Muni temple on Mahavir Jayanti, where you can witness vibrant colours at their best.
THE CRAB CARPETED BALASORE (ORISSA)
On the northern coast of Odisha falls a unique beach which rests against the tall magnificence of rising palm trees. The exclusivity of this beach lies in the fact that it is home to Red Ghost Crabs species, which is only found in the Christmas island of Australla elsewhere.
BIRD FANCIES AT CHILIKA LAKE (ODISHA)
The southern tip of Odisha catches the fancy of bird watchers, with the second largest lagoon in the world and the largest wintering ground for migratory birds in the Indian sub-continent Chilika Lake. Though there are touristy boats and steamers which show you around the popular spots in the lake, a public ferry, which costs hardly 10 per head, manoeuvres through the waters where only locals traverse.
Best time to visit: Spot birds like the sanderling, terek sandpiper, Kentish plover, and black-tailed godwit best waterways.
THE ARTISTIC CAVES OF BORRA (ANDHRA)
One of the largest of its kind in India, the Borra Caves in the northern coastal region of Tamil Nadu come into sight around the Araku Valley at a remarkable 800-1,300m above sea level. The excavation spreads across one square km and is also the origin of the river Gosthani which flows through the district.
Best time to visit: Enjoy the limestone formations dripping and rising as artsy stalagmites and stalactites amid the hilly terrains, beautiful landscapes and the semi-evergreen moist deciduous forests during the monsoon and winter.
THE GHOSTS OF DHANUSHKODI (TAMIL NADU)
A Train journey literally over the sea, followed by an enchanting bus trip along the southern coast of Tamil Nadu, beyond Rameswaram, leads to the ghost town of Dhanushkodi. Though the shutdown of the entire city, after the cyclone of 1964, has isolated it from travel itineraries, the ruins still stand ironically in all their tragic glory.
Best time to visit: A deserted railway platform, post office, church and boulders of a formet city greet you in the white sands during the winter months.