Blue, as blue as the sea can be. Waves smooth enough for even a non-swimmer to go deep inside for a dose of Vitamin Sea. Clean, almost white, sand with crabs scurrying past, and not too many souls around you during most times of the day. You wake up in the morning to the sound of the sea, sip some tea sitting in the balcony of your hotel suite as you watch a few people hustle and bustle about on the beach, trying to sell water sports to eager tourists. Then you pull out your beachwear, walk out of the resort and jump into the not-too-warm and not-too-chilly waters of the Arabian sea.
You spend an hour soaking in the waves or more maybe if you wish to. You get out, you pose some more for photos because by then, there isn’t more than a soul left in the nearly-empty beach. You walk back to the resort which is right on the beach and head for a shower. By now, you are ravenous. So, you walk out, ditch the crappy resort food and head to the shack next door for some truly delectable, lip-smacking Malvani cuisine prepared and sold by the women of the house.
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Then you come right back to your room and indulge in that one thing that city life deprives you of – siesta. Then you wake up, stroll along the beach as you watch the sunset, and head to the small village market to shop for local goods like cashews or amba vadi (aam papad for the rest of India), or indulge in some ice cream in the lone ice-cream parlour. Welcome to Tarkarli, a small village in Malvan.
Malvan in Maharashtra is nothing short of paradise with its verdant greenery, unspoiled beaches, clean, blue waters of the Arabian sea, naval forts from the glorious days of the Maratha empire, fresh, delicious seafood and more. And Tarkarli is undoubtedly the jewel in Malvani’s crown, what with its additional attractions of scuba diving, parasailing and other forms of water sports.
Tarkarli had been on my checklist for a very long time, but it was only recently that I managed to visit this fascinating Malvani hamlet. Close to the Goa-Maharashtra border (Goa is just about three hours from here), Tarkarli is a must-go destination for every beach bum. Located approximately 550 km from Mumbai, you can reach Tarkarli by road (almost a 12 hour drive, hardly recommended) or by train (the nearest station is Kudal from where you can hire an auto or a car to reach Tarkarli, an hour away.
The drive up and down the hills and plains is scenic, to say the least). While there are quite a few trains that run to Kudal and end at Sawantwadi which is in the Goa border, I would recommend the Tejas Express (you know that same one that made headlines for its state-of-the-art features two years back?). It will reduce travel time to six hours. Alternatively, you can take an overnight train from Mumbai and reach Tarkarli in the morning.
When we say beach vacation, of course the first name that pops up on our minds is Goa. But barring a few beaches, let’s face it, Goa has become heavily commercialised with tourists often getting stuck in traffic jams during peak holiday season, not to mention the chances of meeting the world and its aunt on a vacation when those are the very same people you wish to avoid. Of course, Goa still retains a charm of its own with its thriving nightlife, delicious Goan fare and more, but what if all your soul craves is a nice and quiet beach holiday in a place which has beaches as pretty as Goa’s but none of its rush or packed beaches?
Tarkarli (which you can visit at a fraction of your Goa holiday cost), is the answer for you. Not just beaches, Tarkarli also has the backwaters where the Karli river meets the sea in a place called Devbag. The Tarkarli beach is the main beach where you can indulge in water sports like scuba diving.
I would recommend opting for a package where they will take you deeper in the sea and not in shallow waters for a fascinating guided underwater tour. It’s absolutely safe and can be done even by a complete novice and, at the end of it, you will even be given a video of your underwater adventure. There’s more in the form of banana boats, water scooter and parasailing.
Go for a boat ride in the Karli river. It will take you to the spot where the Karli river meets the sea. The tsunami had lifted up a sliver of land here which is now known as the Tsunami Island Beach where there are plenty of shacks and operators for watersports. Avoid the food, but walk around the island which has the sea on three sides and a small, densely forested hill with a small beach on the other side.
A little ahead is the Devbagh Beach which offers the most stunning sunsets.
Chivla beach, cliose to the local market, is another beautiful beach you can head to. It also has a few hotels you can check into.
The Sindhudurg Fort, a little ahead of Tarkarli, is another attraction of the region. This naval fort was an important fort of the Maratha empire and was built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. While it is a protected monument, it is mostly in ruins like other naval forts of Maharashtra. However, it is a totally ‘Gram-worthy place and worth a dekko. There are ferries which will take you to the fort in the middle of the sea and they operate all day.
A holiday in Tarkarli is incomplete without the local Malvani food. The seafood is fresh, the chicken not your regular poultry chewy and the sol kadi (made with coconut and kokum) to die for.
Whether it is the crabs or the prawns or surmai, you will be left wanting for more. Ditch the restaurants and head to the shacks run by the local women. However, for that one special meal, do not forget to check out a restaurant called Tamhankar’s. The taste will linger in your mouth long after you have reached Mumbai.