Want to walk up to a fort that is inaccessible during high tide, taste some delicious konkan sea-food, visit a 1000 odd year old fort rebuilt by an African ruler to protect his town from pirates, or go to those not so crowded beaches that feature in your favourite Bollywood movies?
Then Alibaug is where you should be headed.
For those stuck in the rat-race of life in Mumbai, this Konkan town is a mere 45 min ferry ride away from the Gateway of India. For those not stuck in the rat-race and not from Mumbai, it’s still very much worth the journey!
Ferry from Gateway of India, Mumbai
The most exciting way of getting to Alibaug is probably by Ferry. Around a 45 min ride from the Gateway of India to Revas Jetty and another 45 min bus ride to Alibaug.
If you are coming from Pune, it’s a 3 hour bus ride. A stopover at Lonavla where you can try their famous chikki is an added attraction ! The journey is quite picturesque as it is along the Konkan coast meandering through the hilly Western Ghats
Alibaug is a coastal town developed under Shivaji’s reign.The beach here has black sand and is rocky in parts but makes for a good stroll at any time of the day.
If you rise early enough, you’ll find the fishermen readying their catamarans. Later in the day, the beach is alive with tourists enjoying the waves and scurrying for shells. Towards the evening, beach shacks can serve up some delicious prawns and fish curry. And if you are still not sleepy, a moonlit walk along the shores will make you yearn to spend the rest of your life here.
The beach is lined with hotels for any budget and palm trees swaying gently in the sea breeze. Nearby, buses and autos are available to take you to places around Alibaug. The town also boasts of a Magnetic Observatory established in the beginning of the last century under the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism, though access here is restricted.
Kolaba fort is the major attraction. Around a km or two away from the shores, this fort is famous for how one gets there! During high tide, the water is waist deep. But during low tide, as the waters move back into the sea, a path almost magically appears and one can walk to it without even getting wet! Ofcourse don’t forget to come back before the tide turns in! Horse driven carts are also available. The rocks near this 300 year old fort are covered with barnacles. It was an important naval base and Shivaji used to raid British ships from here. The walls still stand quite strong!
Situated 12km north of Alibaug, this is a more secluded spot. As the sun sets, and the sky attains a mystical orange hue, the sound of the waves breaking on the sea and the seagulls fly back to their nests, one begins to truly understand what Walt Whitman was trying to convey in his poem On The Beach At Night, Alone
Murud is a very pristine beach around 60km from Alibaug. you can fall asleep on these calm beaches dreaming of Red Beard or Captain Kidd. The fortress along the horizon certainly sets the mood.
Janjira is the only fort along the western coast that remained undefeated despite repeated attempts from the Marathas, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English East India Company. Built by a local trader on an island a little off the coast around 1000 years back, it was taken over by the Siddis (African slaves that came to power in these regions) and rebuilt. It was fortified so well that no-one could defeat it after that
An interesting feature is the freshwater pond right in the middle of the Arabian Ocean! The barracks stand strong and intricate art is etched on the walls. To get here, one must travel in a sail-boat from Murud beach. As there is no jetty, you have to jump around 3 feet from the boat and hope you land onto the steps of the fort.
This picturesque beach has featured in Bollywood movies. Packed with tourists during the weekend, the beach is deserted on weekdays. The water seems saltier than others and the waves are very strong and not a lot of shells are found here. Oncoming waves which are around 6 feet high can even make a sturdy man tumble- this just adds to the fun. One can see groups of people holding hands trying to defy the waves but to no avail- they eventually fall.
Around 30km form Alibaug, the journey is mostly along the shore. Along the way, one travels past mango plantations-the smell in the air is divine! Don’t forget to stop by shacks amoung coconut trees and relish a thali of the local cuisine- complete with fried prawns, coconut fish curry, a steaming bowl of rice and refreshing kokum sherbet to top it off!