Saturday, 17 March 2012

Weekend trip to Diveagar

Diveagar is a small village in Konkan, Maharashtra. It is mainly famous for a weekend trip from Pune or Mumbai.  We decided to visit Diveagar with friends. The beach is easily accessible from Pune and therefore is great weekend destination near Pune. The place with a wide beach and clean (?) is blessed with intense natural beauty, the tender sands below feet, coconut tree cultivations. Sea is very safe for swimming so you can enjoy the swimming.
               I added “? “  For clean because this was my 7th visit to Diveagar. When I used to visit this place earlier that time beach was very clean but now… L. Beach is packed with tourist and there are some sports activities like jeep towed Parasailing, Boat ride, Beach vehicle ride and many more rides. Even you can find some snacks stalls.

About Diveagar
                Lord Suvarnaganesha temple is the main attraction of tourist visiting here. On the special day of November 17th, 1997 (Sankashti Chaturthi as per the Hindu calendar) that there was found a copper box beneath the earth. When the box was opened in presence of Govt Officials, there was a sculpture of Lord Ganesh made out of pure gold. Also, the box contained ornaments belonging to Lord Ganesh. It was then that the god was named "Suvarnaganesh". The discovery has turned the village into a holy place.

Our journey begins at around 7 in morning from Pune. We hired a Scorpio car for our entire journey. The distance between Pune and Diveagar is around 165 to 170km. The best way to reach Diveagar is Pune – Paud Gaon – Mulashi – Tamhini Ghat – Nijampur – Mangaon – Right turn after Mangaon ST stand – Mhasala – Diveagar.


We took a pit stop for breakfast at Quick byte hotel (Famous by name Green Gate Resort). After delicious breakfast and coffee, we moved to our destination. Journey time was around 4hr along with few breaks. In Diveagar, we search for resort to stay. After some time we found resort named Naughty waves beach resort which is 2-3 min walk from the beach. You can also stay in any of the homestay cottages in Diveagar. We had our lunch at Patil’s house (Patil Khanaval).

Naughty waves Beach Resort

  • Toll for Car in Diveagar: INR 20/-
  • Naughty waves resort room: INR 1500/- for 4 people. (+ 91 - 9209 2061 61/9822 0806 26)
  • Veg Thali (unlimited vegetarian meal): INR 70/-.
  • Fish Thali (Limited Fish meal): INR 150/- Unlimited Roti, rice, and curry.
  • Don’t miss Solkadi (special Konkani buttermilk)  
After resting for a while, we planned to visit the beach for swimming. Sea-shore behind cultivations is about 4-5 kilometers long. As I mentioned earlier, the beach is not clean at all. Even though sea color is muddy/brown but it is very safe to enjoy the waves. Sunset from the beach was awesome. Orange color spreading all over the horizon during sunset was amazing. After Sunset we had dinner in MTDC’s Exotica. Everybody was tired because of journey and evening on the beach.

Sunset at Diveagar

Sunset at Diveagar

  • Dinner at Exotica: INR 350/- (veg and non-veg Buffet dinner)
  • Jeep parasailing: INR 200/- per person (bargaining is must else cost INR 300/- per person)
Day 2:
Early morning


On Next day you can visit Janjira fort which is 30-40 min away from Dighi port. The distance between Diveagar to Dighi is around 20km. A ferry boat starts in the early morning from Dighi. Ferry trips entirely depend on passengers so 8.45/9 am ferry is perfect to visit Janjira fort. The return trip costs just INR 30/-. There is a lot to see on the fort. We get about an hour to explore the Sea Fort. Either read history before you reach here or hire a guide for information about Janjira Fort. You need to bargain with the guide.

Janjira Fort

Janjira Fort
At noon, we went to the beach again. We opt for a bumpy boat ride at Diveagar beach. Very thrilling experience as due to wind and waves, the boat was swinging at her own will. After spending more than 2 hours in the water we came back to resort. By 4.30 in noon we decided to leave Diveagar. With tired faces, we reach our sweet home at around 8.45 pm.

Jeep towed parasailing

  • Breakfast (Kanda-Pohe): INR 25/-
  • Boat ride: INR 100/- per person (approximately 20 min ride)
  • Car Rent: INR 5900/- for 2 days

If you want to relax weekend vacation on the beach then go for it but go soon before it is trashed by tourist.

My favorite options to stay in Diveagar:
  1. Savali home-stay cottages: Don’t have contact no.
  2. Ambiance Cottage: Phone: +91-22-6150 6363.
  3. Suhas V Bapat: Near Marathi school Tel: 02147 224377 (Home-stay cottages and delicious food)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Amazing Andaman 2012

The holiday to Andaman & Nicobar Islands is a once in a lifetime experience. Andaman & Nicobar is full of amazing natural beauty and stunning marine life. I am eager to share my experience and thoughts about this lovely place. My experience may help others plan a better trip and help them to change their view to look at Andaman island as “Kaala-Pani “

Few details about the Andaman Islands:
The Andaman Islands are a group of islands in the Bay of Bengal and a Union Territory of India. There are total 572 islands but Inhabited Islands are 38. The name of the island has always been 'Andaman' and might represent Handuman, the Malay form of Hanuman. The capital of Andaman Island is Port Blair.

The history of the British in the Andaman and Nicobar islands began in 1788. British Government thought of establishing a penal settlement here. In March 1858, the first penal settlement was established, with 200 prisoners, mostly rebels from the Indian Army. Initially, the convicts were kept in a jail at Viper Island. The foundation of the infamous Cellular Jail was laid in 1896. The building was completed in 1906. Place soon known as Kaala Pani because of Cellular Jail. This place becomes a favourite tourist place after 2000. Veer Savarkar International airport is the only airport in Andaman.

Andaman Islands
Our journey begins on 14th February 2012 with a lot of enthusiasm

Day 0 (14th– 15thFeb 2012): Pune – Chennai – Port Blair Flight
           We started from Pune to Chennai by Spice Jet Airways at 11 PM. My friends (Anannya, Aditya and Vrishali) dropped us at the airport. It was the first flight journey for my wife, Renuka and she was very thrilled. After the 1 hour journey to Chennai, we stayed at the airport about 3-4 hours and then boarded an Indian Airlines flight for Port Blair at 6 AM. Flight duration was 2 hrs. After nice breakfast and movie, we witnessed some beautiful scattered islands. This view is never to be missed. Simply amazing.

Port Blair Airport
  • Pune to Chennai to Pune – INR 4500/- per person for round trip.
  • Chennai to Port Blair to Chennai – INR 10,000/- per person for round trip. 
  • Megapode Nest Resort - INR 4250/- per room per night (Bamboo cottage, Half Board)

Day 1 (15th Feb 2012): In Port Blair
            We were welcomed by my friend from Andaman, Nawaz Hashmi, with a lovely flower bouquet. We moved to our hotel, “Megapode Resort”, also known as Megapode Nest Resort. A royal luxury Bamboo cottage was booked for us. Open Sea view from your balcony makes you feel fresh. After taking rest for a while, we planned to visit Corbyn’s Cove Beach. There is nothing special as such on this beach but the calm water and lovely view of the beach made us spend about an hour on the beach.  The road to this beach is very beautiful. You can see Ross island on the way.

Megapode Nest Resort - Bamboo Cottage
Corbyn’s Cove Beach

          After visiting the beach, we decided to visit the Cellular Jail. Wow….. What a place to visit in Andaman.  Best way to see the past chapter of our Indian history. We should know the value of our freedom. You need at least 2-3 hours to see the entire jail. It was a very proud movement for me to enter in the Veer Savarkar's cell. I remember the quotes of veer Savarkar when he was in the cell asमला जर त्यांची भाषा समजली तर मी त्यांना देशभक्तीची गाणी शिकवीन. पुढं ती गाणी ते आपल्या मुलाबाळांना शिकवतील. स्वतंत्र भारताचे नागरिक जेव्हा माझ्या कोठडीला भेट द्यायला येतील तेव्हा हे बुलबुल पक्षी त्यांना देशभक्तीची गाणी ऐकवतील ”. Light and sound show in evening was stunning.  I was choked after hearing the history of Jail. That’s when I got to know why people call this jail as “Kaala-Pani”

Cellular Jail from Top

During my jail visit, I saw some people making fun of this place. People were taking a picture in a cell or in Phasi Ghar. There were acting as they are a prisoner in this jail. I think we should respect this place. Quote by Ganesh Savarkar about jail is telling you everything. यह तीर्थ महारथियों का है, मात कहो इसे काला पानी, तुम सुनो, यहाँ की धरती के कण - कण से गाथा बलिदानी”. 

Cellular Jail Wing No 7
  • Entry fee: INR 20/-
  • Camera fee: INR 25/- and Video camera fee: INR 100/- 

Day 2 (16th Feb 2012): Ross Island and Chidiya Tapu
           We woke up early and were surprised by the weather condition. Average sunrise timing in Andaman is 5 AM and sunset by 5 PM.
     After a delicious breakfast from the resort, we went to the Ross Island jetty. It’s a 10 min boat ride from the jetty to the Island. This Island is the erstwhile capital of Port Blair during the British regime, and it presently houses the ruins of old buildings. It is very well maintained by the navy and local people. There are ruins building on islands and very interesting shapes made by tree + roots + ruin building. It’s Heaven for photographer and best to click black and white photos. To see complete island you need to walk a lot so better to carry water and some snacks. There is small beach which is completely destroyed by 2004 tsunami and you can see that. We spent nearly 3 hours on the island and took the same boat to return to the jetty.

Ross Island
Ross Island
Me and Renu at Ross Island

  • Boat ride: INR 60/- Per person (Jetty – Ross Island – Jetty)
  • Entry fee on Island: INR 20/- Per person + camera charges (INR 20/-)
We had our lunch at Annapurna restaurant which is a best vegetarian restaurant in Port Blair. Punjabi food cost us around INR 400/- along with ice cream. We roamed in Port Blair by our hired car. We found Port Blair city very clean and all the people here follow proper rules. In the evening we decided to take a road trip by bike so we asked our friend Hashmi for the bike. He gave his passion bike w/o any cost. Location was Chidiya Tapu. 

Chidiya Tapu Island

It is Around 25 – 28km from Port Blair city. The road cuts through a dense forest and sometimes along a classic seaside. This place is famous for a variety of birds but you cannot expect to see them from the beach. You need to explore forest area. Forest is quite dense so it’s better to go inside with a local guide or a local person. Beach is very beautiful and calm and it tempts you for swimming. Do not miss the classic view of the sunset and keep your camera ready to capture it.

After memorable sunset, we came back to our resort for lovely candlelight dinner which was a must for our honeymoon.
  • Lunch at Annapurna restaurant: INR 400 /- for both (Panjabi Food + Ice cream)
  • Auto (Megapode Resort to PB Market): INR 25/-
  • Auto (PB Market to Megapode Resort): INR 35/-
Day 3 (17th Feb 2012): Jolly Bouy Island 
             Early morning we left the resort without breakfast as we wanted to see an aerial view of the Veer Savarkar Airport. Our driver Basir took us on a hilltop. From there, we were able to see the complete airport. We spent half an hour and saw the landing of an Air India flight and the takeoff of Kingfisher airline.

Port Blair Airport view from Nearby Hill

Our today’s destination was Jolly Bouy Island. For this island, you have to take a boat ride from Wandoor. Wandoor jetty is 30km away from Port Blair city. We got tickets for 9 AM boat. Boat’s name was Silver wind. By the same boat, you have to come back to Wandoor. That boat waits for us nearby the island for around 3 hrs. Jolly Bouy Island is in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park and has a nice beach to offer a spectacular breathtaking underwater view of corals and marine life. This is the best beach I ever visited in India for corals and marine life.

Jolly Bouy Island - Crystal Clear Water

Jolly Bouy Island- A must visit place in PB
They offer you free snorkelling OR bottom glass boat ride. If you like it then you can pay extra INR for a longer ride. We did free snorkelling which was just a trailer of marine life. We liked it so much, that we paid extra INR per person and took a 20-25 min extra ride. This experience was simply amazing. I could see the underwater coral, fishes moving around my legs, different types of fishes like a crown, large parrot, zebra, starfish, sea angelfish etc. and also 2 octopuses. My wife and I were so happy that we did snorkelling twice.
Those who are scared of snorkelling then enjoy glass boat ride. By the way, for snorkelling, swimming is not a pre-requisite. But if you can swim, snorkelling guide takes you for a long ride. We enjoyed our long and deep snorkelling rides.
Food stalls are not available on this island as it comes under the marine national park. It is plastic free zone. Do not miss this island.

  • Boat Ride: INR 550/- per head (it includes 1 snorkelling or glass boat ride)
  • Snorkeling: INR 200/- to INR 500/- (we did INR 500/- per head and as we did twice we got discount of INR 250/-per head on the last ride)
  • Water bottle: INR 5/- Rent and INR 100/- deposit (they provide non-plastic water bags) 
After spending a long time here, we were tired, tanned and dehydrated. We were back to Port Blair for lunch and then rested till it was dark outside. In the evening we visited at anthropology museum. Best way to know the past and current state of tribal communities. 
We did some local market shopping in Port Blair. There is “Sagarika” shop where you can buy shell items, Jute based items and Handicraft. This is a government owned shop. There are other local shops also nearby Sagarika. I found these shops reasonable as compare to Sagarika. After a lot of shopping (thanks to my wife), we came back to the hotel for Dinner. Now our luggage count becomes 5 from 4 due to shopping. We had to sleep early as next morning we had ship to Havelock Island.

Day 4 (18th Feb 2012): Havelock Island + Radhanagar Beach 
             We checked out early morning from the resort and kept the extra luggage in the resort’s luggage room. The Hotel was very near to Phoenix Bay Jetty (port). Our ship named Bambooka was waiting for us. It was our first ship journey. Once the ship got sailing in the sea, we went on the deck. View of open sea was amazing. After an hour, my wife requested a crew member to show us the ship’s cabin. We got to know that the ship’s captain is from Pune/Nasik. He was so happy to meet us, that we spend entire journey in the captain’s cabin. We told us how to sail the ship. We had snacks with the entire crew members. Captain gave us his contact no and invited us to meet him when he will be back on leave in Pune.  After a royal 2 hour journey, we reached Havelock.

  • Ship ticket: INR 250/- per person (Port Blair to Havelock island only. 38km from port Blair Jetty) 
  • SeaShell Resort Havelock: INR 4500/- per room per night (Andaman Chalet, Half board plan)

Sea Shell Resort - Lovely resort at Havelock Island
Havelock Island is very small in size with a very less population. Havelock Island provides idyllic resort in the lap of virgin beach and an unpolluted environment. Our driver was waiting for us on the jetty. We moved to the seashell resort which is approx. 2-3 km away from the jetty. Seashell resort’s property is completely surrounded by tall coconut trees and green garden. Night bar is in the middle of the premise. Our private cottage was close to the beach. Beach is not at all good for swimming but you can relax on the wooden benches. We took rest in resort till 2.30 PM and then we started for a very romantic and famous Radhanagar Beach.

We at Radhanagar Beach - Perfect place for Honeymoon
Radhanagar Beach is one of the largest beaches in India; it is lonely, very clean, silver sand and breathtakingly beautiful. It has been ranked Asia’s 2nd most beautiful beach. Local people say soon it will be on rank 1. It was very difficult to stop ourselves from entering in the blue water. We did photography sessions. A sweet European lady came to us and took our photos (we didn’t request her to click, but she felt like taking our snaps. Thanks if you are reading this blog!).  After spending a long time, we witnessed the very romantic sunset from the beach. A perfect place for Honeymoon!!!
As we were very tired, we preferred to stay in the resort.

  • Coconut water: INR 35/- (Due to famous spot everything is costly outside Radhanagar beach)
  • Mineral water: INR 20 to 25/- per lit.
    All most all items on Havelock are bit costly. The reason is simple as it is a small island away from Port Blair.
Day 5 (19th Feb 2012): our first Scuba Diving + Fishing game
         We were waiting for this day for a long time. At 7.30 in the morning, we left our resort and reached Go Dive India center. It is paddy certified diving school. We took the 1-day basic diving course. After wearing the wetsuit, we left the diving area by boat for our training section. We both were too excited about our 1st dive. The instructor explained to us how to dive and the does and don’ts. We had training for the worst condition under water. As we were getting trained in the 6 – 8 ft. water, we were eager to go for our Dive. A Photographer which we hired to dive was covering us to take some good pictures. After 25 -30 min training we decided to enter into the fabulous underwater world.

Me, Renu and Diver during our Scuba Dive
Fish and lots of fishes

Shark during our dive!!!
 When I entered in the deep blue sea, my heartbeat increased their pace. It took us a few minutes to relax in the water. Me, Renuka and our Instructor were trying to focus on tasks which he explained us. After few min, we were mentally ready to go deep. Scuba gives us the chance to unveil the mysteries and the wonders of the environment which covers the majority of our planet. We really tried hard not to panic as we and our instructor went deeper and deeper underwater. It was really a great experience, seeing the beauty of sea wildlife because of the presence of many varieties of reef fish, corals. It was totally a different world. It is so quiet. We were inside the water for about an hour. When we came back I got to the real meaning of the Shayari from Movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

पिघले नीलम सा बहता ये समां,नीली नीली सी खामोशियाँ ,
न कहीं है ज़मीन न कहीं आसमान,सरसराती हुई टहनियां पट्टियां,
कह रहीं है बस एक तुम हो यहाँ, बस मैं हूँ ,
मेरी सांसें हैं और मेरी धडकनें,ऐसी गहराइयाँ, ऐसी तन्हैयाँ,
और मैं … सिर्फ मैं.
अपने होने पर मुझको यकीन आ गया !

Before and After our First Dive

Our day, until this point, was mind-blowing and we decide to enjoy on full throttle. We booked a private boat for a fishing game.  Thanks to my friend Hashmi again, who arranged this from Port Blair on a single call. Me, Renuka and 3 local Fisherman went in for shipping. We learned their local method. 3 hours on the boat, very quiet and away from land…..lovely experience. We were able to catch 7 medium-large size fish. I was the winner as I got 3 fish among 7. Sunset from our private boat was just a perfect.  After sunset, it was dark and return journey was full of thrill.

Fishing Game with our catch
 In dinner, I ate 2 fish (kokkari fish and kushari fish: Local names) which was served by seashell resort chef. We celebrated our first dive with some drinks and fish. Today we tried few things first time in our life like scuba diving, Fishing game and drinks. It was a perfect day for our Honeymoon.

Catch of the Day!!!
  • Scuba diving: INR 4500/- per person per dive (45-60min dive) with the photographer. (INR 1000/- extra for extra Dive)
  • Fishing game: INR 3500/- for both in private boat + Fish.
  • Lunch at B3 restaurant: INR 450/- for both.
  • Coconut water on jetty: INR 15/- per pic.
 Day 6 (20th Feb 2012): Kala Pathar Beach + Port Blair
          We decided that we will just roam around and explore the whole island. We rented an Activa bike to roam on the island. We read about Kaala Pathar beach from the internet so we decide to visit that place. It was a long drive and road quality is not at all good. The road was very lonely and hardly we see a single bike or person on the way. We could see the sea along the road. Finally, we reached the beach. It is a small beach but a very beautiful and an untouched one. There were hardly 3 couples on this beach. It is very clean and has crystal clear water. Good place for couple’s photo session. Tripod is needed as you won’t get anyone to take your snaps or you have to wait for someone to pass by. Luckily we had our tripod along with us. I don't know why people coming to Havelock miss this place.

Kaala Pathar beach
We returned to resort to check out from our resort and had our lunch again at B3 restaurant. At 3 PM we boarded our ship Bambooka. After few min, a Vice Capt. came into the passenger compartment and took us to the cabin. Capt. Deshpande was aware that we were on the ship. (We told them about our return journey 2 days back). Other passengers were surprised that why were we taken out from the compartment. But we were aware of real the reason. Ha ha ha… Again we got a royal treatment on the ship. After a photo session with ship crew, we return to the Megapode Resort. Thanks, Capt. Deshpande and his team for such a royal treatment. We are still in touch with each other and soon we are going to visit them in Pune.

This was our last evening in Port Blair so we went for shopping again for an hour. Tonight Dinner was planned by my friend Hashmi in five-star fortune bay restaurant. That was a treat for my friend. We received a beautiful wedding gift from him. He made our honeymoon trip special by doing such a great arrangement in Andaman. We cannot forget this trip.
                When we returned to our hotel, we were sad. Next morning we were supposed to leave such a beautiful place. That night we decided to celebrate our first wedding anniversary in Andaman again. We will really miss this place.
  • Activa bike Rent: INR 250/- + INR 100/- Petrol.
  • Lunch at B3 restaurant: INR 320/-
  • Ship ticket: INR 250/- per person(Havelock to Port Blair) 

Day 7 (21st Feb 2012): Port Blair to Chennai       
            We check out from the hotel at 7.30 AM to catch our Indian airline flight at 8.50 AM. Basir dropped us on the airport in the morning. We were not happy to check-in to the flight, but it’s not possible to extend our stay in Andaman. We got a window seat and we said Goodbye to Andaman.

Bye Bye Andaman - Will miss U!!!

After 2 hr. Flight, we landed at Chennai airport. We had our bookings done at the New Woodland hotel. Our next flight was on 22nd Feb so we got 1 day in Chennai for rest. We did some shopping in the evening.
  • Fast track taxi: INR 300/- (Airport to New Woodland Hotel)
  • Lunch in hotel: INR 350/- for Chinese food.
  • Dinner at Murugan idli: INR 160/- for both
  • Auto from T Nagar to New Woodland hotel: INR 100/-
  • New Woodland hotel: INR 1945/- for Std. A/C Room per night. 
Day 8 (22nd Feb 2012): Pune 
          By early morning Spice Jet flight we reached our sweet home.

Some pointers for Andaman trip:
  1. Carry Sun cream, mosquito repellent for Havelock (only required if you are travelling through’ forest or near Radhanagar beach after sunset)
  2. Basic medical kit ( there are shops in Port Blair but you have to go to the main market)
  3. Sunglass and Cap.
  4. Camera and Tripod (you need tripod in Havelock)
  5. There is lots of ATM in Port Blair and 2 ATMs (Axis and SBI) in Havelock so no need to carry cash.
 Must visit Places which we miss due to lack of Time:
  1. Baratang: Visit to the famous Limestone caves and you can see Jarwa tribal people. Day trip begins early in morning and ends after sunset.
  2. Ross & Smith twin Islands: Though these are commonly referred to as twin islands, they are actually a single island separated by a sandy stretch which makes it appear like two separate islands.
  3. Chatham saw mill: This Saw Mill is one of the biggest and oldest in Asia
  4. Elephanta beach in Havelock: Watersports, Snorkeling and Scuba Diving site.

    In our next year visit, we are going to cover these places. Actually, there are many more places which are hidden from us in Andaman. Let’s see how much we can cover on our next trip.I hope you like my travel blog and you are planning to visit this place.
I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

Pritesh Kulkarni