Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sun-drenched Goa with its beckoning beaches – Personal Photo Album Part 16

Geographically the smallest and per capita the richest state in India, Goa is among a handful of top class tourist destinations in the country, perhaps next only to Agra and Jaipur both of which have figured prominently in  my earlier travelogues in this blog.  Goa is hugely attractive to foreign tourists because of its numerous sandy and serene beaches dotting the coastline, providing a laid-back outlet to enjoy nature in its pristine glory.  Apart from the beaches and as a legacy of centuries of Portuguese colonial rule in India it has many historical and cultural attractions as well for any visitor.  The best time to visit Goa is after the SW monsoon rainy season has ended and before the onset of summer.  The weather during this period is almost always beautifully bright and invitingly sunny, especially in late evenings when the sunset viewed from any of the beaches is a glorious sight.

I had paid a hurried official visit to Goa about ten years ago without finding any time at all for sight-seeing.  My real opportunity came in the last week of November 2007 and it was, unlike most of my explorations within the country, unconnected with any official work, and exclusively devoted to sight-seeing.  Considering that the tourist season was well on, I had made advance booking in a small but comfortable hotel in the heart of Panaji, capital of Goa, with assistance from my son-in-law who is a very frequent visitor to Goa.  I traveled by train from Bangalore and encountered some spectacular early morning scenery as I neared Goa.  On arrival at the Vasco da Gama railway station in Mormugao I was met by a competent and experienced local guide whom I had also engaged in advance, again with assistance from my son-in-law, to take me around from place to place in his own small car that had obviously seen better days.  He drove me to my hotel about 30 km away in Panaji, with more great sights on the way.  He had worked out a schedule for me for all three days of my holiday and I had only to follow his lead.  Visits to seven of the most famous beaches were interspersed with visits to other places of cultural and historic interest in interior locales and I had a busy but very rewarding time.
I shall limit my narration here to just the seven beaches I visited spread over all three days, leaving out the other sights to a future blog post.  My guide had made a careful choice of the beaches and the road route to them.  He had emphasized that there were many more beaches worth visiting if I had the time.

Here is a Google map of the Goa coastline and the seven beaches I was taken to in chronological order:

I covered the first four beaches on the first day, the next two on the second day and the last one just before leaving Goa on the last day.

1    Candolim Beach

A bit isolated and without much of the hustle and bustle associated with other beaches, the Candolim beach is indeed one of the best in Goa.  One can spend a lot of time relaxing on the beach or boating leisurely in the calm waters, soaking up the pleasant atmosphere.

Here is a picture of a part of the coast overlooking the calm waters of the Candolim beach.

[As in my previous albums, all pictures are in high resolution and can be blown up to their full size by clicking on a picture and opening it in a separate window]

Here is a part of the beach with some foreign tourists relaxing in the small lagoon in a manner that is a common sight in most of the beaches in Goa:

The next picture captures the sea dotted by quite a number of vessels, large and small.  My guide told me that the large cargo ship seen far off had run aground some years back and had been left abandoned since then, forming a bit of an eyesore on the otherwise beautiful coast.  I don’t know if it is still there.

2    Calangute Beach

Calangute is a highly popular beach with a large expanse of sands on the northern coastline and draws huge crowds.  Well served by tourist cottages and resorts in the neighborhood, this quaint place with a queer name was once the seat of hippie culture in Goa.  There were signs of this even at the time of my visit though drug-culture seemed to have taken root in a bigger way.
Here is a picture of the sand-strewn entrance to the Calangute beach leading to long stretches of waters on both sides.

The next picture shows a portion of the beach directly ahead of the entry point.  Though it was around noon time when I took this picture, there was already a large crowd basking in the sun and watching some of the impromptu water sport activities noticeable on the waters.

Here is another view of the vast and crowded beach looking northwards, with a speedboat waiting for hire:

3    Baga Beach

Further north of Calangute is the Baga beach, essentially an extension of the former.  Unlike the very crowded and busy Calangute, Baga has many spots with unspoiled scenic beauty and is more varied than the plain beach at Calangute.  It is particularly popular with western tourists for water sports and fishing.

Here is a view of the Baga beach, with a hill range close by adding to the beauty of the sight.

The next picture shows a row of paraphernalia waiting for visitors who can afford to pay for a relaxed view of the goings on at the beach.

Here is a spectacular view of the sea from Baga beach marked by some adventurous activity in the rather rough and warm waters:

4    Anjuna Beach

The northernmost of the better known beaches in Goa is Anjuna, another popular one among all classes of visitors, providing some spectacular views of a calm sea and the rugged coast as the following two pictures show:

Anjuna beach offers excellent tourist facilities nearby even as it provides a relatively quiet environment on the beach.

The next picture at Anjuna is a close-up view of visitors frolicking on the rocks jutting into the sea.

5    Miramer Beach

Located within walking distance of my Hotel, Miramer beach in Panaji is perhaps the loveliest beach I have seen anywhere, with a vast, long and flat stretch of golden sands adjoining the sea.  The entry point to the beach has excellent facilities for visitors to relax and spend a leisurely time wading in the calm and shallow waters.  Rather surprisingly, the beach was not as crowded that evening as I had reason to expect.  The sight of little children playing with the wet sand and making themselves merry was a particularly pleasant one.

The following picture was taken as the Sun was going down in the western sky, producing a silhouette of the people playing on the beach:

The next two pictures were taken a little later with the Sun just minutes away from setting.

The following picture of the Sun less than a minute away from setting was my last picture for the day before I walked back to my hotel, part of the distance along the dusky beach.

6    Dona Paula Beach

The Dona Paula beach, also in Panaji, is associated with a romantic myth involving the Portugese viceroy’s daughter and is one of the hot spots in the tourist’s itinerary in Goa.  This is the place where two of Goa’s rivers flow into the Arabian Sea and affords a good view of the Murmagao harbor across the sea as well as the well-known National Oceanographic Institute nearby.  The place is one of several in Goa popular with Bollywood movie producers.  The tranquil blue waters of the sea are famous for boating and a variety of adventurous aquatic sports.  Here are two pictures of this place:

7    Bogmalo Beach

On the last morning of my stay in Goa my guide drove me to Bogmalo Beach located on the southern side of Mormugao, and close to Goa’s Dabolim Airport.  This was once a small fishing village and a secluded beach, popular with well-endowed tourists.  Right next to it is a large five star hotel-cum-resort seen in the following picture.  It was quite early in the morning and we were among just a smattering of visitors there.

The beach itself is rather small, with a curving front, as can be made out in the following picture:

Further south of Bogmalo beach there are a large number of closely spaced beaches, stretching a long way on the coastline.  One of them is the well-known Colva beach which was not in my itinerary.

Au Revoir Goa

My guide and I ate lunch in a nearby beach restaurant and headed for Dabolim Airport just a few kilometers away where we bade goodbye to each other.  I rarely enjoy flying, but that day my flight back to Bangalore was a very pleasant experience, made so not so much by a perfectly smooth flight as by the memories of a happy time I had spent in the sandy beaches of a sun-drenched land.   


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