May 3, 2008
The month of May is the time for vacation especially for families with school or college-going children. There also people who would like to have a break such as those fed up with their year-round busy schedule and families bored with domestic chores and would like to have a change. For all such people who have not yet planned a long vacation and do not want to spend much, Alibaug, the coastal retreat is an ideal destination for weekend getaway or a few days of brief vacation.
Alibaug, which is also known as 'Mumbai's Malibu' has wonderful beaches for relaxation and historical sites such as forts and temples for exploration.
Incidentally, it is commonly believed that the township got its name from a person named Ali who had a number of flower gardens (bhags), hence 'Alibaug'.
Alibaug can be reached by sea from Gateway of India through ferry or catamaran. The ferry service starts from 6.30 am and charges are Rs 65 per person that includes bus ride from Mandwa jetty up to Alibaug. Catamarans charges are Rs 80 to 110. The ferry takes around one hour fifteen minutes from Gateway of India to Mandwa and bus journey takes around half an hour covering a distance of 17 kms from Mandwa to Alibaug. However, during the monsoon the ferry and catamaran services remain suspended. Regular State Transport buses from different parts of Mumbai and Thane are available to Alibaug which cover a distance of around 124 kms in 3 to 4 hours via Panvel and Pen.
Alibaug, the capital of the Raigad district (formerly known as the Kolaba district) is located on the west coast of Maharashtra at a distance of 35 kilometers to the south of Mumbai. It is an idyllic small town surrounded by rustic villages with long stretches of sandy beaches, lush green rice fields, hemmed by coconut and betel nut palms, hills and valleys and the Western Ghats in background that enhances the beauty of the region.
Alibaug was just a fishing village few years ago and inhabited by fisher folk and farmers. However, sailors from Mumbai used to halt at this place before venturing further. Nearly fifty years ago, realizing the potential of Alibaug as a future destination for investment, two enterprising Parsis, Jamshed Godrej and Adi Unwala built houses there.
Since few years past, Alibaug and the surrounding regions have become very popular with the Mumbai's affluent residents. Most of them own farms and bungalows in Alibaug. The elite of Mumbai and other regions have practically invaded Alibaug and bought over paddy fields and constructed designer homes and landscape gardens which are often a few hundred meters from the sea shore.
Alibaug is a preferred destination for those who want to relax and enjoy its pristine beaches, cool breeze and noiseless and non-polluted atmosphere. For those with a taste of tourism, the town and the surrounding regions also provide an opportunity to explore a number of historical sites. If someone desires to blend the weekend getaway with a bit of historical tourism the favourite historical sites include the Kolaba Sea-fort of the Marathas, the palace and tomb of Kanoji Angre, the great Maratha admiral, a Jewish Synagogue, the magnetic observatory and a host of temples.
Those who have a little more time to spare can also visit the once Portuguese settlement of Chaul, which is at a distance of 15 kms from Alibaug and is famous for its Portuguese ruins, an old church, a synagogue, Buddhist caves, the Hamam Khana and a temple. Korlai at a distance of 17 kms from Alibaug is another Portuguese settlement on the West coast that still has a Portuguese fort and a church.
The Kolaba Fort, jutting from the middle of the sea about one kilometer from the shore was built by the great Maratha king Chatrapati Shivaji in 1652 to keep a check on the activities of the foreign naval powers of the English, the Portuguese and the Siddi of Janjira. Kolaba became the naval headquarters of Chatrapati Shivaji under the great Maratha admiral, Kanoji Angre, who established the township towards the end of the seventeenth century, presently known as Alibaug. Alibaug witnessed three major wars. In 1706, Kanoji Angre defeated the Siddi of Janjira; in 1722, the British and the Portuguese jointly attacked the fort, but were defeated; and in 1730, the British and the Marathas fought a naval battle at Chaul, which resulted in the defeat of the British in the hands of the Angres.
The Kolaba Fort, which is still fairly in good condition, is 900 feet long and 350 feet wide. It has two gates-one from the seaside and the other from the shore. The Siddhivinayak temple within the fort was built by Raghuji Angre in 1759. The most surprising thing is that there is a sweet water tank inside the fort in middle of the sea.
If one wishes to visit the fort he has to note the timings of the tides. During the low tide one can visit the fort by walking across the seashore or by taking ride on a horse cart which charges around Rs 50 per person for both ways. During the high tide the fort is surrounded by water.
Those who are fond of long stretches of beaches with fine sand and pure water and would like to savour the bliss of cool sea-breeze and gentle sound of the waves can choose any beach from among the many that can be approached from Alibaug.
The Alibaug beach with the imposing Kolaba Fort in the foreground is the chief beach of the township. Around five km away from Alibaug is the Akshi beach. Nagaon Beach at a distance of five km provides a cool atmosphere with coconut and betel nut palms in the background. Kihim Beach is a quiet and secluded beach at a distance of 12 kms from Alibaug.
A trip to Korlai, the old Portuguese settlement with an imposing fort on the top of the hill jutting out in the sea opposite to the Revdanda Beach at a distance of around 18 kms from Alibaug can be a memorable experience. One can take the State Transport bus from Alibaug proceeding to Murud. The charges are Rs 15 per person. Share-rickshaws are also available at reasonable rates.
The road up to Revdanda, a distance of around 15 kms is lined with coconut and betel nut groves providing green and cool surrounding. There are also a number of temples at regular intervals. Korlai has an old Portuguese church built in 1715. The Portuguese fort of Korlai can be trekked with moderate stamina in two hours.
One can also visit Kanakeshwar temple situated on a hill near Mapgaon village, about 12 km away from Alibaug and on the way to Mandwa.
If one wants to do a bit of purchasing, Alibaug's markets offer classic local products like seasonal white onions, tamarind balls, tender coconut, variety of dried fish, water melons, mangoes and fresh vegetables.
As Alibaug has become a favoured destination for holiday getaway for harried people from Mumbai and other surrounding areas, the availability of accommodation for a few days is not a big botheration. Many hotels, resorts, lodges and guesthouses have cropped up in this town. There are hotels and lodges and even farm houses that suit one's budget and comfort.
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