Life is a Beach in Goa

Baywatch? No, this not a TV shoot. Events unravel on the golden sand of the Goan beaches are very real. Here one can switch channels at will and tune into the celebration of life that unravels across these stretches of powdered sand. Water scooters buzzed around just beyond the shoreline, spitting pencils of water into the air. Colourful parachutes towed by motorboats float overhead. People of every shape, size, age and dimension splash around in the water. Others indulge in boisterous games of beach cricket, volleyball, football… Fair-skinned tourists slather on suntan lotion as they lie motionless, tanning in the sun. Others cool off under the shade of rainbow-coloured umbrellas. The unfathomable aromas of beach shack kitchens waft on the salt-laden sea breeze … Life is a carnival on the beaches of Goa.

Yes, of all the images that Goa throws up, whitewashed churches, Latin sousegad, prawn curry and rice, cashew and coconut fenny, green paddy fields, music, the Mandovi and Zuali rivers… the beach is the most enduring one. Indeed, tourists from all corners of India and across the world come to this little state on the west coast of the country primarily for its beaches and once here, indulge in its other pleasures. What makes the Goan beaches different from those that etch both the east and west coast of the Indian peninsula is that they have character. They are more than stretches of powdered sand washed by waves; they make lifestyle statements¦ and each one has a distinct personality.
Take Arambol to the north where the battlements of an ancient fort brood over a stretch of curving sand: here one gets a feel of what Goa was like before it was invaded by mass tourism. The hype one finds around the more popular beaches further south is missing. There is an easy relaxed feel as backpacking tourists, the modern-day equivalent of the hippies who first discovered Goa, laze around soaking in the sun and the quiet. Few Indian tourists venture here and even if they did they might feel like they were intruders.
The same would apply to Chapora. The tempo, however, picks up as one approaches Vagator where Beaches of Goa tour buses pull into a parking lot at View Point so that visitors look down at the sandy stretch sprawled out at the base of a cliff top fortress. This beach is split into two by a rocky outcrop. The stretch to the right is Indian in flavour while to the left it is largely backpacker and foreigner territory. There is far more integration between domestic and international visitors at Anjuna, the original hippy beach where Goa’s most famous flea market takes place every Saturday evenings. The venue of the Wednesday flea market is further south on Baga beach. Indeed, the stretch from Baga all the way down to Calangute, Sinquerim and Aguada is the most happening tourist strip in Goa. At the far end of the stretch where the ancient Portuguese Fort Aguada projects out into the sea is the hotel complex that first introduced Goa to the five-star beach resort culture: the Taj Hotels Fort Aguada Beach Resort.
Further south of Mandovi river is Miramar beach, 3 km outside the capital city of Panaji. This is more of a river beach where ripples rather than waves wash the shoreline. Not much water sport here. This is where resident Goan families come to relax and admire the sunset. Snuggled beyond Goa’s Dabolim airport is Bogmalo, a self-contained cove that has its own Goan village, beach shacks and resort hotel. Colva marks the beginning of the beaches of south Goa and the waterfront here is thick with activity; tourists desperate to snatch their Goan moment; be it parasailing or riding out in water scooters and motorboats. Further south is a string of resort beaches Benaulim, Varca, Cavelossim, Mabor which are studded with luxury properties. The pace here is stately, hotel staff serving tall drinks to guests relaxing under beach umbrellas laid out in an orderly manner. Palolem, the southernmost beach near the Karnataka border, is the one most Goans rave about. This is what the beaches were like before the tourist boom. No, they are not complaining not too vehemently anyway as they know that tourism is the life blood of the state – but it is nice to have one corner which you can call your own.
Fact File A visit to a beach is almost mandatory on any Goa itinerary. Goa Dambolin Airport is about a one hours drive from Panaji which is 9 miles for Old Goa.
Thivin Station on the Konkan Railways is the closet to Panaji.
By way of accommodation, Goa has a whole range to offer from budget apartments and Goa Tourisms tourist lodges to five-star luxury resorts.

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