December 30, 2008
While I usually travel alone, my colleague joined me on this trip to Karwar on the coast of Karnataka. Our first problem on reaching Karwar was to find a decent accommodation. I travel rough. Anything goes with me. This cannot be said of most people. We enquired at a couple of places, which we deemed as not clean enough. One concierge (a big word for a small town in South India that has no good hotels) even showed us a room recently vacated and not even cleaned!
After some enquiry with the local auto-rickshaw fellows, we found ourselves at the booking office of The Great Outdoors. The manager, Mr Suresh Mumbaikar, was very polite and courteous. He claimed that the package included accommodation, food and a host of activities. According to the photos, the tent was spacious and clean. So we decided to take the package at Rs 1800 per person. They also have cottages that are priced higher.
Kurumgad Island is about 20 minutes boat ride from the jetty on the northern end of the mainland. Transfer from the booking office to the jetty is a local auto-rickshaw. The tent was good. The bathroom behind it was clean but with no hot water.
We were in for a host of disappointments which I duly pointed out in the guest book as we left the place early this afternoon. Apparently, none of the activities promised to us were included in the basic price. My friend paid an extra Rs 300 for board skiing. We were supposed to go on a “dolphin ride”, which we understood to be dolphin watching on the Arabian Sea. No one informed us when this was to happen. No timetable was given upon arrival. The map of the island shows a wide beach for three-quarters around the island. The beach was in fact tiny. The rest of the island’s coast is rocky and inaccessible.
Food was mediocre. As is the case in many of these places, a bad cook naively equates spicy and oily food to tasty food. We were promised that fruits would be included but only the lunch included fruit salad. Water had to be ordered separately at significantly higher price. I did not find the food too bad but most others staying here were not too happy with it. Many did not even touch the stuff that came out of last evening’s barbeque.
Worst of all, when we complained, Mr Suresh Mumbaikar showed us his ugly side. He did not even bother to reply adequately to our complaints, preferring to pretend that our voices had been drowned in the quiet little waves on the island’s moderate coast.
The island is a private one, owned by a certain Mathais, the grandson of a Colonel who had served the British during colonial times. The Colonel, probably one of those servile puppets of the British, managed to get this island from the British as a gift. The island has some cottages, tents, a couple of trails, some good views, an old temple that gets busy at full moon night in January and sparse remains of an old fort including a rusty canon. The most picturesque views from the island are framed by dried-up branches and fruits of the wild banana. These have small hard and black seeds. I was told that the bananas are not edible.
The beach is a clean one. We borrowed a couple of lifejackets and did some swimming in the shallow waters. The waves rake up quite a lot of sand which makes the water muddy. At least, it was not polluted. There is not much else to do. There are no fish for snorkelling or deep corals for diving. The blue sky, the isolated beach and the warm sun glittering on the waves gave the island its only redemption.
In India people often talk about trekking in the wrong sense of the word. The entire island can be walked leisurely in about 45 minutes. There are only a couple of lousy trails. It cannot even be called a decent walk but to call it a trek is almost a sacrilege. Indians are not to be blamed. Many have only a basic education and English is not their natural language. We cannot expect them to understand the nuances of word usage.
This place is for couples and families who want a lazy holiday. Sadly, this is in complete antithesis to the name “The Great Outdoors”. It is not for the active and the adventurous. Or if you fancy reading a book undisturbed, this may be the place; but beware, the lights at night are feeble and may be bad for your eyes!
KSRTC runs a couple of night buses from Bangalore to Karwar. We took the 1900 hours bus from K.G. bus stand. The bus takes about 12 hours. Transfer to the island was arranged by Great Outdoors.
At the Great Outdoors on Kurumgad Island @ Rs. 1800 per night per tent on a twin sharing basis. You can check-in at breakfast or at lunch. We checked-in at lunch having just missed the early boat.
Included in the package at the Great Outdoors. Lunch, evening tea, dinner and next day’s breakfast were included.
This is a small island with a couple of trails. Walk without a guide. Don’t worry, you won’t get lost. Open views of the sea all around.