Harihreshwar and Divegar are two very beautiful beaches in the south of Raigad district. Instead of Alibaug why not visit them next time which is 41/2 – 5 hours drive from Mumbai. For the extended weekend in the month of February we wanted to cover a part of western coast. Between Ganpatipule and Harihreshwar we finalized the latter. Our itinerary included 2 nights in Harihreshwar and one night in Divegar. The way the western coast stretches to the south of Alibaug is Divegar, Srivardhan, Harihreshwar and little ahead is Velas. People do the first three as triangle but we included Velas instead of Srivardhan which I will clarify in the latter part.
Selecting 2 nights at Harihreshwar was an obvious choice as it was in the middle of the two. Velas is a vast beach, but not for swimming, famous for Turtle Festival to witness the hatching of turtles and releasing them in the sea. To go to Velas from Harihreshwar we had to ferry our car from Harihreshwar to Bankot and further half an hour coastal drive is Velas. Bankot has a sea facing fort as well. So, there were 4 reasons of going to Velas. We left early morning at around 6 from Mumbai and headed straight to Harihreshwar. Had breakfast on the way. The drive is very pleasant with beautiful views on the way. Roads are good. Follow the GPS and don’t take the route via Pen. By 11-11.30 we reached Harihreshwar. Checked into MTDC Resort.
Location wise MTDC Resort has an edge over all the other resorts of that area, that’s my personal experience and over the period the service and food has also significantly improved. Don’t expect the additional frill amenities. The same was true for MTDC Harihreshwar. It’s a vast property on the rocky beach with Cottage style rooms with wooden furnishing and few sea facing family rooms. We took the family room which was more like a suite didn’t have the feel of cottage but it was right on the cliff facing the sea with the sound of roaring waves. The upper floor rooms gives a farther view.
We decided to cover Velas the same day so that next day we were free and could relax. After having food and an afternoon nap we decided to leave by 4 so that we could watch the Turtle Hatching. The ferry leaves every half an hour and the peer was just 10 minutes’ drive from MTDC Resort. We were able to take the 4.30 ferry. The most interesting part was loading and unloading loading the car in the ferry. At a time, the boat can hold eight to ten vehicle. There were trucks and tempo also. 15 minutes we reached Veshavi the peer for Bankot.
It was an exciting ferry ride. Now, we had to cross Bankot to reach Velas. We skipped going to the Fort and headed straight to Velas. The streets are quite narrow and one has to drive carefully. Once we crossed Bankot village a beautiful coastal drive was waiting for us with the evening hues. Orange sky kissing the blue sea. Speeding wind lashing our face till we reached Velas village. We were rightly guided by the local people to the Turtle Festival. After parking our car we had to walk for 10 minutes through the fields and narrow lanes to reach the beach.
There is a group of people including youngsters, middle aged people who run an NGO who devote their time to save these species of Olive Ridley Turtle. A small temporary hatchery has been made where they collect and save the eggs laid by turtles and preserve them for hatching covering with the basket in a fenced zone. One has to be lucky enough to see the turtles hatching out. It’s a natural phenomenon. People come and stay for a day or two to witness the turtles coming out during morning and evening. The village has many homestays for overnight visitors. We reached there by 5.15 and were told to wait till 6.
In the meanwhile, one of the them from the group explained everything about this process of saving this species The dedication of the people was commendable. He himself was a student of a Mumbai College who had come to volunteer. At 6 the baskets were removed to see the status. Unfortunately, we could only see the head popping out which was a clear signal the following morning they will come out and will be released in the water. There were people staying overnight there had an opportunity to come back again.
They requested us to stay back and go to Harihreshwar next day morning. But we decided to leave. They also show a documentary on it at one of the houses at 7. It was a great and unique experience for all of us. The kids enjoyed and learnt a lot. The dates of the festival could be found on http://velasturtlefestival.com/ We left for our ferry without wasting much time as the roads were pretty dark without streetlights on some stretches. Reached by 7.35 so had a waiting time of 25 minutes. But there was another uncalled excitement waiting for us. Star Gazing. It’s hard to see such a clear sky full of stars in Mumbai.
It was a full carpet of stars at the silent bank of the river. We kept on counting them, watching their different formations, looking at the Polar Star till we got the signal to load our car. Reached the hotel by 8.30. We were very hungry and rushed straight to the restaurant. Delicious and fresh Jain food was prepared at MTDC restaurant as per our specifications which was very yummy. It was the end of day full of marvels. Even if one goes other than the Turtle Festival dates one should visit Velas or up to Bankot to experience the ferry ride, the fort and the drive.
Day 2 was a relaxing day for us. We had planned to visit the Harihareshwar temple with the famous parikrama through the seashore in the evening. We woke up to witness the sunrise from our balcony. It was a beautiful view. To the left side of the resort is the sea with no other habitats or properties. The rising sun, roaring waves, chirping birds and calm beach with the black sand. It was enough to call us there. There is a small trail from the resort which takes to the beach. On first day I was disappointed with the sea view as in the evening the water had receded till far and there was no sign of beach per se. Me and my husband spent around two hours on the beach. Myself enjoying the calmness and solitude and my husband his photography. I am posting few pictures.
It was getting hot and was time for breakfast. Kids were also waiting. Had awesome poha, sandwiches and tea for breakfast. The restaurant is clean and newly renovated with few sittings outside in the balcony. Balcony setting was our choice. After spending family time during the day, we left for Harihareshwar temple in the evening at around 5. The temple is around a km from the resort. The street approaching the temple is very busy. It had small shops and few food stalls on one side and all the hotels and lodges on the other side and into the lanes.
That day being Mahashivratri the Temple lane was extremely crowded, due to the annual local haat (bazaar). We parked our car outside and somehow made our way to the temple, there were few things which was quite eye-catching and we decided to pick them up while returning. The Temple complex has two adjacent temples. The smaller Kalbhairav temple should be visited first, before entering the main Harihareshwar temple housing an ancient Shiva Linga. Most of the people had offered their prayers in the morning so the premises was less crowded. It was a divine experience to see such an old temple holding strong belief by the locals.
The beauty of this temple lies in its pradakshina which starts from the backside goes around the temple passing through the sea shore. It is not advisable to follow this route during high tide and should be visited before it gets dark as the gates are closed. The flight of steep stairs takes you down to the seashore. Since it was low tide the rocks were out in the open and created a pathway. It was magnificent black porous rocks with nice geological formations of cliffs and gauges with vast sea in front of your eyes. A very beautiful place for photography with setting sun as backdrop. The breeze was so strong we had to hold ourselves tight to click the pictures.
Passing through the rocks it takes you to the other side of the temple which overlooks the beach on the north of the temple. It was a public beach but very crowded, poorly maintained and lots of stalls around. I was glad that we stayed on the south end which had a secluded beach. There were lots of coconut water and lemon juice vendors at the end of the pradakshina. It was refreshing to have some after a strenuous walk.
Few stairs up and the pradakshina ended in the temple premises. It was indeed a very blissful experience. Did some local shopping before heading back to the resort to have our dinner. I couldn’t see any restaurant in this area other than Kamats which was also out of it’s service due to absence of its cook but no grudges MTDC was serving us good food. Finally, it was time to start for our next destination Divegar. We woke up early morning to visit the beach again. It was nostalgic for my husband who went ahead for almost a kilometer to capture the seagulls in his lenses. Post breakfast it was time to depart for Divegar.
Divegar is around 40 kms from Harihreshwar. The drive was amazing. From winding hills to driving along the coast. In lanes to clifftop. The road goes via Shrivardhan village. Off route is the Srivardhan beach. We spent just 10 minutes as there was much more in store for us. Srivardhan and Divegar both has good hotels to stay and beach to swim and enjoy water sports. From Shrivardhan, there are two routes to Divegar. Though a little longer but we took the coastal route via Aaravi and Kondavali beaches.
Almost white sand along the coast with roaring sea in the bright sun. It was hot outside but couldn’t resist from halting at Aaravi beach and Kondavali beach for a quick break. It’s better to enjoy the drive early morning or late evening. After an hour and half reached Divegar. Divegar has a 5 km beach with lots of options to stay nearby. Harihreshwar MTDC was a beach resort and we wanted to experience something different in Divegar, which we was possible with our stay in Panthastha Prangan Resort, one and half km away from the beach.
Panthastha Prangan was zeroed based on its awesome reviews. It’s the most eco-friendly place I have ever stayed in. The resort is spread over a huge area with hills and forest around amidst the nature with a pure veg restaurant. It has brick stone cottages and few AC tents. All the fruits, vegetables and spices used in their kitchen are procured from their own nearby farm.
Though it was eco-friendly but had all the amenities other than AC. Initially we were apprehensive to stay in a non AC room and preferred the AC tent (eco friendly). But after seeing the stone cottage we found the tent to be too small and were assured that we will not feel hot. An air cooler was provided in the room. It later realized it was a good decision.
I enjoyed the concept of the resort and the detailing of the room which was designed to keep it as natural as possible. Cool in summers and warm when cold. It had kota stone flooring from Rajasthan, the high roof was tiled with enough room for sunlight and ventilation. The bed was made of cow dung and clay with cotton mattresses from Jaipur. It was just enough to make us comfortable, cozy and lazy. It was most relaxing for my husband and within few minutes he was heard snoring. The bathroom had copper tampatra shaped bucket and herbal soap and ubtan. My daughter got obsessed with the bathroom arrangements. It was something unusual for her.
Huge trees and small lawn outside all the rooms to relax under the shade. The restaurant serves delicious veg food with simple but ample of choices. The must have is the sol kari. One of the best I have had. No soft drinks or packaged food is served. Being amidst the nature you might find small ants or insects around the door. We had ants in our room and they were immediately treated with camphor and turmeric.
After having lunch and lazing around in the afternoon, we headed for the beach for some adventure and fun. Divegar is a comparatively clean beach lined with tall coconut and palm trees at the entrance. I would not say super clean because any beach when it becomes commercial loses its virginity. There are ample of water sports; para sailing, jet scooter, banana boat, bumper ride to name a few. The moment you reach the beach, from the parking lot, the water sports operators start chasing to fix their deal. One needs to bargain. It’s quite reasonable. We enjoyed all the rides. I am an adrenaline junk so even did few twice.
Got to know that a drive is a must on Divegar beach. Its permissible but a little tricky to get the vehicle inside. Few cars were stuck in the sand. Finally, we also drove our car inside following the trail of other cars and maintaining the speed. It was a beautiful drive watching the sunset on the 4 km stretch. After an exciting and thrilling evening, it was time to relish ourselves with the chaats available at the food stalls at the beach. We didn’t realize it was end of day 3 of our trip. With all the wet sandy clothes and high spirit, we returned back to our hotel.
Day 4 – We planned to leave for Mumbai post lunch around 3 so that we beat the afternoon heat. After having a good south indian breakfast lazed around in the resort under the tree, played cards, read some books. If time permits one can visit the organic farm owned by the resort. After lunch finally it was time to abide goodbye to this beautiful place with cherishing memories.
We took the same way back to Mumbai via Mangaon and Khopoli. Mangaon is a good place to buy fruits. I tasted a unique fruit called Ramfal very much like Sitafal (Ram & Sita, quite interesting analogy). Had tea and snacks near Khopoli before touching the Highway and heading straight to Mumbai. Reached Mumbai in 4 and half hours. It was finally time to get back to Mumbai life fully rejuvenated and refreshed.
Initially we had planned to visit Murid Janjira Fort from Divegar if time permitted. If one wants to skip Velas then stay for a day in Harihreshwar and two days at Divegar. Murud Janjira Fort is to the north of Divegar. Murud Janjira is 60 kns from Divegar but by ferry is only 20. Coastal drive till Dighi Port and then ferry your car to the other side to reach Murud Janjira…