It took me some time to adjust to the fuzzy view under water as my scuba instructor yanked me further into the Arabian Sea. The heavy oxygen tank and gear helped to control the buoyancy as we sank deeper into the sea. We had started from the imposing Sindhudurg Fort, on the small Kutre Island off Malvan beach in Tarkarli. And as we dove 40ft, the sea seemed to turn an opaque green. Then, quite suddenly, the watery canvas exploded magically into a riot of colours.
Sea creatures of all hues and sizes zipped past, inquisitive but not wary. It almost seemed as if they were expecting food. But since feeding is not recommended, we watched from a respectable distance.
I was thrilled by the sights of my first underwater adventure. The corals stood like formidable fortresses, but the water plants around them swayed daintily. Some elusive fish camouflaged themselves in the colourful corals, as if spying on us. Others, bolder, swam close enough to make eye contact. I spotted angelfish, zebrafish, starfish, Indian triggerfish, snapper, butterflyfish and glassfish, among many others. My friends, each assigned to a different instructor, roamed close to us—our thumb and index finger curled into a perpetual “okay” sign to each other, sharing how thrilled we were to be part of this elite underwater club.
Half an hour later our session was over and we were taken back to the Sindhudurg base. From there, a short ferry ride deposited us at Malvan beach. We took it easy for the rest of the day, snoozing for a while, taking a walk on the soft sand, stopping at local shacks for drinks and snacks. In the evening, we watched other tourists practising their photography skills against the backdrop of a fiery orange sky. It was the ideal setting to unwind.
We reserved the next day for Sindhudurg Fort. We took a ferry to the fort—just as we had the day before. Built atop an island by Chhatrapati Shivaji, the 17th century fort symbolized his military prowess.
Maharashtra is known for its hilltop forts, some so impregnable that they can be accessed only by experienced trekkers. What sets Sindhudurg Fort apart is its setting and a concealed main entrance, Dilli Darwaza.
An easy dirt path led to wide ramparts that have survived the extreme coastal weathering. We spent a long time sitting there, looking out to the deep blue sea, observing other first-time divers who were taking off for scuba trips.
As the sun started ascending, making it impossible to sit longer on the fort wall, we took one last look at the people below, thinking of the time when this bastion would have been fortified with canons, guns and shields, and turned back. We would return next season.
Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @asoulwindow.