WORDS SHARMEEN HUSSAIN
PHOTOGRAPHS SAMEER MANGTANI
GREAT FROM: Bangalore, Chennai and Madurai
GREAT FOR: An introduction to snorkelling
Bandit is trying to get it on with a life jacket. His son Zuzu looks on, unfazed, while Kitty flops down in the sand, exhausted from doing nothing in particular. Such is life for the pets at Kathadi South, a boutique homestay in Rameswaram. Meanwhile, at its sister property, Kathadi North, on the other end of this tiny island, lunch is in the offing. Aromas of delicious seafood curries waft across the property from the kitchen, and, as the palm trees rustle in the breeze, stomachs begin to rumble.
A few hours south of Chennai, Rameswaram is a secret patch of paradise that’s almost too good to be true. A tiny speck of land between India and Sri Lanka, India only just manages to claim it as its own, thanks to the Pamban Bridge that connects it to the mainland. Outdoor enthusiast Jehan Driver of Quest Expeditions chanced upon it when he was looking for a place to set up a kitesurfing school. “The great thing about Rameswaram is that it’s the only place in India where the beach faces north and south (others along the Indian coast are east- or west-facing). This means favourable weather conditions for watersports all year round,” he says, beaming. So he went on to set up two properties, Kathadi North and Kathadi South, and began his mission to have as much fun in the water as possible.
This little island is great for a range of watersports activities. Here, you can go stand-up-paddleboarding, or SUP, kayaking and snorkelling and even sailing in one of the little boats that Jehan and his team have built themselves. All this in waters that are so clear you can see your shadow on the ocean floor. This means that it’s a great place for snorkelling and it’s ideal for beginners, as conditions are perfect. There are multiple coral reefs in the calm waters around the island that are teeming with marine life. On a good day, you can expect to see angel fish, trigger fish, starfish, seahorses, stag horn coral, brain coral and maybe even an octopus, stingray and dolphins. On a really good day, you might even be lucky enough to spot a dugong – that gentle creature of the sea that visits these parts from time to time. Sure, the reefs aren’t of the Maldivian or Andaman variety, but they’re gorgeous in their own right, and, for a first-timer, they’re a great introduction to the underwater world.
The secluded beaches are another draw here. Fringed by palm groves with a peacock or two strutting about among them, they’re so quiet you’re not likely to see a soul for miles, except for the odd fisherman who will look at you curiously for a minute or two, and then continue minding his own beeswax. For beginner sailors, kayakers and SUPers, too, there’s no better place to learn. Since there are hardly any people around here, you can fall flat on your face, capsize your boat and look like a complete idiot and there will be zero witnesses!
Once you’ve expended your energy out on the water, there’s nothing better than heading back to your cottage with a raging appetite, sun-kissed skin and salty lips, Bandit and Zuzu trailing along behind you. You hit the bed with the happy thought that tomorrow’s going to be another great day on the beach!