Be in the wind

Kalyani Prasher | Updated on April 06, 2018

Baying for fun: Vizag has a unique coastline: the Eastern Ghats come right up to the Bay of Bengal, offering a rare natural panorama of the hills and the ocean together

In the same boat: Over the four days of the festival, several sail-outs helped participants explore Vizag landmarks such as Rushikonda Beach, Ramakrishna Beach, and Thotlakonda, a Buddhist site   -  KALYANI PRASHER

A yachting festival aims to set Vizag’s tourism quotient sailing

“Has Vizag suddenly woken up from sleep?” asked my sister, when I sent her photographs of striking natural beauty and the action that transpired over the four-day Vizag Yachting Festival held from March 29 to April 1. Her joke was closer to the truth than she could have guessed.

After Hyderabad went to Telangana in the division of the States, the seaside town of Visakhapatnam, popularly known as Vizag, automatically became Andhra Pradesh’s (AP) most attractive city for travellers and, whether it likes it or not, Vizag now has to wake up and shoulder a bigger responsibility for its State. If travellers are to continue to visit AP, the first port of call will be Vizag, its largest and most-known city after Hyderabad, the temporary capital. At least until the planned capital Amaravati comes up, Vizag is going to remain in the limelight.

Not that it was an unimportant city to begin with: the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command, Vizag’s port is a strategically crucial base. For tourism, however, Vizag earlier had just INS Kursura, India’s only submarine museum and the first of its kind in Asia, stationed on the Ramakrishna Beach.

Used to the naval ships, submarines and the disciplined routine of the defence services, the Vizag port now finds itself in the middle of activity of a very different kind. Not many people would have imagined that this port will be a leisure destination with luxury yachting on offer.

That is exactly what happened, though not on day one, which was a bit of a washout, what with the chief minister coming in late (unsurprisingly) to inaugurate the festival and then continuing to speak for an hour about tourism (in Telugu, of which I have no knowledge). Consequently, the first yachts only revved up as the sun was sailing out for the day. But all wasn’t lost — rock band Indian Ocean’s performance saved the evening and we managed to get on to a yacht and do a bit of a night cruise into the Bay of Bengal.

Bringing yachting to India’s unfrequented eastern coastline is a no brainer, and, yet, someone has to be the first. E-Factor Adventure Tourism, the company that introduced hot air ballooning in India with Skywaltz, decided to be the one. “It wasn’t easy to get the yachts into Vizag with all the paperwork, and then transporting these huge machines over land took up to 10 days,” says Samit Garg, CEO and co-founder of E-Factor, “but someone had to start”. The logistics translated into several delays and glitches but, finally, the first yacht set sail on the second morning of the festival, cruising along the Eastern Ghats for an hour.

Vizag has a unique coastline: the Eastern Ghats come right up to the Bay of Bengal, offering a rare natural panorama of the hills and the ocean together. As you cruise along on a 12-14 capacity yacht, a chilled drink in hand, the sun in your eyes and the wind in your hair, you can enjoy this beauty from up close, like you never can from the beach.

Despite the natural beauty, hardly any foreign travellers include Vizag in their itinerary. The Vizag Yachting Festival is an effort to change that. Over the four days, several sail-outs explored Vizag’s different landmarks such as Rushikonda Beach, Ramakrishna Beach, and Thotlakonda, the popular Buddhist site. Performances by bands like Parikrama and Indian Ocean set the mood for the evenings while the other ocean made sure that the weather was perfect with a lovely, cool breeze at all times.

There were several smaller side events, of which the one that wowed everyone was a flyboarding or ‘hydroflying’ show — a relatively new water sport where strong water pressure makes you ‘fly’ on your board. Flying over the water to the sound of thumping music, flyboarder Simone Careddu was a real treat to watch, and he gave a couple of performances to loud cheer from the crowds.

In a few months, yachting will be available to those who wish to try out a different kind of holiday. It is not cheap, at ₹25,000-45,000 an hour depending on the size of the yacht, but it promises to be a whale of a time.

“The idea is to promote water tourism in AP,” says Garg. “People have enough disposable incomes these days and they are always looking for something new to do.”

Skywaltz will station at Vizag two yachts — Seanorita, a 16-people cruiser that can sleep five; and Gypsea, a larger boat that can accommodate 20 for cruising and seven for a sleepover on board. The immediate yachting opportunities on offer will be a two-hour sunrise cruise, a two- to four-hour sunset and/or dinner cruise and travellers can stay onboard while the yacht is anchored overnight.

“A few months down the line we will introduce weekend cruises and, eventually, longer international cruises,” says Garg. “There is Burma [Myanmar] on one side, Andamans on the other... the opportunities are endless.” Very much like the ocean in front of us.

Kalyani Prasher is a Delhi-based freelance writer

Travel log

Getting there: There are direct flights from all metros to Vizag, and the port is about half an hour from the airport.

Stay: Several decent business hotels exist in the city, among which a good reasonable option is Four Points Sheraton, a four-star that is priced from ₹3,500 a night.

When in Vizag...
  • The 20-km Beach Road is an ocean-lined route across the city that makes for a beautiful drive, and you can stop at various beaches along the way, including the most popular Ramakrishna Beach five minutes before the port.
  • Try local snacks at the RK beach. Some of them are unique to Vizag, such as the bhaji sandwich, which is a pakora that is sliced open like a sandwich and filled with crispy onions, nuts and other crunchy goodies.
  • Vizag was part of the Kalinga kingdom, and the huge influence of Buddhism is still visible at various sites such as Bojjanakonda hill, 1.5 hours from town, where you can see rock carvings and murals of the Buddha.
  • Three hours away is AP’s green heart, the Araku Valley, where you can stay in the lap of nature and, in the near future, try hot air ballooning.

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Published on April 06, 2018
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