Takeaway

Restless in Rameswaram

Sibi Arasu | Updated on March 10, 2018

Spot for sport: Apart from kitesurfing, one can indulge in snorkelling, slacklining, stand-up paddling and kayaking at the resort   -  special arrangement

Away from its many temples and the ghost island of Dhanushkodi, this small town is scoring waves in water sports

Our train reached in the dead of the night, the only sources of light being the train station itself and tea-shops opening up at this primitive hour. Our pre-booked auto was waiting for us and after a half-hour ride we were at the resort, smelling the beach, though we could not quite see it.

We woke up after a few hours of sleep to the teal-blue Gulf of Mannar dotted with little islands punctuating the infinite horizon. We were in Thangachimadam, a little distance away from Rameswaram, inside Pamban Island, and were the only people apart from fishing trawlers, as far as the beach extended.

Flying high

The Kathadi South resort, the first of its kind (and hopefully not too many will follow its lead), is three thatched-roof shacks in a coconut grove. It offers several adventure activities and some of the friendliest hosts this side of the Vindhyas. One of the properties Jehaan Driver runs under his travel management firm Quest Expeditions, Kathadi Resorts is, as Driver says, “his little secret”.

After taking up kitesurfing himself, Driver and his team chanced upon Pamban Island and realised it was the perfect spot for the sport. With winds throughout the year, although on different sides of the island, as well as clean beaches and crystal blue waters, he decided to buy land on either side of the Pamban bridge and set up shop. “I set up Kathadi South on the island and Kathadi North on the other side of the bridge because of wind flow,” says Driver. From April to September, the southwest monsoon makes Kathadi South conducive for kitesurfing and for the rest of the year, the northeast monsoons do the same at Kathadi North.

Even though the name — kathadi means kite in Tamil — is inspired by kitesurfing, it’s only one among the many attractions here.

Sea ahoy

While we could not kitesurf ourselves, we did try our hand at some of the other activities, including snorkelling, slacklining, stand-up paddling (SUP) and kayaking. To go snorkelling, Driver took us a little into the sea and we ended up on the fringes of Shingle island, a few kilometres from Pamban Island. Dropping anchor, we snorkelled around the island, with a clear view of the age-old reefs right below us. The water was shallow and there were schools of fish of various sizes, shapes and colour, and the reefs were in various shades of the rainbow all over. Snorkelling here, especially when you’re underwater, is like taking a peek into another world altogether, oblivious to our existence above ground. Driver taught us the basic techniques of snorkelling and warned us off whenever we strayed into deep waters.

Two hours of excellent snorkelling were followed by a sumptuous meal of squid, crab, rice and salad with beers on offer if we felt like it. While we couldn’t try the SUP, we did go kayaking the next morning, learning the right position to sit on the kayak and to row. “Move forward and backwards along with your kayak’s paddles,” Govinda, the most soft-spoken among our hosts at Kathadi, instructed us. With a case of mild aquaphobia, I was hesitant to get on the kayak as we were rowing into open sea, but Govinda came alongside the entire three hours and even persuaded me to topple off the kayak and attempt to get back in on my own, out in deep waters. While it felt torturous then, I was all the better for it in the end, having made a big leap in my attempts to get rid of my fear of water.

The kayak route took us to two nearby islands, Shingle Island and Krusadai Island, and a British-era milestone installed mid-sea, a short distance from the Pamban Bridge. Even though there were heavy, unpredictable winds, the spectacular view of the sea and the Pamban Bridge from right below it was a sight like nothing else we had seen.

What followed the kayaking was another sumptuous pescatarian lunch and we spent our last evening walking along the shore as the sunset cast a golden hue over the entire stretch of beach and the trawlers anchored nearby.

Leaving Kathadi, we spent our remaining hours before catching the train back to Chennai visiting temples and the famous “ghost island” of Dhanushkodi. Standing in queues to enter the various temples, we were already missing the seclusion and the tasty fish, and waiting for our next opportunity to luxuriate in the pristine waters.

Sibi Arasu is an independent journalist based in Chennai

Travel log

Getting there

The nearest airport Madurai is a three-hour drive, airport transfers start at ₹4,000 per four-seat car one way. Public transport is also available.

Board an overnight bus from Bengaluru or Chennai to Rameswaram. Auto transfer costs approximately ₹400 one way.

Rameswaram is approximately 7-8 hours from Bengaluru / Chennai by car. Sleeper trains depart from Chennai for Rameswaram twice daily.

Sightseeing

There is a Vivekananda Memorial in Kunthukal beach, which makes for a fun shore-side walk in the evenings.

The other temples of Rameswaram and the island of Dhanushkodi are less than an hour away.

Tip

There are kitesurfing courses throughout the year. The lessons tally up to 10 hours and to learn the basics takes around three or four days. May to September is the best time to learn kitesurfing here. Email booking@quest-asia.com for details.

Published on September 16, 2016

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