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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Time to hit the sands

Biswendu Chowdhury, Hindustan Times  New Dellhi, May 07, 2013
First Published: 17:54 IST(7/5/2013) | Last Updated: 01:23 IST(8/5/2013)

Have you ever collected sand back home after a beach vacation? If not, then don't forget to collect some grains in a jar this time you hit the beach. Keep a few empty jars beside it because some day you might just get to fill the rest of them with red, pink, orange, white, purple, black and even green sand!

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And no, it's not some fancy colour-craft, it's all natural sand. If you're wondering what's the mystery all about, well, here's the science behind it: sand is actually made of uniform tiny rocks that originate from the surrounding landscape, rocks and mountains.

Some beaches, such as the coloured ones, are covered with such minuscule rock particles that have been washed down from coloured rocks of mountains from hundreds of miles away, and that's what lends a unique colour to these sandy beaches, many of which are even listed in the Guinness Book of Records. Here's a look at seven such unique beaches across the world.

Hawaii - haven of coloured beaches
Hawaii, beyond its free-wheeling spirit, is a vast canvas of natural wonders waiting to be discovered. Red sand and Green sand beaches are some of them. The Red sand beach is unique to Hawaii - it's found nowhere else in the world. The Papakolea Beach, also known as Green sand beach, is one of the only two green sand beaches in the world. Black sand beaches are not so common, but there's one in Punalu'u Beach in Hawaii's Big Island. The secret of the coloured sands in Hawaii is that the islands here are built on the moving floor of the North Pacific Ocean. Each island is made up of at least one primary volcano. The islands are a cluster of 132 islands, 2,454km long, and still growing!

Red Kaihalulu, Hana Bay, Maui
Kaihalulu or the Red sand beach of Maui is probably the only red sand beach in the world. It's a pocket beach, partially isolated from the ocean. The surrounding area is rich in iron, and sand is blood red which makes it a great contrast with the blue water. The path to the beach is slippery due to the crumbling cinder and pine needles from the ironwood trees. But the view of the red sand against the blue sea bracketed by green ironwood trees and a rocky lava sea wall is far more than picturesque. Swimming is not a good idea here because of its strong current and rocky surface. Going beyond the lava sea wall is extremely dangerous and should be avoided. The sand here gets its colour from the rocky lava hills and ironwood trees that surround it.

Green Papakolea beach, Southern Hawaii
It's an experience of a lifetime to hold green sand in an open palm. There are only two green sand beaches in the world. Papakolea Beach at the south point of Hawaii is one of them. It gets its distinctive colour from the mineral olivine crystals which are eroded from the seabed. Olivine is a mineral which is composed of the semi-precious stone, Peridot. The beach is semi-circle shaped, formed by a volcanic eruption around 49,000 years ago. Located around 5km east of Ka Lae, known as South Point on the island of Hawaii, it's surrounded by pasturelands and is only accessible by foot. On the Big Island of Hawaii, most visitors stay either in Kona (the nearest airport) area or up along the Kohala Coast on the island's west side.The beach gets its greenish tint from the olivine crystals of the sea bed.

Black Punalu'u beach park, Southern Hawaii
The jet black sand shore of Punalu'u beach in Hawaii will give you an unforgettable experience. Located on Puna district's south shore, south of the town of Hilo, coconut palms fringe the upper edge of sand and you may also discover large Hawaiian Green Sea turtles, basking on the beach here. Do not touch these protected turtles as they are endangered species. This quiet beach is a perfect spot for people who want to do nothing but wile away time. There is a freshwater fish pond at the far end of the beach, so there's a lot to do in leisure time! The black sand on the beach is made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools.

Orange Ramla Bay, Gozo on Maltese islands
Ramla is Gozo’s largest sandy bay. The beach here is of a deep orange colour. The bay is surrounded by countryside and nestles below steep terraced hills and the mythical Calypso’s Cave. A white statue of the Virgin Mary on the beach is its prime landmark and attraction. Even in peak summer months, there is always enough space on beach. Swimming here is safe and the waters are clear and clean. Volcanic ash and golden limestone in the surrounding rocks combine to create the rich orange sands of this beach.

Pink Horseshoe Bay Beach, Bermuda
In only a few regions where tropical coral reefs flourish offshore, do pink sand beaches form. An amalgam of calcium-rich shells and fragments of invertebrate sea creatures,
single-cell protozoa and spiny sea urchins make this Bermuda beach pink. Single-celled organisms with shells, called Homotrema Rubrum, are found both on the reefs and in the ocean sediments that surround Bermuda, and their red pigment remains that they leave behind when they die lend the pinkish tint to the beach here. The red gets mixed with other reef debris, snail shells and fragments of coral. When washed ashore, they form the island’s signature pink sand. You will also see a variety of colourful fish like parrot fish, angel fish, wrasse, sergeant majors, snappers and more. However, the ocean here can swell quite high at times. So try snorkelling here only if you are a good swimmer.

White Hyams Beach, Australia
White beaches are not so unusual. There are some white beaches in India too, including ones in Goa and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. But all these beaches are whitish, not white. Hyams Beach in Australia is listed as the whitest beach in the world in the Guinness Book of Records. The sands here are composed of 99% pure quartz. Because it is nearly pure quartz and fine in texture, it stays cool, no matter how hot the temperature gets. With incredibly clear blue water, the beach is over 2km long and very wide. Sometimes you’re likely to have the entire beach to yourself, with only a few wild kangaroos to give you company.

Purple Big Sur Pfeiffer Beach, California
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is on California’s Central Coast, just 3.5km drive from Highway 1 to south of Big Sur Village. To get here, you must keep a sharp eye for Sycamore Canyon Road located just outside Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. At the end of Sycamore Canyon Road, you will find a nice parking area, restrooms and the beach only a quarter-mile down a beautiful path. The farther north you walk, the more colourful it gets, from light purple to a deep purplish hue, all thanks to the surrounding garnet deposits.

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