Scuba diving. Snorkelling. Watching whales and dolphin in pristine blue waters.
After January 2007, you may not have to travel very far to experience any of this. Just head 500 km south of Mumbai to Sindhudurg and explore the diverse marine life your own state has to offer.
The state government's tourism department is all set to turn the coastal areas of Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri into scuba diving and snorkelling centres. With help from renowned marine biologist and scuba diving specialist, Sarang Kulkarni, the State is investing nearly Rs ten crore in developing the Konkan coast into a haven for lovers of marine life.
"We are looking at a triangle between the Vengurla rocks, Sindhudurg fort and Tarkarli," Bhushan Gagrani, secretary, Tourism, said. "Shots taken underwater have revealed that entire area has very good marine life."
Kulkarni, who is studying the area, supports Gagrani's claims. "There is tremendous underwater diversity there. From January to May, the visibility is great," Kulkarni said.
To start with, Kulkarni will train a bunch of local people so that they can take tourists scuba diving and snorkelling and open the world of colourful shallow water fish, algae and coral reef.
Since the depth of the water varies, the waters near the Sindhudurg fort will be for amateurs while those around the Vengurla rocks will be for professionals.
Local residents will also be taught how to establish their business and market their unexplored environs. "I have been receiving calls from many enthusiastic locals who want to be a part of this project," Kulkarni added.
The Sindhudurg coast also attracts dolphins and Kulkarni has received indications that whales also visit the coast between November and January. "We are studying these aspects. We hope to be able to introduce dolphin and whale watch exercises and also develop turtle nesting sites in the area," Kulkarni said.
In the future, once Kulkarni has finished exploring the Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg coast for dive spots, diving schools could also be set up. "There are private players in Goa but this initiative is the first a state has taken up," Kulkarni revealed, adding that an oceanarium is also on the cards.
Both, the State and Kulkarni, are clear that the project should not disturb the local habitat. "This will be eco-tourism in the true sense of the word," Kulkarni declared. "We want to lead by example."
Email Sweta Ramanujan: firstname.lastname@example.org