One of the reasons we called ourselves ‘The Untourists’ is we get to visit interesting locations due to the nature of our work : film-making. Many of these locations aren’t the ones we would have visited otherwise. One such shoot took us unexpectedly to Mandarmani.
At nearly 13km long, Mandarmani is the longest beach stretch in India. The geography is such that the sea is generally calm here, but the tide rises a fair bit. We were soon to find that out.
Back in February 2021, when the Coronavirus Pandemic seemed to be under control and things were opening up, we had to fly to Kolkata for a film which had to be shot on a beach. We were hoping to shoot it in Goa so we could drive down, but some circumstances insisted we shoot near Kolkata, herself a charming city full of heritage, so we locked on Mandarmani. Well, I am glad for the experience.
The 180km drive from Kolkata is not worth talking about. The highway is un-inspiring. The hotel the production put us up in, isn’t worth mentioning either (actually it was pretty bad, so I will leave it at that). But the beach is interesting.
After a long and boring drive, we were let down by the hotel room. By the time we managed to convince the hotel to give us cleaner sheets and fresh toiletries etc, it was evening. We finally went out to see the beach.
The first thing that hit us was the pile of garbage in the immediate vicinity of the hotel.
We were further disheartened. But the local support team told us the rest of the beach was much better. We walked ahead, knowing we had to identify spots for our shoot.
And sure enough, the beach soon became a long beautiful stretch of sand (though mixed with some mud as we were close to an estuary). As we walked, hundreds, perhaps thousands of small red crabs scurried about. What a joyful thing to see…
Overall Mandarmani is a wonderful place to visit. I do wish we had a few days to lounge back but it never works out, with all the tight schedules. I hope the hotels in Mandarmani get together and ensure the dirty portion of the beach (which is actually only a small patch) is cleaned up too. I also hope the hotels help in protection and conservation of one of the beach’s characteristics, the Reg Ghost Crabs. I was wondering why I didn’t see more wading birds along the beach, but I didn’t have enough time to figure these things out.
Best time to visit Mandarmani: Winters (December – February) and early and late monsoons (Mid June and Perhaps Mid August) are good times. Winter mornings and evenings can have a good chill so come prepared. Summers would be very very hot here.
What to eat: Only order the local Bengali food. If you feel for a change, you can try the Bengali version of Chinese food, which is quite interesting. Or maybe something as simple as fish and chips.
How to reach: Mandarmani is 180km by road from Kolkata, which is also the nearest big airport. The beach town of Mandarmani doesn’t have a railway station and the nearest stations are Digha (30km) or Contai (17km). Taxis and buses ply between these stations and Mandarmani.