Mandarmani Beach : Perhaps The Longest Beach Stretch In India

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.

The way to Mandarmani is through narrow village roads and markets.
This part of the country has many small ponds and waterbodies, called ‘Pukhur’ in Bengali.
Waterbodies run along the road…

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.

Garbage on Mandarmani beach
More garbage on Mandarmani beach

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…

A Red Ghost Crab (Ocypode macrocera) and many more in the frame.
The beach has a mix of sand and mud and creates beautiful textures with the tide.,
On one stretch of the beach is a plantation of casuarina trees and plenty of driftwood.
Casuarina plantations aren’t always a great thing for the local ecology. But they did look nice.
The beach at Mandarmani. We found plenty of great clean stretches.
An abandoned boat made nice compositions.
A Red Ghost Crab’s burrow. They are very quick and hide inside their burrows/dens when you approach them.
We had identified our spots and satisfied, retreated back to the hotel.
Though the hotel was uninspiring, the food was good. We made sure we ordered traditional Bengali dishes only, even though the menu was multi cuisine.
The day of the shoot was beautiful. There was mist in the morning and the sky had gorgeous delicate colours.
The beach had beautiful curves and shapes, to enable many compositions.
The sun was rising fast. The crew got to action. Bringing in the gear, setting up the shot…
The muddy sand was making our shoes and socks wet. Meanwhile the local doggy claimed Shikha’s shoes as his property.
What was fascinating was how quickly the tide rose. We were talking the first few shots on a narrow strip of beach with water on two sides. Almost like an isthmus.
As the mist rose, so did the water.
The tide rose quickly, almost cutting us off from the main land. We were standing on a strip of beach which was almost an island now. Maybe we were so busy with the work or maybe we haven’t ever been this close to a rising tide, but the speed at which the water rose was shocking.
The shoot supervisor came to make sure all was going well as planned and that no crew member was stranded in the tide.
The day was too hot and bright to shoot. So we took a break and came back in the afternoon. The sunset was too beautiful.
Finally we took the last shot of the day…
…and then it’s a wrap!
Mandarmani is a beautiful beach and well worth spending more time on. Unfortunately work trips never leave us with enough time to explore a place more. We would love to come back some day, but after we have located a better place of stay. Mandarmani has many hotels and resorts but one has to book them way in advance since it is a very popular destination for people from Kolkata.

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.

4 thoughts on “Mandarmani Beach : Perhaps The Longest Beach Stretch In India”

  1. And this is the reason why I’ve been following your travel stories, because you often go to places most people outside India know very little about. Watching the how tide quickly rose while trying to do some work must have been quite an experience. Glad you and the crew managed to get yourselves out before that stretch of the beach you were standing at became an island, albeit temporarily.

    Reply

Leave a Comment