Return to Colva beach, Goa

by kozmik

This is one of the longest beaches in the world, and one of the most beautiful. Even though mass tourism has arrived it is still a place of wonder, magic and calm. As my return visit reminds me.

While I emerge from the surging waves of the Arabian Sea, a grey-haired very athletic looking fisherman surveys me as he walks along Colva Beach with his companion. He still wears the traditional pink red loincloth and has the broad chest and muscular build of a man who earns his living from hard physical toil. Does he recognise me I wonder?

Almost certainly not, there are, after all, now thousands of westerners who make their way to this immensely long 12-mile beach in the course of a single year. And it is 24 years since I last spent any time here.

On my return, I have selected one of the older hotels which open out directly onto the beach. The Longuinhos Beach Resort is about as close as you can get to the sea, and that is the whole point of Colva; you want to be near enough to hear the steady roar of the breaking waves and get drawn back into their beguiling, strangely soothing rhythm.

This the Longuinhos allows you do in some style. They have gardens and a pool right beside the beach, you can eat out here in the evening at the restaurant, watching the sun set and stars come out and feel very much part of the natural world, surveying a beach that sweeps for miles in either direction towards distant mounts, tinged in blue as they plunge towards the sea.

Should you find the Longuinhos full, and this is a risk during the peak of the season from October through to the end of March (especially in the Christmas/New Year period from 22 December to 9 January when prices double and the tourists arrive en masse), then I would recommend a good alternative.

The Silver Sands Beach Resort is beside the road leading from the town of Margao where the train station is to be found, but it is right in the heart of Colva Beach and has its own remodelled and renovated complex with 72 spotless air conditioned rooms, a floodlit pool and every luxury convenience, all at a price that starts around £15 per night in the winter season.

The fishermen of Colva

For three months I lived cheek by jowl with the fishermen of Colva Beach and even helped them launch their heavy boats, laboriously heaved to the water's edge over wooden sleepers. It was a compliment to be asked. The fishermen have kept themselves to themselves for hundreds of years. That is not going to change even though their fishing beach has been discovered and is on the itinerary of both western and Indian tourists.

Lifeguards on the beach

The Goa Tourism Authority looked at the first wave of European visitors, sensed they could be the advance guard of a much greater influx and decided to build some tourist bungalows at Colva Beach to cash in. Twenty-four years ago they were in the process of construction. Today, 24 monsoon seasons later, the white limewash exteriors of the Colva Residency are blackened by the profusion of algae growth that the high rainfall and brilliant sunshine encourages in all life. At the present time the tourism authority is busy hiring orange clad lifeguards to patrol all of Goa's beaches in order to protect the ever growing number of tourists

Vincy Beach Resort

The former Portuguese-style seminary where the first European and American 'discoverers' of Colva Beach all stayed 24 years ago - never more than 20 at any one time - is still there, but now it is completely rebuilt as Vincy Beach Resort. And it remains the focal point of social life at Colva beach, for it's here that the buses from the town of Margao set down the tourists. This is the place to come for superb locally caught seafood.

Margao town

Colva is still a jewel of unblemished purity. Even if you go into the local town of Margao for the day - and it is a relaxed place where you can enjoy a quick taste of town life - make sure you arrive back in Colva by sunset time to see the sky on fire, with the palm trees outlined in profusion against the brilliant backdrop of ocean and sky.

Sunset at the fruit market

On return, Colva looks welcoming, almost like home, with the beach instead of the fireside blazing in a warm sultry glow. We saunter over to the small stalls selling bananas, roasted corn on the cob, papaya, pineapple and guava fruit. The village people from the interior of Goa run these stalls, they are as burnished as the sky, and as full of life. They know they live on the edge of a rich and welcoming jungle, they appreciate its offerings and know they can survive from this bounty. Sometimes you have to leave a place, for a day or even 24 years, in order to discover it.

The return feels good.


Getting there:

The town of Margao is some four miles away, which is served by trains from Mumbai and other major cities.

The airport at Dabolim is some 12 miles from Colva, a very affordable taxi ride away.