Information about Diu on the World Wide Web is woefully inadequate. But as I discovered in just 24 hours, this welcoming little seaside hamlet is full of serene gems and beautiful sights. And their story deserves to be told.
I landed in Diu at 2pm on Republic Day (26th January), uncertain about the time I’d have here, as a solo woman traveller. I left at 2pm the next day, wishing I could spend another night listening to the roar of its pristine sea.
Arriving in Diu
Festa De Diu was putting me up in one of their luxury sea-view tents and I boarded the mini Air India flight from Mumbai to Diu looking forward to a day of solitude and introspection. But I had totally overlooked the fact that it was Republic Day. Several detailed security checks and a 45-minute delay later, I finally landed on the shores of Ilha de Calma (Isle of Calm). My worst fears were confirmed when there was no one outside the little airport to pick me up. After a flurry of calls and a short wait, a car drew up in front of the waiting area and a smiling driver came out to apologise for the delay. Suitably pacified, I bid goodbye to the tuk-tuk I’d been photographing and the gracious guards, and embarked on my Diu adventure.
Good to know: Air India and Jet Airways operate flights from Mumbai to Diu. I travelled by Air India (Rs 10500 onwards for a return flight), which lasted for an hour. They also serve complimentary vegetarian refreshments on board and seats are in pairs only.
Festa de Diu: My beautiful tent!
Diu Village, constructed by the tourism authorities just for Festa de Diu, a two and a half month long cultural festival at Nagoa Beach, was situated a mere 5 minutes away from the airport. I arrived famished and was ushered to tent no 27 right away. From the outside, it didn’t look like much. In fact, the entire settlement wore a deserted look and I wondered where all the visitors were. But once inside my tent, I was completely awed. The space, decor and the amenities – they were all as world-class as the website promised. Take a look.
All I wanted was to lay down my bags and soak in the feel of this wonderful luxury tent and the bright winter sea beyond its flapping exteriors. But lunch time was nearly at an end (it was 3pm) and so I made my way to the dining area, another tent-style set-up a 2 minute walk away. The folks at reception will insist on calling you a golf cart for every little trip but hey, a little walk never hurt anyone! I for one prefer to rely on my own two feet and I didn’t take these carts even once.
Good to know: You can book luxury tents – either sea view or non sea view at http://www.festadiu.com – one is good for 2-3 people. It’s ideal to opt for a meal plan along with the stay. A tent allows you access to all the events at Festa de Diu; however do check the calendar before booking – on several days, there is nothing scheduled. The festival is on from December 2015 to mid-February 2016.
Lunch at Diu Village
The dining area was large and airy, with a lovely view of the sea on one side. However, once again, it wore a slightly derelict look. However the bar area looked shiny and well attended to. My meal plan did not include starters; so I opted for mains with steamed rice and tandoori roti, garden salad, roasted papad and gulab jamun for dessert. It being Republic Day, I assumed that the bar would be shut but they were serving alcohol (that’s chargeable too). But I assumed I’d find a wine shop nearby (how wrong I was!) and passed the drinks menu.
The portions were excellent and so was the quality of the ingredients used but the dishes themselves left a little to be desired. The curry was runny instead of thick and the salad was rudimentary. But I was hungry and I enjoyed the meal all the same.
Walking around Nagoa Beach
For that day, there were two events scheduled – a dance performance at 7PM and a live band gig 8PM onwards. It was 4:30 PM by the time and I decided to walk around the area before sundown. On the way here, I’d spotted several interesting sights I planned to inspect at close quarters.
The weather was positively poetic when I stepped out – cool and breezy with a lovely stillness in the air. There was not a single soul to be seen all along my walk down the alley that connects Diu Village to the main Nagoa Beach area. A couple of red wattled lapwings greeted me around the corner and seemed quite unafraid of humans, as they stayed in place even when I ventured really close.
Friendly locals with colourful wares lined the entire length of the street adjoining the beach. The adults and children alike were happy to pose for my amateur lens; one vendor was eager to have me photograph every one of his wares! They sold snacks, cold drinks, corn on the cob, pistachio fruits, some clothing and tea. But I didn’t see a single wine shop. I did see a board announcing bikes on rent from government-approved lenders.
Nagoa Beach is one of the most popular coastal strips in Diu and the place teemed with families and children. It being Republic Day, a bunch of cheery children had built a cluster of sand castles topped with the tricolour.
One can try a variety of adventure sports on the beach as well, such as boat riding, hot air ballooning and bungee jumping. I was struck by how clean and blue the water was, contrary to some articles. After an hour of walking around, I returned to Diu Village and was sorely disappointed to learn that the 7pm show had been cancelled. Festa de Diu was more power-packed in December but now at the fag end of January, it seemed like there wasn’t much to do. I was momentarily stumped – it was too late to tour Diu city and I had no alcohol to while away the time with. And then I realised that I could simply watch the sun descend over the serene Diu horizon outside my tent.
Dusk at Diu Village
With nothing much to do until dinner time, I relaxed in my tent, played some music on the television (the volume is really low though, so as not to disturb other inhabitants I suppose) and made myself a cup of coffee using the kettle and coffee kit. Thus refreshed, I stepped out with my camera to capture the stunning sunset – its colours and purview as unadulterated and full-bodied as can be.
Dinner and live concert
At around 8pm, I had a sumptuous dinner of mushroom cream soup, paneer in tomato gravy, tandoori roti, garden salad, roasted papad and a much needed can of beer. The paneer was much better than the curry I’d had for lunch and I was left licking my fingers for every last morsel! The beer put me in just the right mood for some peppy performances by Raaga Trippin, a six-member band that specialises in Bollywood acapella mash-ups.
The night was chilly as I made my way to the open-air stage area and I was glad I’d brought my shawl. The air reverberated with music and cheers and it was hard not to smile, even though I was all by myself. The stage was extremely well set-up with excellent light and sound effects and a rapt audience hooted and sang along with the band singers. A closer look at them made me realise that they’d been on the same flight as me! As the night grew darker, the singers encouraged us to get up and shake a leg but the floor was dominated by men dancing in a style that is best described as ‘tapori’! I can’t think of an apt English translation but Google it and you’ll know. Nevertheless, the concert was the perfect end to my day and it ended all too soon at 10pm.
A night by the sea
I thought I might have trouble sleeping in a tent with no lock, but the sound of the sea served as a unique lullaby. I slept like a baby, lulled by the rhythmic roar of the waves and the flapping of the tent covers.
An excerpt from my Diu diary:
The setting sun
And the receding tide
Leave no doubt
About the content of the birds’ chatter
Another day gone by
Another basketful of stories
To be told on a moonlit night.
The day might have been
The sun’s chirpy protege
But the night belongs
To the roaring sea
And the scented breeze
The night belongs to your restlessness
As retold by the fervid shores.
Words would be quite insufficient to describe the magical metamorphosis I witnessed in the wee hours of the day. But I’ll try. I was awakened by the raucous sound of migratory birds and dragged myself out in my pyjamas to see the sky filled with formations of countless birds. They made their way across Diu in waves of perfect ‘T’ formations and I thought it would never end. But finally, it did. And the sun hadn’t even begun to rise yet. It’s amazing what goes on in this world in the hours between twilight and daybreak.
An excerpt from my Diu diary:
Here I am, all alone outside my tent by the sea at the crack of dawn, watching the birds and wondering in my usual daft manner – which side is east and which is west. A few lone humans wander in the distance, not unlike the birds. The humans hunger for answers in the unfolding of a beautiful new day while the birds, simple creatures that they are, hunger for food. Me – all I want is a good shot and a few shells worth of Diu memories.
Once the sun began to make its way across the horizon, I discovered an all new delight – bird watching. Numerous land and sea birds scoured the sands and seas for their morning meal and I spent a wonderful time watching, chasing and photographing them. And then there was the sunrise itself – it made me want to stay another day in Diu and simply stare at its unblemished waters for hours. But I was only here till mid-day.
Auto-rickshaw tour of Diu!
Since I hadn’t been able to look around on my first day here, I was determined to travel the length and breadth of Diu on my second and last day here. After an early buffet breakfast of toast and omelette, fruits, idli chutney, beetroot juice (such a good cleanser!) and coffee, I set off for the main city circle, a 10 minute walk from Diu Village in search of an auto-rickshaw.
I love this thing about small towns of India – the autowallahs always have a fixed route and rate for sightseeing and they’ll do it at express speed. I told them I had only three hours – would I be able to cover 600 rupees worth of sightseeing in that much time? They were more than confident. I tried my best to bargain but they wouldn’t budge. If you’re in a group of three, you can still fit in the large rickshaws and you would only pay Rs 200 per head.
Over three hours, I explored the marvellous Naida Caves and sprawling Diu Fort, experienced the coolness of a spring at Gangeshwar Temple hewn into the ground, enjoyed a panoramic view of the island at INS Khukhri Memorial, conversed with a retired navy man at their unique seashell museum, admired the architecture of St Paul’s Church and Diu Museum, relaxed at the tranquil summer house and walked through the still under construction Fudam Bird Sanctuary and Dinosaur Park. In my next post on the top 10 things to see and do in Diu, I’ll tell you about them in detail.
Don’t miss my other solo travel adventures!