Category Archives: Daman and Diu

Top 12 places to visit in Diu

One of the best ways to explore smaller towns in India is in an auto rickshaw. Even Delhi has an ‘auto rickshaw tour operator‘ now. Diu, with its small size and picturesque attractions, particularly lends itself to such tours. Easily reachable from Mumbai by flight (1 hour) or Ahmedabad by road (7 hours), the island also known as Ilha de Calma (Isle of Calm) and situated off the coast of Gujarat, makes for an idyllic weekend getaway. Quieter than Goa but much more liberated than the rest of Gujarat, Diu is increasingly in the limelight thanks to the recently concluded Festa de Diu and its inimitable small town charm. Here are the 12 sights that must feature in your itinerary if you’re planning a getaway to this erstwhile Portuguese territory. The ideal duration for a trip to Diu is two nights and three days and it can get really hot in the summers; so time your visit between October and February.

1. Naida Caves

Naida Caves

This breathtaking network of over 100 caverns with weather-worn walls, strange porous rock formations and tiny openings that mysterious sun rays filter through, is worth scheduling a trip to Diu for. Smooth and untouched, the caves have been preserved as they were, during the Portuguese era. Although no one seems to know the exact history of these caves, they might have been formed when the Portuguese hacked off part of the land for building material. A few of the more precarious caves are not open to the public.

2. Diu Fort

Diu Fort at Diu

Close to Naida Caves is the majestic Diu Fort, covering such a large expanse that your feet will ache by the time you cover every nook and cranny of the fort complex. Dating back to 1535, this Portuguese fort features several chapels with steep walkways that can lead to unceremonious falls if you are not careful, sweeping views of the sea from various look-out points, a double moat, cannons and fragments of tombstones. There is also a causeway into the sea, where beautiful sea birds can often be viewed closely.

3. Gangeshwar Temple

Gangeshwar Temple at Diu

As far as temples go, this one offers a truly immersive and unique experience. Hewn into the ground, the cave temple is a shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is said that the Pandavas frequented this temple during their exile and so did Sanjay Dutt during the shooting of a film. One has to climb a flight of stairs and then crouch down low to see the five shivlings amidst the rocks of the sea. Devotees enjoy dipping their feet in these cool pools of water, sheltered from the sun. Don’t be surprised if you see youngsters clicking selfies with the sea in the background.

4. INS Khukhri Memorial

INS Khukhri Memorial

Not only is the ship a delight to look at, the surrounding lighthouse, amphitheater and seaside walkways allow for great views of the sunrise and sunset and beautiful walks where you are bound to run into some villagers. They are only too happy to help in case you’re lost but for the drawback that many don’t speak Hindi. The memorial pays tribute to Captain Mulla who chose to sink with the Indian Naval Ship Khukri when a Pakistani submarine fired at the ship during the India Pakistan War of 1971.

5. Seashell Museum

Seashell Museum at Diu

According to Captain Devjibhai Vira Fulbaria, the man behind this humble treasure, the museum houses the largest collection of sea shells in Asia. Collected from his many travels around the world as a navy man, the shells and sea creatures are displayed in a manner that is both interesting and informative. Magnifying glasses have been installed for a closer look at some of the smaller shells. The friendly Captain is always ready to share the story behind each of the 3000 kinds of sea shells. Don’t miss the sculptures decorated with sea shells of various shapes, sizes and colours.

6. Nagoa Beach

Adventure sports at Nagoa Beach

Just a stone’s throw away from Diu Airport, Nagoa Beach is the most popular coastal strip in the island. Here, you will have ample opportunities to see local families and children frolicking in the sea and building sand castles. There are a variety of inexpensive adventure sports to be tried as well; but don’t expect international standards. The walk along the cool and shaded lane adjoining the beach is particularly pleasant; you can sample corn on the cob and pistachio fruits from the vendors or have them pose for a happy picture.

7. Jallandhar Beach

Jallandhar Beach at Diu

Come to Jallandhar Beach if you want to get away from the crowds of Nagoa Beach. And you are bound to stumble upon this part of Diu during the course of your sightseeing. The shore here is clean and free of litter and the water as blue as the summer sky.

8. St Paul’s Church

St Paul's Church at Diu

This is the largest and best known church in Diu. It’s not one of the prettiest churches I’ve seen by any stretch of imagination but it’s well maintained and the garden outside is welcoming. There is also a statue and a small waterfall, along with a replica of a rocket. The church lies right next to Diu Museum.

9. Diu Museum

Diu Museum

The treasures of Diu Museum lie without rather than within. Housed inside are the worn statuettes of various Christian saints and photography is prohibited. But Diu Museum is worth a visit for its impressive architecture and gardens faintly reminiscent of Jardins de Trocadero leading up to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There is also a children’s park next to the museum where you can relax with a book on a quiet afternoon.

10. Summer House

Summer house at Diu

The summer house is a popular picnic spot overlooking a beautiful stretch of Jallandhar Beach. One can climb the steep way to the summer house and relax in its cool interiors but the drawback is that visitors often litter the area. Adjunct structures also allow you to take in the view and gaze at sea birds treading water in the distance.

11. Fudam Bird Sanctuary

Fudam Bird Sanctuary

The sanctuary is an oasis of serenity and primarily a marsh area that attracts several species of birds. The ideal time to visit is early in the morning and an observatory tower is still being built, at the time of writing this post. The mangrove scrubs in the sanctuary make it a good breeding ground for fishes as well.

12. Dinosaur Park

Dinosaur Park at Diu

This one is still under construction but it’s poised to be an innovative dinosaur-themed park for children with a nice lane to walk on and a tiny temple within the garden premises.

Asides

There is also the Fortress of Panikota in the middle of the sea, accessible only by motor boat or canoe. Clearly visible from Nagoa Beach, this sea fort also houses a lighthouse and chapel consecrated to Our Lady of the Sea. Other sights in Diu include a couple of churches, a few beaches and the colourful Nagar Sheth Haveli featuring three storeys and curved balconies and porticoes constructed in the Portuguese style.

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Solo travel on Diu Island

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

Diu Village
Diu Village

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!

Luxury tents at Festa de Diu
They have around 16 luxury tents and 60 in total
Deck chairs and sea at Festa de Diu
The deck chairs outside my sea-view 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.

Inside my luxury tent
King-size bed and beautiful furnishing inside my tent
Inside my tent
A cosy sitting area and TV
A well-equipped bathroom in a tent annex
A well-equipped bathroom in a tent annex
Bathroom amenities at Festa de Diu
All the amenities you’d expect in a five star hotel

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

Dining area at Festa de Diu
Dining area at Festa de Diu

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.

Bar at Festa de Diu
The bar

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.

Lunch at Festa de Diu
My lunch
Dessert at Festa de Diu
Gulab jamun for dessert

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.

Red wattled lapwing
Red wattled lapwing

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.

Colourful wares outside Nagoa Beach - these are pistachio fruits
Colourful wares outside Nagoa Beach – these are pistachio fruits

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.

Sand castle at Nagoa Beach
Republic Day fervour!

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.

Nagoa Beach
Adventure sports at Nagoa Beach

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.

Sunset at Diu

Sunset at Diu

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.

Raaga Trippin performs at Festa de Diu
Raaga Trippin performs at Festa de Diu

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.

Raaga Trippin performs at Festa de Diu
A closer look

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.

Morning magic

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.

Sunrise at Diu

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.

Sunrise at Diu

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.

A sea bird at Diu
A sea bird

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.

Naida Caves, Diu
Naida Caves
INS Khukhri Memorial
INS Khukhri Memorial
Fudam Bird Sanctuary, Diu
Fudam Bird Sanctuary

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!

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