Mandarmani, the pristine resort at the north end of the Bay of Bengal, is ideal for a peaceful weekend escape from the noisy madness of life in the city, writes sudipta chatterjee

AS our car turned from the Contai road to reach Chawalkhola, we could already smell the sea and feel the salty wet wind in our hair. Turning left, we followed the village road ending at the quiet little seaside hamlet of Dadanpatrabar. The narrow road from here finally brought us to the miles of sandy beach that comprises the essence of Mandarmani. We motored cautiously across the long beach towards the hotel as four-wheelers are known to get stuck and stranded in the sand during tides.
To our delight, we found Mandarmani, the pristine seaside resort at the north end of the Bay of Bengal, was ideal for a peaceful weekend escape from the noisy madness of life in the city. Close to the more popular East Midnapore tourist spots of Digha and Shankarpur, this place was exclusive for its uncrowded simplicity and slow, stretching sands. The long driveable beach, with the whispering sea rolling in softly, was ideal for both sunbathing and beach games like volleyball and cricket. And for the camera enthusiast, the setting sun lingered invitingly on the horizon for the right effect.
The distinctive red crabs of Mandarmani apparently resemble the “mandar” or fabled “blossom of paradise”, which explains their name. It was a trifle disturbing to know that, due to the rising threats to the ecological balance of these seaside areas, the beautiful crab was turning into a threatened and dwindling species.
The sandy area, a little surprisingly, had thick vegetation in pockets, complete with lines of verdant keya trees on the beach. We decided to take an idle boat cruise in the afternoon and chatted freely with the garrulous old boatman, who doubles as a panchayat functionary of the area. He was, expectedly, well-informed and we got to know a lot about local fishing practices and the trade in the area. Encouraged by him, we actually tried some freshly caught fish fried hot by local vendors and served on the beach — a unique indulgence of the Bengali palate.
October to February is believed to be the best period to visit Mandarmani. Coming here by road, from Kolaghat, is actually the best plan, although one can board trains to Contai, the nearest station. For accommodation, one is spoilt for choice as there are so many hotels and resorts to choose from.