On crossing the Aronda Bridge in Keri and twelve kilometres later, one reaches Keri, a village in the district of Sindhudurg in Maharashtra. The coastline is welcoming, but the infrastructure is wanting. Yet, with the greenfield international airport due to start by next year, a gradual shift in tourism to the coastline is inevitable.
“The beach at Redi is beautiful. It is untouched, but the government needs to look at developing infrastructure. It is not possible to get a bus with tourists to this beach. The market is far away. They need to develop a proper market near the coastline,” thinks Petr, a tourist scout from Russia checking out the facilities around the beach.
There is one hotel with six non-air conditioned rooms and a restaurant that is connected to the main road, which is around six kilometres away by a narrow road. The hotel is on a hill which has its base extended onto the beach.
“We get clients from Maharashtra and Goa at the moment. We started in March of this year and are positive about doing well,” said Sachin Pirankar, one of the partners of the hotel.
The beating of waves on the shoreline and the occasional sound of motorised canoes setting out to sea are the only sounds one hears from the grounds of the hotel.
“One has to come stocked when one is travelling for a vacation here, but the mix of colours and sounds is what many of our clients are searching for in Russia,” claims Petr, as he and his colleague sample the cuisine of the hotel. “It’s digestible,” he mutters.
“We do not have a bar license, but we expect to get one once the government has a policy in place. Redi is far away from mainstream life. But, things have been changing since the start of construction work for an airport in Mopa. We think we will feel its financial effect once it becomes operational,” says Sachin.
A few kilometres away from Redi is Shirgaon Beach which, unlike Redi, is developed. There are shacks on the beach and water sports with jet skis and para-sailing being the two main activities provided to tourists. Russian tourists have started visiting both villages, and many have started staying in Shirgaon because the infrastructure is better.
“The Goa you see today is not what it was when we first came years ago. It is too crowded now, but it is even now the place for our tourists because Goa has still the best to offer in terms of tourism infrastructure. But it is our job to keep looking because tourists the world over still look for quaint places to be in. Silence, as it is said, is golden for many of our clients,” he quips.
“I began to like the beauty of beaches in Goa, where I also met my partner Elsa. I have been coming to this beach as I live a few kilometres away. Goa is still just a drive away for me and so we go to Goa often. Now people from Goa have started to come to stay here, and I foresee a cultural exchange through the coast,” says Vivek, who lives on the Maharashtra side of the border with Goa.
“I love the sea, and my girlfriend likes to get a tan on the beach. This place is much quieter than Goa, and when we miss the parties and nightlife in Goa, we take a drive across,” confesses Vivek, as he starts his motorbike.
“This is a safe place. The people over here are nice. Though they are not very conversant in English, they understand our needs, and I think this attitude is what tourists look for,” says Petr.
“The road will be properly built and, as you can see, there is another project coming up close by. People are thinking of putting up stalls around, and I think Redi will be ready to welcome guests once the airport in Mopa is operational,” assures Sachin.
“We live in Sawantwadi and have been coming to spend some time on the beach with our children who have their holidays. We spend a night and go back the next day as my husband has his business,” says Chitra, one of the guests. “It is convenient and safe for us. The waters here are calm. There are no waves on this side,” she adds, as the restaurant begins to serve tea to its customers.