India and water sports

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India’s long coastline is underexploited when one considers the potential for developing water sports and tourism along it. Luckily though, there is an enormous interest in these activities and though still at a nascent stage, this can surely become a highly successful industry, says Devender Kundaliya.

Nature has blessed India with a long, vivacious coastline, swirling rivers, fresh water lakes, streams, and many other types of water bodies that offer excellent opportunities for hosting a variety of water sports activities in the country. India’s mainland coastline is about 6,100 km long – running from Kandla in Gujarat to Kolkata in West Bengal – surrounded by the Arabian Sea to the west, the Indian Ocean to the south, and the Bay of Bengal to the east. If Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also included, the Indian coastline length reaches about 7510 km. Such a long coastline means India has huge potential for beach and water sports tourism. However, the fact is that despite this long coastline and abundance of water bodies, the huge potential of water sports in India still remains untapped, and there is an urgent need to develop basic infrastructure in coastal regions to promote water sports activities.

Presently, Goa, Lakshadweep, Uttarakhand, Kerala and Andaman and Nicobar Islands are the only destinations where you can find good facilities for water sports in India. Rishikesh in Uttarakhand is best known for white water rafting in the Ganges. The 36-km stretch of the Ganges from Kaudiyala to Rishikesh with 12 major rapids, is perfect for those who love to face the challenges of nature. Goa, along its 105-km long coastline has about 40 beaches, many of which offer a wide range of water games like fishing, parasailing, jet skiing, scuba diving, wind surfing, dinghy sailing, etc. Kovalam Beach in Kerala can be visited to test your skills in canoeing, catamaran sailing, para-sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling and wind surfing. Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean offer their own surprises to visitors, holding a promise of action-packed holiday tour with activities like scuba diving, water skiing, snorkeling, and glass bottom boating. In Lakshadweep, you can explore the colorful marine world after learning just a few initial lessons in snorkeling.

Huge unexplored potential

Although all these regions provide good water sports opportunities to travellers, there are so many other places in the country which can be developed as the next water sports centers. River rafting activities, which are currently limited to Ganges in Rishikesh and, to a lesser extent in Beas near Manali and parts of the Indus in Ladakh, can be extended to areas like Teesta in Sikkim, Brahamputra in Assam, Chandra in Lahaul (Himachal Pradesh) and Bharali in Arunachal Pradesh. All these regions have great potential to be developed as new river rafting centers in India.

Similarly, there are plenty of natural and man-made lakes where aquatic games like sailing, wind surfing and angling of the trout fish can be promoted. Presently, there are only a couple of lakes in India, including Pong dam in Himachal Pradesh and in Umaim near Shillong, where water game facilities have been developed.

Tamilnadu, Orissa, Karnataka and West Bengal are the major states which have not yet fully tapped the huge potential of water sports despite having a long coastline.

Kerala

Kovalam beach is the prime water sports center in Kerala. However, Alappuzha is another region which has the potential to host backwater-kayaking and yachting activities in the state. Some private tour companies in the recent past have organised kayaking events on Punnamada Lake and in some interior parts of Kuttanad. There are many small canals in Alappuzha which are attached to Punnamada Lake, thereby offering a huge advantage in terms of organising sports activities. Lack of infrastructure and public awareness in Alappuzha presents hindrance in promoting backwater-kayaking in this area. Many public bodies have now requested the government to come up with a plan to promote kayaking as a leisure sport in Alappuzha.

Kozhikode district is another ideal region in Kerala to organise adventure aquatic sports. Kodikkal beach located about 14 km from Vadakara, offers nice conditions for water games. Some gaming enthusiasts have conducted parasailing demonstrations in recent years to bring the attention of the administration to the Kodikkal beach, but the government is yet to take a decision on developing this spot as a waters sports area. Located about 40 km from Kochi, the Mararikulam Beach with its golden sands and swaying palm trees is another promising area for hosting aquatic games.

Andhra Pradesh

The coastal city of Vishakapatnam (Vizag) in Andhra Pradesh has been awaiting infrastructure development for years to conduct water game activities. This city has been endowed with picturesque beaches and ideal wind and wave conditions which can transform it into an international water sports destination. The tide, wind and sea conditions in Vizag are at par with the best water sports destinations in the world, and the beaches are perfect for water sports. Vizag is equipped with several star-rated hotels, air connectivity, and other facilities to cater to domestic and international tourists.

Maharashtra

Tarkarli is the most popular water games center in Maharashtra, with nice scuba diving and snorkeling facilities developed around Sindhudurg Fort in Malvan. Tsunami island off the coast of Devbaug also offers some exciting aquatic games including parasailing. Despite the popularity of these areas, there is much scope still to develop facilities and infrastructure for promoting aquatic sports in the state. Moreover, there are many other small beaches along Maharashtra’s coast, starting from the famous Juhu beach in Mumbai to Murud beach in Konkan lying about 220 km south, which can be further developed to provide gaming facilities to tourists. Ganapatipule Beach, Dahanu-Bordi Beach, Mandwa and Kihim Beach, Velneshwar Beach, Vengurla Malvan Beach, and Bassein Beach are some of the unspoiled beaches along the whole stretch that have been awaiting development and water game facilities for many years.

Gujarat

The most popular beaches in Gujarat are Ahmedpur Mandvi Beach, Somnath Beach, Chorwad Beach, Gopnath Beach, Kutch Mandvi Beach, Dwaraka Beach, Nagoa Beach, Gomtimata Beach, and Ghoghla Beach. Some of these beaches do offer facilities for games like water scooters, sailing, and speed boat trips. However, there is much scope left for development and promotion of aquatic games in Gujarat. Recently, the Gujarat government announced a policy to encourage adventure sports tourism in the state, revealing it would promote activities – such as boat and water scooter, water skiing, parasailing, fun riding, jet-skiing, kayaking, wind surfing & sailing, canoeing and scuba diving – at all popular beaches, lakes, rivers, creeks and other water bodies in the state.

Conclusion

To sum up, India’s vast coastline and presence of several lakes and rivers hold a promise for exciting water sports activities, tourism development, employment creation, and earning large sums of foreign exchange in addition to giving a fillip to overall economic and social development in the country. Much has been achieved, but much more still remains to be done. Since water-sports and tourism development is a multidimensional activity, it is essential that the private sector, voluntary organisations, respective state governments, and the central government do their best in this endeavour to make India a world player in this industry.


Devender-Kundaliya

Devender Kundaliya

The author is a freelance travel writer based in Dehradun.

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