Mandarmani is a popular weekend getaway near Kolkata, West Bengal, which is frequented by tourists thanks to its vast and serene beaches, laid-back atmosphere and the numerous sight-seeing locales in the vicinity. Located 180 KM from the Kolkata airport, Mandarmani is part of a series of tranquil beaches in the area, including Tajpur, Mohona, Shankarpur and Digha, all of which have recently popped up in the radar (all except for Digha) as places of tourist attraction! Brief History: Mandarmani was a virgin beach when it was discovered a few years ago and numerous efforts to transform it into a weekend getaway has been up and running ever since. Although, the primary objective of the West Bengal Government was to captivate the charm and peaceful atmosphere of the region, the presence of tourists has disturbed the idyllic setting to a certain extent. However, if you’re in or around Kolkata and are looking for a weekend escapade, Mandarmani is the nearest (and quietest) sea beach that you can visit. The region was officially named Mandarboni right after inception, although, the transformation occurred naturally over the years. About Mandarmani: Located approximately 180 KM from the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, on the way to Digha, Mandarmani is accessible by road and by train. Mandarmani has a 13 KM long motorable beach, which is often regarded as the longest motorable beach in India. However, there is much debate surrounding this. The sea beach at Mandarmani is considerably peaceful when compared to Digha, making it an ideal location for spending a lazy weekend! Travelling to Mandarmani: By Road – If you like travelling, and prefer taking the less-travelled route, I’d recommend a road-trip to Mandarmani. West Bengal is well-connected by a vast channel of National and State Highways and the ride is smooth for the most part. However, minor repairs are currently being made to parts of NH116B, although, the work is quite organized and should not cause a major holdup. The 6 KM stretch from Choulkhola to Mandarmani is non-existent towards the last few KMs. However, an all-weather dirt track is under development, connecting the villages to the main beach. You can cover the last leg of the stretch by driving over the beach, which houses most of the hotels. However, try to stick to the tyre tracks since the beach is laden with quicksand and mud. Directions – Vidyasagar Setu > Kona More > Kolaghat > Nandakumar > Contai > Choulkhola > Mandarmani Mode of Transportation – Public transport includes buses on the Howrah-Digha and Dharamala-Digha route, which will take you up to Choulkhola. Once there, you can hire a rickshaw or rent a car up to Mandarmani. You can charter a vehicle from Kolkata for the trip, although, the rates might vary depending on your location. I’d recommend opting for a reputed Renting Agency since they do not charge bloated rates, but offer premium customer satisfaction. You could even rent a motorcycle if you’d like. Even though two-wheeler rentals are not yet popular in this part of the country, operators are slowly catching up to the demands of the market. By Train – The nearest railway station is at Ramnagar, which is 11 KM away from Choulkhola. You can board a train on the Howrah/Santragachi – Digha route and get off at Ramnagar. Once there, you need to rent a car and reach Mandarmani. By Air – The nearest airport is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport at Kolkata, which is connected to most major cities in India and a few international destinations. Once you’re on the ground, you can visit Mandarmani either by road or by train. Places of Interest: Shankarpur – Shankarpuris located just 21.7 KM from Mandarmani. It is famous for the Fishing Harbor Project. You could board a bus on the Dharamtala – Shankarpur route or rent a car from Choulkhola, and reach Shankarpur. Tajpur – Tajpur is Mandarmani’s immediate neighbor and is approximately 19.3 KM away. The pristine beach was recently discovered and transformed into a tourist attraction. Hence, it is still mostly undisturbed. At night, you can see the lights illuminating the sea beaches at Mandarmani on one side and Mohona on the other. Couple that with millions of stars above your head, which makes the view truly spectacular! Junput – Located approximately 30 KM from Mandarmani, towards Contai, Junput has a virgin beach, which is largely unpopulated. The only activity in the region is due to the presence of the State Government Fisheries Department. Mohona – Mohona or the River Delta separates the sea beaches at Mandarmani and Tajpur. Hence, is accessible from both ends! The confluence is spread across a vast area and is devoid of hotels and tourists. The Mandarmani beach has local transport that will take you to Mohona and back, but you might have to bargain for the best price! Digha – The sea beach at Digha needs no introduction, since it is an integral part of West Bengal tourism. However, there are quite a few places of interest in and near Digha, apart from the beach, which can be explored while you’re at it! Digha is approximately 30 KM from Mandarmani and you could board a bus from Choulkhola on the Dharamtala – Digha route or rent a car, for the journey. The local market on the beach is exclusively dedicated to the tourists and you will find numerous handicrafts to add to your collection. However, bargaining is a must if you don’t want to get ripped! Udaipur – The sea beach at Udaipur, located 32 KM from Mandarmani, is an unexplored beach located at the Bengal-Orissa border. This beach is not on the tourist radar yet and is hence mostly unexplored. Do not disturb the ecological balance of the area while you are at Udaipur, since this beach is the breeding ground for turtles. Apart from the beaches at Shankarpur, Tajpur, Junput, Mohona, Digha and Talsari, you can visit The Science Centre, Marine Aquarium, Lankeshwari Temple, Amarabati Park and the Planetarium, which are located within close proximity. Staying at Mandarmani: The sea beach at Mandarmani is lined with hotels across a varying price range, although, there are no budget hotels in the area. You might have to shell out anything between INR 1,400 – 1,900 per night, per room (Non-AC). Air conditioned rooms can be priced anywhere between INR 2,200 – 5,000+ per night, depending on the facilities available. You could book hotel rooms online or visit their city office for pre-booking. This is not mandatory since you are bound to find accommodation on the spot. Try to avoid middlemen while striking the deal, unless you absolutely need their assistance. Mandarmani is yet to be a part of an electric grid. Hence, the entire area is powered by diesel generators. Everything from hotels to shacks on the beach run on generators; hence, you don’t have to worry about power-cuts! The generators are, however, turned off every day from 8 am to 10 am and between 5 to 7 pm. Hence, Mandarmani has 20 hours of seamless power supply! Venturing out to the beach at night is strictly prohibited and the law is enforced by the local authorities that patrol at night. The area is devoid of all human activity after sunset, save for the distant clamor of merriment emanating from the hotels. Activities on the sea beach include ATV and Jet Ski rides, Banana Boat and parasailing, etc. There are no fixed rates; hence the attendants tend to overcharge. Get back to your senses and ask for a fair price! Wine and Dine: Don’t expect fancy food in Mandarmani, since there are no dedicated restaurants or food joints in the area. The only available options are the numerous shacks offering breakfast, brunch, tea and coffee, apart from the in-house dining facilities at the hotels. Eating to your heart’s content at Mandarmani might not be a wholesome experience, since food is expensive in the area. If you’re a foodie, trying to relish sea fare, I’d recommend travelling to Digha, since it is the only place with abundant options to choose from. You can also grab a quick bite at Tajpur and Udaipur. The nearest wholesale market is 22 KM away at Contai, and most of the supplies are transported via road. The local market is inadequately equipped to meet the demands of the hotels, further hiking the price. Most of the hotels do not have professional chefs managing the kitchen. Hence, you will have to survive on the limited items on the menu. However, health and hygiene are mostly ensured! Alcohol is available, although, it’s better to carry your own bottle, since the shop has limited stock, and is expensive. Weather and Terrain: The perfect time to visit Mandarmani is from September to May, although, you should visit the place during the monsoons at least once! The behavior of the Bay changes drastically over the months, and one needs to experience the impact of all three climatic changes on Mandarmani. During summer (between March and May) the average temperature during the day is around 36 degrees while at night the temperature falls to around 22 degrees. During monsoon (between June and September) if it’s not raining, wind speeds can sometimes reach phenomenal levels. The evenings are particularly pleasant, although, humidity is a problem during the day. During winter (between October and February) the lowest temperature recorded was 10 degrees while the maximum temperature is usually around 28 degrees. Winters are particularly calm and chill; add to that the quiet and serene ambience of the surrounding forest and you’re looking at a recipe for the perfect adventure! The shoreline at Mandarmani is covered by Coastal Sheoak, locally referred to as Jhau, and the forest is mostly used by the locals. You might want to explore the surrounding area, but do not get carried away. Points to Ponder: Since Mandarmani is a motorable beach, it is important to gather information regarding the high and low tide, if you intend to drive on the beach. During high tides, the sea can reach the beach level, leaving no room for stranded motorists. Drive safe!