Distance from Kolkata: 178 km
Driving Time: 4 hours
Road Trip: 2-3 days
Digha – the name that brings to mind, images of clogged roads, littered beaches, blaring honks, glaring lights, makeshift shacks selling gaudy souvenirs of the sea. These factors have made people apprehensive of visiting Digha. But WAIT! Perhaps a pleasant surprise awaits you now at Digha. Wide open beaches, sea-side promenade running for miles, a cleaner outlook- things have certainly changed. Can’t believe? Welcome to a transformed Digha
The very first kick of Digha’s newfound image would hit you as you drive past the huge Gateway of Digha that stands resembling a carnival entrance. And as you drive further into Digha, its metamorphosed look will command for your undivided attention. There’s a visible facelift with white and blue colour tones elevating the surrounding, the effect of which can be felt as you make your way towards the sea beach. Yes, there has indeed been an incredible transformation in Digha in the last four years and all through the dedicated efforts of Digha Shankarpur Development Authority (DSDA), under the state Government, led by Sujan Dutta. DSDA has enshouldered the task of the revival of tourism in the Digha-Sankharpur-Tajpur-Mandarmani belt and to provide the tourists with a cleaner and a more memorable experience. As per the survey by Team WHEELS, Digha dons a complete new look with New Digha and Shankarpur closely following suit – where work is still in progress.
Digha’s seafront, starting from old Digha and ending all the way up to the Orissa border at Udaipur, has recently been constructed. A 6 km long sea-facing walkway- named Saikat Sarani has been paved for tourists with colourful interlocking cobbled tiles along with a continuous white marble boundary wall cum seat, rendering a risk-free view of the vivacious sea.
In line with the construction of Saikat Sarani, the entire beach front at Digha has also been revamped with wrought iron benches and LED lamps.The palpable freshness can be felt as you take a stroll beside the sea, or sit on the benches with the pleasant breeze blowing across your hair, the sight of the fishermen’s boat on the high sea and the never ending waves seducing you to a good time by the bay.
A mini park named Biswa Bangla Udyan has also been constructed and is a gem of a sight at night. The Biswa Bangla Globe, fountains, lights, sunflower and marigold gardens, a small island with Pelican replicas on a water body – there’s a pleasingly charming and radiant tune that can be heard all across at Old Digha’s seafront.
New Beach Markets
The dingy shacks that swarmed around the Digha beach have been removed with the stall owners rehabilitated to a planned market just beside Biswa Bangla Udyan. From shops selling aesthetic sea-shell jewelleries to fried fish, there’s something to suit everyone’s taste. Divided into two blocks, the best part about the market is its ease of access and navigation.
Cleanliness – The New Mantra
To keep Digha clean, garbage bins have been installed all across the place with sweepers cleaning up the area twice everyday. Additionally, shopkeepers at the market are also playing their part in informing tourists about garbage disposals.
The cleanliness drive has also made an immense impact on the famous Casuarina forest between old and New Digha, adorning a stark-clean look and giving us a pleasant surprise during our visit to the forest. The sight of styrofoam plates and polythene bags heaping up and lying unattended in the forest due to uninitiated tourists are now a thing of the past. You can now easily wander about in the forest, soaking into its natural splendour.
New Parking Slots and Kerbs
Motorists take note! Your wish has finally been granted. To address the issue of car parking, newly etched parking slots have been constructed intermittently at Digha. The main road also bears a newfangled look with road demarcation, lane marking and newly constructed kerbs that play a crucial role in maintaining road safety.
New Digha has also seen light of the day on the development front. The entire New Digha has a new road network with kerbs, medians and street lights being installed. The beach front has been planned with separate parking areas for small vehicles and large commercial vehicles such as buses. Some of the structures have already been constructed but a major part of the work is yet to be completed.
A large number of beachside shacks have been dismantled and relocated into local market blocks that are set-up recently. Albeit a few shacks still remain orphaned, eventually they would be allotted a permanent place at the market.
To entice tourists particularly interested in water sport, adventure rides have newly been set up by private agencies in New Digha. Till recently, visitors could enjoy these rides only at Mandarmani. But since last year, the likes of Jet-skis, speed boats, ATV rides and banana boats have made their foray into the beaches of New Digha and visitors just can’t seem to get enough of them.
Jet Ski ride: High on the thrill factor, Jet Skis provide an exhilarating kick of adrenaline and should undoubtedly be first in your ‘to do’ list whilst at Digha. Reaching speeds of up to 60 km/hr, Jet Skis are a riveting way of taking on the waves. While taking the ride, you will be provided with a life-jacket and a trained rider would accompany as the scooter marches into the deep sea. The Jet Ski is made to glide across the sea from left to right as you traverse waves after waves while staring at the vastness of the water around you. The Jet Ski ride takes you about a kilometre deep into the sea.
Banana Ride: If the idea of being suspended mid-water sounds fascinating, then you’re in for a treat as that is exactly what the ride is all about. The ride looks like a kayak boat and five people can sit together at the same time. Get in the sea; each rider would be given a life-jacket and you can have a splashing-around session, 1.5 km away from the shores.
Speed Boat: Brave the waves with your family and friends. There are two variants to the speed boat; the regular and the high speed variant. These boats go about 2 km in the sea with five people onboard along with a lifeguard for safety.
ATV: Get moving on the undulating sand! For people who love off-roading, the All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) is as close as it gets at the beach of New Digha. There are three ATVs that are doing the rounds and are operated by trained drivers.
Presently three water sport agencies are offering these rides at New Digha with safety features such as life jackets, life guards and on ground safety personnel.
Revival of Shankarpur
During the monsoon of 2012, Shankarpur lost much of its sheen due to a cyclone that hit its shore and destroyed the beach, rendering it an apocalypse ridden look, and striking the place off the tourist trail. Recently, with sincere efforts of the DSDA, Shankarpur is back again on the tourist radar and is not only regaining its past glory but trying to emulate it as well.
Similar to ‘Saikat Sarani’, a white marble sea-facing walkway has been constructed at Shankarpur as well. To make the place more tourist friendly, a marine theme-park is currently being constructed with whales, dolphins and shark-jaw installations. The park also has 5-6 huts where benches are installed for the tourists to sit and admire the charming sea.
Due to the recent developmental activities, numerous hotels have come up in Shankarpur. Presently there are 20-22 hotels but their numbers are touted to double by the time the entire park and the sea facing walkways are completed. Like at Digha, a planned market has also been set up at Shankarpur.
A ‘Shankarpur to Tajpur’ Marine Drive has also been laid out by the DSDA that runs parallel to the sea and provides breathtaking views of the water. Interestingly, the Marine Drive has also shortened the distance between Shankarpur and Tajur to just 4 km instead of the 14 km it used to take via the outer main road earlier.
The DSDA is putting in tremendous efforts to revive tourism in the entire Digha-Shankarpur-Mandarmani belt. With the stunning face-lift to Digha and the ongoing developmental works at Shankarpur, it now stands to be seen whether these blooming changes can indeed bring in substantial returns in terms of revenue for the state.
Mohana Fish Market
If you’re done with soaking into the serenity of Digha and experiencing the adrenaline rush in the fun rides at the beach and plan to pack up, hold on!! You still have another must-visit place to explore in Digha – Mohana fish market, largest of its kind in eastern India.
Dealing in about 450-500 metric tonnes, and 80-100 different species of fish daily, Digha Mohana fish market is an action-packed wonder in Digha.
Visiting the fish market is both humbling and educative. With divergent species of fish from Asian Barramundi to Sand Lobsters, the Digha Mohana fish market is a fish lover’s paradise, where one can witness live fish auction. Apart from the fish caught at Digha, catches from the nearby ports of Petuaghat, Baleswar, Paradeep and Shankarpur are also transported to this market. Trading starts as early as 4 am in the morning. To get a grasp of the bidding process, one should focus on the auction tables. There are two hundred and fifty auction tables in total that are presided over by the auctioneer, locally known as aroddar, where bidders from fish trading companies all over India come and bid for the fish of their choice and requirement. Malabar Reef Cod, Hilsa, Tuna, Silver Pomfret, Yellowfin Tuna, Leatherskin, Ribbonfish, Indian Conger Eel, Sole Fish and Squids are some of the most traded fishes in the market.
Crabs are also one of the star attractions of the market. Unlike the fresh water crabs, sea crabs exhibit colourful patterns on their shells and are one of the best selling fishes. After a company has successfully won a bid, they put a label of their own on the crates which are then taken to their local store houses. At the store house, the fishes are sorted according to orders and are cold stored before being exported. In India, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, Siliguri and Guwahati are some of the largest retail fish markets where these fishes are also transported and sold. There’s a retail section at the Mohana fish market as well where tourists line up to buy fish of their choice.
The Digha Mohana fish market operates for 10 months a year from 15th June to 15th April of the following year, before a two month break during the mating season of the fishes. Presently 2070 watercrafts are registered under the Digha Fishermen and Fish Traders Association, the governing body of the fish trade, and includes mechanised boat, trawler, hand trawler, local boat and others. The daily turnover of the market is around Rs 3.50 crore, which goes as high as Rs 650 crore during the peak seasons while the international sales has reached the $75 million mark.
WATER SPORT AT NEW DIGHA
Jet-Ski Ride : Rs 500
Banana Ride : Rs 300
Speed Boat : Rs 150
High Speed Boat : Rs 200
ATV Ride : Rs 200