Ever heard of the tiny coastal town of Dapoli? I hadn’t either! That was until I visited the Fern Samali Resort there to review the property. Ratnagiri is known for being a little, un-touristy Goa away from Goa, and for those adventurous souls in Mumbai, it is a scenic getaway that comes at the end of a 230 km drive. It is more or less the same distance from Goa.

dapoli beach

I learned a lot about the place even as I made my way to the hotel. For starters, it is the home of the biggest Agricultural University in India, Dr. Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidhyapeeth (phew, that name is a mouthful!). Secondly, it is very close to Velas, one of the best places in the country to spot thousands of baby Olive Ridley Turtles make their maiden voyage to the sea after hatching in nests made in the sand.

It was also the place where the British Army set up their camp. And the entire area is dotted with sites like Pankhalekaji Caves, Unhavare hotsprings, the Kanakdurg and Suvarnadurg sea forts and tranquil temples. A couple of my Instagram followers suggested I check out the fish auctions at Harnai that takes place in the early morning.

As always, I was short on time as my stay in Dapoli was only for a day, so I chose to visit two beaches. I’ve read that Ladgarh Beach was known for its red sandy shore, which lends its colour to the water too. However, it didn’t seem that red to me, to be honest. There were patches of small red stones here and there, but the sand seemed absolutely normal. Perhaps I didn’t walk far enough down the beach.

ladgarh beach dapoli

thatgoangirl dapoli

There’s not much to do here in terms of food or water sports, but it is blissfully quiet if one would just like to spend some time doing nothing but watching the waves brush your feet. A stretch of tiny guesthouses across the road are the only signs of commercialization I saw but spotting a person in and around these guesthouses was rare. I could just imagine how this undiscovered gem would look 20 years from now – ugly buildings, parking lots and throngs of tourists.

thatgoangirl dapoli

konkan coast beach

coastal towns ratnagiri

We went back up the road and instead of heading out on to the main road, we turned right and followed the road as it gently led up a cliff. The pathway changed from a badly tarred road with mango tree branches forming a canopy above us, to a red, muddy path that was suddenly devoid of any shade, allowing the sun to beat down mercilessly.

ratnagiri trip

karde beach ratnagiri 1

We kept walking and there, just beside us, in the middle of a grassy patch was a majestic eagle, aware of our presence, but fearlessly drinking from a pool of water in a naturally made rocky bowl. Still further, the last few trees give way to a grassy plain that leads all the way to where the cliff drops.

beach in ratnagiri

trip to ratnagiri

I make my way to the edge amidst blades of calf-high grass, carefully picking each foothold to get a good grip. Yellow butterflies circle around my shoes, awakened by the foreign object, before disappearing again. For a while, this didn’t seem like Dapoli… or Maharashtra, for that matter. I close my eyes and listen, the only sounds are the sea, the birds and the breeze. The air feels different here, cooled by a steady rush as the sea meets the cliff top with a muffled roar, like a crowded stadium.

tgg dapoli ratnagiri

On the surface, Dapoli looks like a sleepy town with absolutely nothing to see and do. But if you have your own vehicle, travel down the narrow winding lanes and I bet you’ll find yourself in the midst of a serene landscape. On my last, equally short trip to Ratnagiri, I did squeeze in a trip to Mandvi Beach, famed for its ash-like black sand.

If you’re drawn towards places like these, stop at Grandmother’s Hole Beach on your next visit to Goa. To get there, you’ll need to walk down 200 steps to the seashore.

Hope you enjoyed reading this quick post! Thanks for stopping by!

One thing I’ve been hearing from you guys is that you want to hear more travel stories and know more pet-friendly trips you can take. Well, ask and you shall receive! I made my second trip to Ratnagiri, Maharashtra in 2 months and found a spot for all you nature enthusiasts. *happy dance*

A couple of weeks ago, I stayed at the Fern Samali in Dapoli. The Fern is a brand known for its endeavors to be in unison with nature – be it in a bustling metro like Mumbai or off the beaten path in Dapoli. And Ratnagiri district is known for being so tropical – with its sandy beaches, forested ghats and balmy weather. As a vacation spot, it can be quite outlying and relatively unknown as a tourist destination.

GETTING THERE

From Mumbai, The Fern Samali is around 220 kms and you’d have to drive to Panvel and carry on straight until you take a right turn to enter Khopoli. Cross Imagica and head further on until the road divides into two. Turn left to get on to NH66 and follow the road past Kolad, Mangaon, Mandangad and Palgad. Finally, take a right at Sondheghar and after driving 35 kms or so, you’ll have arrived.

thefern samali dapoli

However, I made my way there from Mahabaleshwar, which was a breathtakingly beautiful drive for the most part and I’ll share the travelogue with you shortly. We drove through the flowering ghats on route 72 and turned left at Poladpur to get on NH 66. Once you take a right turn from Khed, its around 30 kms to Dapoli and another 6 to read the entrance of Fern Samali.

fern samali dapoli

THE HOTEL

What I found pretty cool about the Fern Samali is that it dates back to an era when that spot was a British Military Camp. Being on a height, one can see the sea from certain vantage points (one of which is marked with a horse statue.) The resort has 16 luxurious cottages and 22 well furnished rooms.

fern samali entrance

fern samali entry

You get a taste of the lush greenery from the moment you begin heading up the 2 km long driveway to the lobby. Parked outside are a row of cycles which I later learnt you could take and pedal down to the mango plantation the hotel takes care of. The lobby is bright and simple – stairs leading down to a small seating area and a small desk with a receptionist. Got to love these quaint, small-town hotels!

eco friendly fern resort dapoli

fern samali reception

Quite thoughtfully, the hotel has a rack of brochures comprising of things to do in the area. If you’re a long time reader of That Goan Girl, you’d know I love collecting brochures and flipping through them on rainy days! Anyway, I didn’t linger here for long – couldn’t wait to see my room! So I sipped up the welcome drink and headed off, while encountering some lifelike statues of a leopard and deer on the way!

fern samali rooms

fern samali property

Doesn’t this abundance of greenery look refreshing? The botanical names of most plants were mentioned on little boards as an activity for kids to find and cross off these names on a list for a gift.
fern samali resort

fern resort grounds

MY ROOM

Quriky, colourful, fun – what’s not to love! These rooms had character alright – a patterned headboard, cool lamps, colourful pictures hanging on the walls and bright tiles as cupboard handles! The room was spacious and I kid you not, that bed was the softest I’ve ever slept on – it was like sleeping on the clouds! We just lay on it and were out like a light.

aster room fern samali

fern samali dapoli room

All the rooms are named after flowers, and the category I was in was called Aster. One of the characteristics of these rooms was picture-perfect balconies behind sliding glass doors. It was absolutely blissful to sit here on the swing in the morning and look out at the greenery. The hotel has set up little bird feeding stations between two balconies so that you can wake up to the sound of chirping birds. Cool concept, right? Oh, and don’t miss those eclectic tiles

fern resort dapoli

Another smart move to further the eco-friendly nature that the Fern Resorts live by is that the air conditioner automatically switches off through sensors the moment the patio doors open, in an attempt to cut electricity wastage.

The bathroom was pretty small in comparison to the roomy bedroom and could have been bigger. I had an opportunity to check out the rest of the rooms and really loved the one in the Saffron Suite! What was interesting was that the Lilac cottages had open sky bathrooms with real-life gardens having a lotus pond and no glass door separating it. I’d be pretty scared if I was showering and happened to see a lizard or a frog, lol!

Coming back to my room, in terms of amenities, there was a large TV, cupboard, work desk, tea-and-coffee making facilities and toiletries. A little more attention could have been paid here – we had milk sachets, but no sugar – shampoo, but no conditioner.

Overall, I loved the room and it is super comfortable for a long weekend or for the business traveller. Look how huge this sofa was! I loved curling up on it 🙂

thatgoangirl fern samali

THE FOOD

The food at the Fern Samali was lip-smacking! I checked in at around 3pm and hadn’t had lunch so we ordered some noodles and a club sandwich! They arrived pretty quick, which was good since we were ravenous!

fern samali food

Ratnagiri, being a coastal place, I couldn’t leave without trying the seafood and that’s what I sampled for dinner. The butter garlic prawns were juicy and tempting! I tried something different called the Vangyanch Bharit or stuffed brinjal and absolutely loved this saucy new way of eating boring brinjal. I wasn’t a fan of the tandoori sabz, though – the chunks of veggies were roasted with spices in the tandoor but the spices tasted overpowering and hard-hitting on the tastebuds and throat. Murg Malwani or chicken cooked in traditional Malwani spices paired with butter naan really hit the spot and for dessert, I had a cute dessert cup layered with gajar ka halwa and two other sweets that I fail to remember.

The next morning, I went out sightseeing and since it was so hot, I headed back to the room to cool down before heading for breakfast. The breakfast buffet was to close at 10 am, and just as I was about to leave for the restaurant at 9:45 or so, I receive a call from the restaurant saying that I could order my breakfast now and come over in 10-15 minutes when it’s ready. Again, the thoughtfulness was noticed here and the small gesture was appreciated. And the breakfast was absolutely yum!! Perfectly made tea with hot and crispy medhu wadas, aloo paratha and cheese omlette.

breakfast fern samali
AMENITIES

Taking a walk around the huge property sure is a work-out and I couldn’t help but notice how much pets would love sniffing curiously around the grassy patches.

fern aster rooms

Honestly, the amenities were a mix between ‘great’ and ‘definite work needed.’ I personally liked the spacious breezy restaurant which can accommodate around 80 people, but in the evening when we dropped by for a coffee, the light did attract all sorts of bugs – a part and parcel of being amidst nature, but definitely wouldn’t like them doing a backstroke in my coffee.

restaurant fern samali

From the restaurant, you can see the amphitheater where folk dances and skits are sometimes organized. A corporate group would definitely love this space for talks and seminars amidst nature. Additionally, there are two meeting venues and a banquet available too.

ampitheatre fern samali

I was disappointed that I couldn’t use the pool since it wasn’t clean on both days and since the weather was so hot, a swim would have been perfect! The also have a spa, Zion, offering a range of massages and therapies and the option to consult with an in-house doctor for guests who are concerned about issues that may interfere with indulging in a treatment. It would have been nice if this was a bit more polished and elegant in terms of the walls and linen. It seemed quite dated, which takes away from the ‘extravagant’ feel that a spa brings.

the pool fern samali

zion spa fern samali

In terms of activities, there is a set up to play court sports like volleyball and badminton. For group sports, if teams are falling short of people, the staff joins in which is quite nice! Table tennis, carom and air hockey set ups are available in the indoor games room along with a kids play area right next to it. The hotel curiously also has several colourful birds and turkeys chirping in roomy cages.  Lastly, a gift shop to take back items to make those who didn’t travel with you, jealous. *wink wink*

kids play area fern samali

Well that wraps up my review. Nature lovers and contentious travelers, take a trip here and let me know what you think. Although I was in Dapoli for just a day, I did manage to squeeze in a couple of tourist spots and I’ll tell you about them in my next post. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions, shoot!

thatgoangirl the fern samali

You can follow The Fern Dapoli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at @thatgoangirl on Facebook + Instagram and @ImGoanCrazy on Twitter.

Bye!

While Ratnagiri is not someone’s first choice for a vacation spot, it has a lot of what makes it a good one. Delectable seafood, proximity to Goa and Mumbai, more greenery than you can imagine and virgin beaches. Probably the one thing that sorely lacks here are resorts – and all that comes with one – a swimming pool, spa, lounge and the like.

The district does have a handful of budget hotels that provide a good pit-stop for bikers, family road-trippers and those looking for a quick weekend getaway. Among the best hotels in Ratnagiri, I came across this budget hotel, Sangam Regency that provided a peaceful interlude on a tiresome journey. It was so far above my expectations that I decided to share it with you.

GETTING THERE

Possibly the best part about Sangam Regency is its proximity to Ratnagiri Station. On exiting the station, it is a mere 2-3 minute walk, or 30 second drive. While it is so close to the station, it is absolutely silent from the minute you enter the spacious, air-conditioned lobby.

THE HOTEL

Pleasant and understated, Hotel  Sangam Regency offers travelers two things that they are seeking the most – comfort and cleanliness. The hotel’s large lobby has sofas on either side and a reception desk at the end.  A door leads to the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Soul Curry.

On standing in the reception and looking up, you’ll see all the 26 rooms around the periphery of each floor, with a glass barricade from where you can stand and look down at the lobby.  The hotel also has wi-fi, which wasn’t working when I visited. Apart from that it has a banquet hall and conference centre.

hotel sangam residency room

Among the main attractions, Thiba Point is 7kms away, Black Sea, Suru Ban Bhatye Beach and Patitpawan are at 9kms, and Ratnadurg Fort is at 11kms away.

THE ROOM

I didn’t expect to find a hotel of this standard and was quite thrilled with the find. The room has a huge cmofortable bed to sink into and also comes with cable TV, refrigerator, dining area, electric kettle and private bathroom with toiletries.

sangam residency ratnagiri

The view from the window is nothing to speak of and faces one of the lanes around the hotel.  The washroom was extremely clean as well with a large sink, Western toilet, strong shower and hot and cold water. Like many hotels, it didn’t have a partition door or shower curtain between the shower area and rest of the room, so as always, once you’re done with a 10 minute shower, you walk on the wet floor for hours. Oh, well.

hotel in ratnagiri

hotel sangam

The hotel has a choice of Rooms ranging from Deluxe (Rs. 2200), Supreme (Rs. 2700) and Suite (Rs. 3500). An extra person can be accommodated on a matteress that is placed on a sturdy cot.

THE FOOD

The a-la carte menu is vast and features an array of veg, non veg and seafood items. I had the Mutton Rogan Josh and naan for dinner which was delicious!  In contrast, the buffet breakfast the next morning was absolutely atroctious. It featured south Indian staples of idli-sambar, uttapam, and others, none of which looked good, let alone taste good. I settled for coffee and buttered toast. The boiled eggs at the next table looked so over-boiled that I didn’t bother ordering eggs either. On the plus side, the service is quite quick and prompt!

That wraps up my short review of this budget hotel in Ratnagiri. Don’t forget to check out all the details of my road trip from Mumbai to Goa and back as well as of Mandvi Beach in Ratnagiri.

Heading back to the food in my next post! Until then, let’s keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

A great thing about living in Mumbai is the fact that you’re 600 kms away from Goa, which means you can get there in 10-11 hours, depending on how many stops you take. The bad news is that the horrendous state of roads in our country make driving as pleasant as getting a root canal.

MUMBAI TO GOA

Sukhjeet and I departed from Mumbai by road at around 5:30 am one rainy morning on our maiden roadtrip from Mumbai to Goa. Our goal was to take advantage of the open roads in our otherwise choc-a-bloc city traffic and get out of Mumbai by 7 am. We had the option of two routes:

NH 4 – This route takes you through Pune and Kolhapur

NH 66 – Formerly known as NH 17, this route takes you through Ratnagiri and the Western Ghats.

For our drive from Mumbai to Goa, we opted for the NH4 Route for 2-3 reasons. The roads are wide and straight, fit for fast driving. Until you reach the border of Goa, the highway has 3-4 lanes. They have proper dividers and lane markings, making it more comfortable for the driver.

And thirdly, but most importantly, this route allowed us to skip the winding roads of the Western Ghats. The Western Ghat roads are steep, narrow and at a high altitude with no barricades on the sides in most places. As it was our first drive and we weren’t a 100% confident we could tackle it, we decided not to risk it. However, most Volvo buses take this route.

road goa to mumbai

The downside of this route though, are the numerous toll booths you will come across, 1 in almost every 100 km stretch. You will need to shell out at least Rs. 500-600, but it is still better than other options, as you will see later in this post.

We zipped through the city while it was still dark and reached Lonavala just as the sun began to rise. At 7 am, we were already in Pune and made our first stop for a breakfast of pancakes and coffee at McDonalds, just off the highway. I always prefer stopping at McDonalds because the food is safe and restrooms, clean, both important aspects to consider on a road trip. We were thrilled at having covered so much distance in just two hours and hoped that this head start would see us in Goa by 5 pm.

roadtrip mumbai to goa

Once we crossed Pune, we clocked in our kms with no hassles whatsoever. The surroundings were scenic and there was very little traffic.  At one point, we saw the road in front of us gently slope upwards and on looking up, saw cars winding their way around a hill ahead. That did cause a little panic, but turns out, we shouldn’t have worried because on climbing that hill, the road sloped back down again and it wasn’t the dreaded ghats we feared.

We stuck to NH4 and zipped passed Satara, Kolhapur and finally, Belgaum at around 1 pm quite uneventfully. It was here that we took one wrong turn that caused us to drive nearly 2 hours more. While we should have taken a left and stayed on the Belgaum Highway, we saw a giant board saying ‘Welcome to Goa’ right in front of us. Naturally, we carried on straight and into that narrow, but very scenic lane. A couple of kms in, we saw a darling little restaurant with seating in the verandah and a lawn out in front and that was where we took our second stop for lunch.

An hour later, we got back into the car and carried on straight. The scenic beauty here was absolutely stunning and I definitely want to go back and explore. On following the road further, it led up, higher and higher until – you guessed it, GHATS!  Thankfully, it was a short stretch, but thick with fog and rain pouring down. We were caught between two trucks for over half an hour and didn’t dare overtake as there was no barricade and a sheer drop down.  On finally finding our way back at ground level, the road worsened and GPS led us through the most narrow pathways. Some stretches were mud-roads riddled with potholes. At 5 pm, we emerged on a decent road somewhere in Pernem but were so exhausted and disheartened that our incredible roadtrip turned into a disaster. Not to mention, Sukhjeet’s knees began to hurt terribly with the constant brake-clutch-accelerator pedal-pushing on these terrible roads. An hour later, we entered Mapusa and by 6:30, I was home.

The bottom line is: Blindly opt to drive on NH4 on a roadtrip from Mumbai to Goa  and carry on the Belgaum Highway until you find yourself at Panjim. It is quite a painless journey if done right. You will need two tanks of petrol for the entire journey (and there are ample fuel pumps to fill up). I won’t mention the cost of fuel because we all know how uncertain that is.

GOA TO MUMBAI

For the way back, I decided to try out Route 66. From my home in Saligao, I headed towards Pernem and further on towards Sawantwadi – Kudal – Kankavli – Rajapur – Ratnagiri. If you’ve travelled by train, you’ll probably realize that all these are Konkan Kanya train stops! It was a two-sided road, 4 lanes and beautiful scenery. There were minor slopes and the journey took me around 5 hours. It would have been shorter, but this time, I was on a motorcycle and the freqent rain spells made me seek shelter every now and again.

roadtrip goa to mumbai

I spent the evening at Ratnagiri and checked out the beautiful Mandvi Beach. I stayed at a very comfortable 3-star hotel, Sangam Residency, just minutes away from Ratnagiri Station (more on that in my next post)

We left Ratnagiri at 10 am the next morning and continued on NH66, passing through Hathkamba, Navadi, Dhamani, Khamathe, Chiplun and Khed. On craving some of my morning caffeine, we stopped for some fabulous coffee (about the best I’ve had on the road) at this little restaurant in Chiplun at around noon. Sadly, I don’t remember its name.

coffee road trip goa to mumbai

Lunch was above average as well, and I relished some dal, tandoori roti and bhindi fry (ladyfingers) at Hotel Annapurna in Poladpur. Both places had lovely views and were extremely hygienic. I was able to work for about half an hour on my laptop as network was strong. Sigh.. the life of a digital nomad!

hotel annapurna NH66

hotel annapurna poladpur

Until here, we were driving in the wilderness amongst hills and fields, but in about an hour, we passed through dozens of villages. These busy, narrow roads, traffic and pedestrians slowed us down to a great extent. While that was completely manageable for the next 3-4 hours, at around 7:30 pm, it all went downhill! The last 100 kms, the roads were nothing short of a nightmare. The road was unpaved, there were trucks crawling along by the dozen and the dust in the air was so thick, it was difficult to see 100 meters in front of us. In fact, we could taste the dust at the back of our mouths and the journey was nowhere near complete.

It is for this reason that I’d advise you to completely stay clear of this route. There were no toll booths whatsoever, which is probably why the roads are neglected and can’t even be compared to the roads in Rural India, let alone be fit enough to lead to the financial capital of the country. Entering Mumbai saw us amidst insane traffic and in order to dodge it, we took every in-road we could find. Our long, looong journey finally ended at 11:30 pm.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Got questions or comments, leave me a line below and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Bye!

If someone says ‘Konkan Coast,’ it is almost certain that your mind will jump to Goa or Kerala. You wouldn’t think of Alibaug or Ratnagiri unless you’re in Mumbai, looking for a quick weekend getaway. However, just a hop away from the border of Goa, or 270 kms to be exact, the welcoming beaches of Ratnagiri are a sight to behold.

ratnagiri konkan kanya

Until recently, I’d only had a glimpse of Ratnagiri as the train from Mumbai to Goa chugged past its railway station. Even while peering out through the rusty window grills of the Konkan Kanya express, the district looked pristine, down below. Winding narrow lanes, emerald paddy fields and a multi-hued landscape permeated with red earth.

For those who love wandering to lesser known spots, the coastal shoreline of Ratnagiri is truly astounding in terms of natural beauty. With the Sahyadri ranges on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other, it’s fair distance from Goa and Mumbai have allowed it to keep its scenic beauty intact. There are little pockets of ‘town’ between the greenery and it is here that you will find yourself amidst honking traffic, busy marketplaces and commercial centres for a few minutes.

ratnagiri mandvi beach

But the beaches! Unlike Goa, where the beaches are teeming with tourists, those in Ratnagiri offer undisturbed views of the sea. No shacks blaring loud music, no hawkers coaxing you into getting a henna tattoo, no shouts of joy from tourists as they ride off on their jet-skis. Just plenty of shady trees, the sound of the crashing waves and the opportunity to do absolutely nothing.

Ganpatiphule, Malgund, Arre Waare and Bhandarpule are a few of the blissfully secluded beaches in the area. I wish I could have explored them all, but I was only in Ratnagiri for one evening and Mandvi Beach was the closest to where I was put up for the night. (More on that lovely hotel, Sangam Residency, in my next post).

that goan girl mandvi beach

This particular beach, Mandvi, did have a handful of tourists in places but it wasn’t hard to find quiet spots to sit and relax. There are no food options around, save for a couple of vendors selling chaat off their carts. Don’t expect to find white sand here. While it is lustrously powder-like, the colour is as black as coal, darker than even the monsoon clouds overhead.

If you’re looking for a beach to spend the entire day at, and maybe have a picnic, it is best to overlook this one. An hour or so here would be plenty.

Ratnagiri is home to some popular ancient temples and has some marvelous Konkan cuisine as well and maybe I can stop by on another road-trip to check it out. Let me know if you’ve ever explored this area or this beach! Would love to know what you think.

I visited another gorgeous beach in my home-state of Goa recently. You may like to check out my post on it – Grandmother’s Hole Beach. Also, stay tuned for all the details on my road-trip from Mumbai to Goa.

Until then, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Ciao!