If you are craving for a weekend getaway to a seaside paradise, you don't have to go as far as the Bahamas. Just past Pondicherry, you'll find what you are looking for.
It’s hard to miss the sign – “Boat House – Chunnambar” – accompanied by a pedal boat that has long been out of use. Once we park, buy tickets and get our bags checked, we take a 15-minute ride on a motorboat to what looks like a deserted beach. When you turn the bend, the view takes our breath away.
The pristine blue sea winks merrily back at us as sunlight hits each wave that crashes on the shore. The sand itself is so fine; each grain can be seen through the crystal clear water. There’s a sizeable crowd – families, groups of youngsters, men nursing cold (and very expensive) beers – yet serenity abounds.
Chunnambar or Paradise Beach is 7 km past Pondicherry, along the Cuddalore Main Road. Located at a point where the Chunnambar River backwaters meet the Bay of Bengal, it has something for everyone. If you’re the kind who likes splashing around in the waves, the sea here is not very rough. Not so deep, it’s safe for children as well.
However, if you’re at the beach just to relax, you can sit at one of the sand bars and let the water wash over you. It’s a lovely feeling, especially when the tide is rolling in and the occasional swill of cold water hits you. While the water may be shallow to begin with, the tide rises quite rapidly, and the current is strong. Don’t leave your slippers lying around unless you want to see them floating out at sea.
A couple of thatched roof shelters provide respite from the sun and a place to keep your bags. Since no food and liquor is allowed inside, be prepared to shell out quite a bit for food and drink if you’re planning to spend the day there. The changing rooms aren’t great, but provide for a quick, salty shower.
There’s an entry fee to the boat house itself; the place has a couple of attractions for kids, like a bouncing castle and a suspiciously rickety tree house. There’s a separate ticket for boating, and kids below 5 travel free. Once you land on Paradise Beach, you can stay till the last boat leaves at 6.30 p.m.
Chunnambar makes a surprisingly brilliant addition to a weekend itinerary, no matter who you’re going with.