OF CASTLES, SEAS AND MYSTERIES: BEKAL BECKONS
Text: Keerthy Ramachandran
Kerala can be every bit as exciting for all kinds of travel enthusiasts. The scenic landscapes, scents and sounds of the land will inspire the minds with a lifetime of vivid memories. On your next vacation, if you are looking for a less explored destination nestled in greenery and yet with a seaside view, head on to Bekal. A perfect haven for the backpackers and ‘glam’ packers, the long white-sand beaches of Bekal is a treat to the soul. 18 km from the culturally reach land of Kasargod, this little town houses some of the most ‘un-spoilt’ historical architecture and blue beaches of the country.
How to reach
Nearest airport is at Mangalore at a distance of 50 kilometres from Kasargod.
Nearest railway station is at Kasargod
Easily accessible by a wide network of roadways, linking it with major towns and cities of Kerala
Here are some of the top attractions of Bekal:
Built in the 17th century in laterite-brick, Bekal Fort is one of the oldest and best preserved forts of the country. Cascading the ancient glory, the majestic mansion is spread on a rocky headland and is dramatically surrounded by the sprawling Arabic Sea, setting an eye-catching scene. Akin to many other forts, the Bekal Fort was also constructed as a means of defense. Though there are many stories told about the history of the fort’s construction, it is widely believed that the creation is the work of Bednore’s Shivappa Nayaka. Since its construction in 1650, the fort has been a witness to several changing seats of powers from the royal Indian dynasties to the rule of the Sultans, sustaining the Colonial British era. Kolathiri, Ikkeri, Nayakas, Hyder Ali and even Tipu Sultan seem to have ruled the fort. Further to English East India Company’s exile, Bekal Fort became the headquarters of Bekal Taluk of South Canara district. A row of zigzag entrances, walkways and trenches lead to the giant fort which resembles the shape of a keyhole. One of the biggest attractions of the site is the grand observation tower built by Tipu Sultan during his reign that offers a breathtaking view of the ocean and the golden shores. Every component of the construction owns a certain degree of significance. Be it the winding roads to the mansion or even the innumerable holes in the outer walls that were used to target and attack the enemies, everything contributes to the defensive power of the construction. The fort marks a symbolic harmony of religion and culture with a Hanuman temple and a mosque, both situated in the same precincts.
The unending stretches of white sands and calm water next to the Bekal Fort, makes the Bekal Beach the next favourite picnic spot of the leisure-seekers. Even those who have never been to Bekal before should be familiar with these beaches and the fort, thanks to the number of movies (Bombay’s Uyire Uyire.. for instance) which were shot here. Spread over 36 acres, the shores of the beach are lined by palm trees and the huge walls of the Bekal Fort. It appears as if there is a mysterious chemistry between the fort and the beach, that the beauty of the two is incomplete without the other. Flocked by tourists round the year, the beaches are considered unsafe to be in during the monsoons of Kerala (between June to December). A slice of the northern Kerala cuisine that has consistently won many hearts across the world can be tasted at the local eateries on the beaches. Government of India’s Social Forestry Scheme has maintained the beach pretty well and you can see several trees and plants planted as part of the scheme, which significantly enhances the beauty of the location. Camel rides and horse rides have also been arranged for entertaining the crowds, along with a host of knick knack shops for those looking for some tangible takeaways.
Soon after taking a long stroll at the beach, one can head to the beautiful rock garden situated just a kilometer away. Comprising of interesting sculptures, spectacular murals and laterite boulders of various shapes and sizes, brilliantly complement each other and together presents a fascinating experience to those on the lookout for for some meaningful art. If you are not sure about your skill to admire fine arts or has little kids accompanying you, then proceed to the Children’s play area adjacent to the rock garden that has a jungle gym, slides, seesaws and many more attractions.
If you haven’t gotten enough of the beaches, the land with the storied past has more to offer. Yet another destination to enjoy a peaceful walk along the coastlines of Arabian Sea, Kappil beach has the distinction of being one of the less-exploited and commercialized beaches of the country. Though not quite a sunbathing beach, there are plenty of reasons to consider it the place to be. The palm fringed beaches and blue waters make it an ideal spot to spend some quality family time or simply enjoy a book listening to the gentle murmurs of the tides.
A portion of the beach serves as an exclusive private beach for the guests of Taj Bekal Resort and Spa. There are several trekking trails by the Kappil beach. Interested tourists could take a long walk along the coastline to reach the Varkala cliff. The Bekal Hole Aqua Park is yet another popular tourist destination in the area which has a variety of water rides for adventure lovers. Bekal has recently caught the fascination of the hospitality industry of Kerala and many premium hotel properties have been set up in this little town. The sun-kissed beaches, verdant coastlines and historic architecture are just few of the many attractions of Bekal. The several unexplored estuaries, lagoons and trekking trails make it a truly exotic location in an unassuming village hidden deep inside the south western tip of the country.