Have you seen the sea disappear in front of your eyes? A unique phenomenon rarely seen anywhere else, the sea recedes by as much as five kilometres every day on the Chandipur beach in eastern India, not just enthralling the onlooker but also offering an opportunity to literally walk into the sea. One of nature’s many wonders, the sea recedes massively from the beach during ebb and returns to fill the emptiness during high tide. This hide-and-seek of the sea comes to play twice a day and seeing the sea disappear and then return is an unforgettable experience. Chandipur lies around 200 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.
From here, one can either take the train to Balasore, the closest town at a distance of 10 km, and then travel by road, or take the entire journey by road on National Highway 5. One can be assured of a good journey thanks to the green scenery that follows you throughout and good roads. Adding to the peaceful ambience are the swaying casuarina trees and the solitary sand dunes, with the constant hum of the waves as they rise and fall gently. Considering its uniqueness, the beach supports a varied range of biodiversity.
It’s not rare to thus find a horseshoe crab or red crab crawling beside you. While it’s still not very well known among tourists who flock to its cousin beaches of Puri, or the temple destination of Konark, local tourists often visit Chandipur. “My wife and I saw the sea disappear in front of our eyes, and we walked in the sea bed, almost for four kilometres, and then returned with the gentle water when the high tide came,” Anirban Mukherjee, a tourist from the nearby state of West Bengal, said. “It was like returning with the sea. The massive void left behind by the waters, the path we took, was soon filled up and it was as if we had walked into the sea. This beach is nothing like the other beaches,” said his wife Arpita.
For some, it’s not just walking but also riding a bike into the sea. When asked if it was dangerous for people to ride a bike into the sea bed with the impending high tide, Dasarath Dash, a coconut seller by the beachside, said no. “The tide has its timings. Depending on the moon, the timings keep changing. It’s mostly the locals, familiar with the tide’s time, who take their bikes into the sea bed. The others are thrilled just to even walk that distance,” Dash said. “In any case, the sea is not rough here. The waves are gentle,” he said. Food is another plus point here. For those who love sea food, here’s a place which can offer you plenty, especially fresh prawns. The Chandipur beach is also well known for its proximity to the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Integrated Test Range.
A number of missiles have been launched from here, including Akash, Agni, Shaurya and Prithvi ballistic missiles. There is a handful of small hotels – with a tariff range of Rs.500 to Rs.2,500 per day – and a government guesthouse in Chandipur. There are no 5-Star hotels in the area. One can also opt to stay in Balasore. “The best time to visit Chandipur is winter, between November and March, and most tourists come during this time,” Dash said. The tourism department has also been trying to promote Chandipur and other spots nearby as potential tourist destinations. An elaborate beach festival, showcasing the dance forms, art and culture of the state, has become an annual affair here and takes place every February. “I really hope proper infrastructure can be put in place so that the Chandipur beach attracts more tourists and the locals around can benefit. Right now we mostly have local tourists and those from the neighbouring states. The number of foreign tourists is still very low compared to Puri,” said Ubachan Mohanty, a local.