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For the pleasure of skimming the waves off the silver sands

— Photo: S. Mahinsha

Riding the waves:Speedboat rides at Kovalam offer tourists a good view of the crescent-shaped

For tourists in Kovalam, speedboats offer a panoramic view of the crescent-shaped beaches, the landmark lighthouse and the Vizhinjam harbour from the sea. For the men at the helm of these boats, hailing from the local fishing community, the dawn-to-dusk rides are a means of livelihood.

The adventurous among the domestic tourists have found the rides a favourite recreation. While most foreigners keep away, visitors from North India are raring to go the ride.

The boats take to the sea from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. from near the Edakkal rocks, which separate the Lighthouse and the Eve's beaches, and from the Samudra beach. Fibreglass speedboats that can carry four persons are deployed, five from near the rocks and four from the beach, for the 20-minute, three-km ride.

The authorities have given the licence to the boat owners for operating the service.

The local and the tourism police and the lifeguards posted on the beaches keep a vigil.

The tourists are made to wear the life jacket.

“We don't take the guests into the deep sea even if they demand that. We take the opportunity to show them the Vizhinjam harbour, the beaches of Kovalam, the landmark Lighthouse and the Halcyon Castle and the erstwhile ITDC property during the 20-minute cruise. The lucky can spot the vessels moving in the international waters,” says R. Newman from Vizhinjam, who owns a speedboat.

As the Edakkal rocks have no boat-landing place, those going on the ride have to be careful. For the crew, it is a laborious task, as at least five persons are needed to launch a boat into the waters and help the guests board it.

When they return from short ride, other tourists crowd around them to know about the experience.

V.M. Ali, boat owner, says there are good and bad days for the operators.

“We have invested Rs.3 lakh each in the boat. The collection ranges from Rs.100 to Rs.4,000 a day depending on the season. There are days when we had to return empty-handed,” he says.

The boat owners are hoping for a good domestic season this year before the rides are suspended from May 15 as the south-west monsoon churns the sea.

“The service will be resumed on November 15 and till that time, we will venture into the sea for fishing to make ends meet,” Mr. Newman says.

The artificial reef near the Lighthouse, commissioned as part of the tsunami-rehabilitation project, and the walkway have altered the face of the beach destination.

The reef aims to protect the beach and develop Kovalam into an ideal destination for water sports, such as surfing, scuba diving, snorkelling and water skiing.

S. Anil Radhakrishnan

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