There is something so magical about discovering a place that truly takes your breath away. When Quest Academy Asia kindly invited us to experience their academy and the beautiful area they are located in, we really did not know what to expect. What greeted us was a lovely bunch of people, a gorgeous beach, some delicious food and a lot of fun !
The Academy, located at Kathadi North, close to Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, India, was started by Jehan Driver, an avid adventure sports enthusiast and it is now run by him, his partner Upasana and a lovely, young, enthusiastic team. We loved our weekend getaway here. It’s a place after our own hearts. Responsible, ethical tourism which provides for amazing experiences at its best. Beautiful little cottages made of eco friendly material; open air bathrooms; a reusable steel bottle in your room and simple and home style meals with fresh seafood depending on what is caught that day. They run a number of courses and tours with them, from kayaking and stand up paddle board to scuba diving, kite surfing and even courses in becoming an open water lifeguard ! To top it all, they even give back to the community in all sorts of ways – beach cleanups, marine bio-diversity awareness programs, fishermen to life-guard programs and much more. So yes. Like we said. We love them.
We spent a weekend here and this is our itinerary for a 3 night trip.
Flight – The closest airport is Madurai, from where Quest Academy is about 3 hours away. We took an afternoon flight out of Bangalore so by the time we reached Quest, it was about 9 pm so we just reached and called it a night.
Tip – If you do go via Madurai, you HAVE to make a stop at Amma’s mess and eat their delicious food. We tried their mutton biryani which came with nati (country chicken) and mutton curry; their famous bone marrow omelette, the crab omelette and the dosa chicken. The food was excellent and was the perfect pitstop enroute Quest. Another MUST have is the famous Madurai bread butter at PTR bakery. It is basically pav, butter and sugar and no words can describe this. None. You have to eat it to believe it.
Train – the closest railway station is Mandapam. Autos are available outside and will charge about Rs.500 to get to Quest. Alternatively they have a number of a taxi service as well which they could share with you.
Bus – To get there by bus, you need to take a bus that goes to Rameswaram but get off a little before, at Uchipalli bus stop. You can get an auto from the bus stop at about Rs.150 and reach Quest. It’s on google maps so finding it is not hard.
9.00 am – After a quick breakfast we left for Dhanushkodi which is about 1-1.5 hours away. The route is beautiful and extremely scenic. On the way you cross the gorgeous Pamban bridge. This railway sea bridge was built in 1918 !! Yes you read that right. And a road bridge was built alongside it in the 80s.
Once we crossed over it got even more beautiful. Ocean on both sides. The Indian ocean on one and the Bay of Bengal on the other. And it was so incredible to see one so calm and other so choppy at the same time !
Then suddenly, the terrain opened up to these gorgeous salt flats. And all you could see was white. Never ending white. Of course we had to stop and walk around on it a bit. And by we I mean me (Anu), while the sand hating Kabir refused to get off the car and Pavan stayed back with him !
A little further and you reach Dhanushkodi. This little hamlet was obliterated in 1964 due to a cyclone. All that remains here today are the ruins of what was. A church in particular is quite eye catching. You have numerous stalls here as well but after 6 pm everyone has to pack and leave, giving it its famous nickname – Ghost Town. Now that the road connects all the way to the end lots of people do come here to the end point. A point where the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal meet. This point is just 35km from Sri Lanka, as the crow flies. The most interesting thing about this region is that it is said that satellite images show a path made of limestone shoal that connects this point to Sri Lanka! This is referred to as Ram Setu or Adam’s bridge and is supposed to be what Rama built to reach Sri Lanka and rescue Sita! Quite mysterious right ? Also, it gets really windy here so be prepared for sand blowing everywhere. And we mean everywhere! As you can see, Kabir wasn’t too thrilled !
1.30 pm lunch – On our way back we stopped at Mr. Fish. This was recommended to us by Upasana and a few others at Quest Academy. And what a meal it was. A small stall on the road serving you only rice, sambar and fresh seafood of your choice. You choose what you want and it’s made there, right in front of you. Absolutely delicious. If you are travelling with kids we must warn you. Mr.Fish is not the most child friendly place. It is spicy and of course not the cleanest. Kabir is quite experimental so he ate plain rice and fish, but he found the sambar way too “picy”. It would definitely be recommended to carry something for your child.
5 pm – Take a nap in the afternoon and walk up to the beach for sunset. Although here the sun sets over land, not the ocean, it is beautiful at that time and absolutely perfect for a swim.
Day 3 was spent doing what Quest Academy is all about. Water sports. We chose to do kayaking and stand up paddle board as these were what we could experience with Kabir.
7 am – We set out at 7 am, since the winds are less strong at that point and it would be easier to take Kabir with us. We tried our hand at both kayaking and Stand up paddle board. And it was incredible. Stand up paddle board needs a lot of balance and core strength but once you get the hang of it, its incredible fun. Even the falling ! Just being out there, on an ocean so calm its unreal, with nothing but the most gorgeous blues around you, is an experience to remember.
1 pm – For lunch we went to another local favourite. Thai Chettinad Mess. And no, it’s not Thai food. Thai in tamil means mother. Again delicious food but not the most child friendly. Kabir ate their fish curry rice but that was pretty much it. We, of course, ate a whole lot more – Chicken chop, chicken liver, fish curry rice, fish fry, prawn fry and chicken lollipop !
5 pm – We spent that evening aboard the very special Sea Quest. It is their catamaran which comes with 2 rooms. You can book it out for a few hours or even do a voyage with them on it ! The longest Jehan has sailed on it is from Pondicherry to Kathadi North. And yes it is completely non-mechanised. You need to sail with the wind. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on this boat with chai and some lovely conversation. A perfect end to an amazing weekend.
We drove back to Madurai and took our flight back home.
This was an incredible weekend on so many levels. Kayaking with Kabir in the ocean, learning to do Stand Up Paddle Board, and being aboard a catamaran; it was a weekend of many firsts. We explored a part of India we had never been to before. Saw some incredible sights at Dhanushkodi. And we ate some really really good food. If you have a couple of days to spare, and want to go to a stunning place where time slows down but the adventure doesn’t, Quest Academy at Kathadi North is for you !