THE PORT OF ALIBAG was developed by the Marathas in the 17th century to protect their kingdom from the Dutch, Portuguese and the increasingly powerful British. Alibag is today a quiet town, just across the bay from Mumbal. Its most impressive sight is its beach, 5-km (3-mile) stretch of soft silver sand, lined by a stand of coconut and casuarina trees. Kolaba Fort,constructed on an island in 1680 by the Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji looms over the skyline. It is a forbidding grey mass of lead, steel and stone, built on a rock jutting from the sea, and can be reached on foot during low tide. Within its high ramparts are enclosed a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, and next to it a sweet-water well that must have been useful during sieges. There are two main entrances to the fort, one from the shore and another from the sea. The enormous shore-side doorway is decorated with sculptures of tigers, elephants and peacocks.
ENVIRONS: Kihim Beach, 9 km (6 miles) north of Alibag, is a tranquil getaway, with woods brimming with birds and wild flowers. It was the favourite haunt of the famous Indian ornithologist Salim Ali (1896-1987), author of the finest book on Indian birds.