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Move Over Goa, Maharashtra's Alibaugh Is The Next Hit Tourist Destination Of India

This scenic coastal town, Alibaug, located 100 km to the south of Mumbai in western India has emerged as the Haute spot for investments in real estate.

Move Over Goa, Maharashtra's Alibaugh Is The Next Hit Tourist Destination Of India
Alibaug | Outlook Photos/Dinesh Parab
Move Over Goa, Maharashtra's Alibaugh Is The Next Hit Tourist Destination Of India
outlookindia.com
2022-01-04T20:59:40+05:30

As you cruise through the narrow lanes of Alibaug, all that meets the eyes is construction – half-built, full-built, being developed or redeveloped. This scenic coastal town, located 100 km to the south of Mumbai in western India has emerged as the haute spot for investments in real estate. Given the property boom here, Alibaug is fast emerging as the new Goa, according to real estate developers. 

The harrowing experiences of being cooped up in flats during the Covid-19 lockdown have made Bollywood celebrities, corporates and those in the higher income brackets head to the quaint villages dotting Alibaug in search of a second home. Some have even given up their homes in Mumbai and are staying here permanently, only travelling to the megapolis as and when needed. Given the post-pandemic situation, the town’s proximity to Mumbai seems to be working in its favour, unlike Goa. Located about 100 km from Mumbai, it takes only 15-30 minutes by speedboat, one hour by the roll-on /roll-off (RoRo) ferry service and 3-4 hours by road to reach Alibaug.     

(Credit: Outlook Photos/Dinesh Parab)

The villas, stay-at-home facilities, swanky hotels and resorts cater to every income group and are fast gaining much traffic for weekend stays. Despite the milling tourist crowd in this town and its surrounding villages and the private party scene, it is much quieter than Goa. When 25-year-old Amogh Deshpande, a cinematographer from Mumbai, decided to buy a property, his initial choice was Goa. However, after scouting around for properties there, he turned his attention to Alibaug. He finalised a deal within a fraction of the time he had spent looking for properties in Goa.

“It is much quieter in Alibaug. Without the shacks, the beaches here are cleaner and beautiful. The drunken crowd of Goa is missing here. The closeness to Mumbai worked in Alibaug’s favour,” Amogh told Outlook Magazine.

“After a stressful shooting schedule, you need a quieter place to chill. I am happy with my choice of place,” said the cinematographer who has been the director of photography for the Netflix web series Aarya, Rocketboys and the Skoda Kushaq commercial. 

(Credit: Outlook Photos/Dinesh Parab)

The descent of Bollywood celebrities into Alibaug is also one of the reasons for the quick popularity of its real estate. Shahrukh Khan’s palatial, sea-facing farmhouse Déjà vu Farms is spread across 19,960 square metres and has its own helipad. Like his Mumbai home Mannat, Déjà vu Farms is also a popular spot with tourists and the residents of Alibaug. Recently, after his son Aryan Khan was released on bail by the Bombay High Court in the Cordelia drug bust case, the Khans travelled down to their farmhouse to celebrate Shahrukh Khan’s birthday and his son’s freedom from jail.

Actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s home is located in the village Mapgaon. Their 9,000 square metres farmhouse was bought earlier this year for a whopping Rs 22 crore after the lockdown was eased in Maharashtra. 

Actor Anushka Sharma and Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli own a farmhouse in Mandhwa. Both have tweeted about spending the entire first Covid-19 lockdown with their parents in this farmhouse. Filmmaker HomiAdjania of the Raabta and Cocktail fame, and his wife Anhaita Shroff Adjania, too, own a sprawling farmhouse in Alibaug. Actor Rahul Khanna is also an owner of a farmhouse in Alibaug. 

(Credit: Outlook Photos/Dinesh Parab)

Well-known names from corporate India who own houses in and around Alibaug include Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Singhania, Yash Birla, Mittals, AjitGulabchand, Anand Jain, Harsh Goenka, Purvi Piramal, Gagan Banga of Indiabulls, Mittals, Ruias and Rishi Agarwal of ABG Shipping.          

The most sought after villages in Alibaug where people are buying land include Kihim, Varsoli, Nagaon, Revdanda, Thal and Chaul. The Devendra Fadnavis-led government in Maharashtra had on June 20, 2019, brought in a Bill for the speedy and balanced development of projects in the villages of Alibaug. Passed by the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council on the same day (June 20), parts of Palghar and Raigad (of which Alibaug is a part) has been brought under the jurisdiction of the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA). This has helped speed up developmental works such as the Trans-harbour link and the Navi Mumbai international airport.

(Credit: Outlook Photos/Dinesh Parab)

On the anvil are 12 jetties to speed up the travel by water transport. Presently, only the jetty at Mandhwa is operational. The Ro-Ro ferry service is hugely popular with tourists and the locals as cars and two-wheelers can be ferried from Mumbai to Mandhwa and back. 

Alibaug tehsil has 215 villages under its jurisdiction. The Bene Israeli Jews have lived here 250 years ago. According to local folklore, a Bene Israeli Jew named Eli lived in these parts at that time. He owned huge tracts of land with plantations of mangoes and coconuts. The locals had then called it ElichiBaug (Eli’s garden). Subsequent generations of locals started calling it Alibaug. Foreigners who ruled Alibaug and its parts include the Portuguese, Arab Muslims, Khiljis etc. Old churches and forts dot the villages, particularly Chaul, which saw a Portuguese ruler.        

Arif Lalani, partner Stheera.com, a Bandra based company is one of the top property dealers handling high-end deals in Alibaug. According to Lalani, the Ro-Ro ferry service has singularly changed the property dynamics of Alibaug. “People did own properties here earlier too. But, then travel was circuitous and time-consuming. So Lonavala was preferred by those living in Mumbai, due to the accessibility factor. Alibaug will be an extension of South Mumbai,” said Lalani to Outlook Magazine. 

(Credit: Outlook Photos/Dinesh Parab)

He cites multiple development projects of the government as the trigger for the real estate boom in Alibaug. These include: six laning of the Mumbai-Goa national highway, the new Karajade-Rewas bridge and the Trans-link freeway will cut down travel time between Mumbai and Alibaug by an hour and a half. “We are selling four to five plots a month in Alibaug. The buyers are end-users and this is not a speculative market. The prices will definitely soar here in some years,” said Lalani.   

According to local Alibaug resident Santosh More, there has been a 400-500 per cent increase in real estate prices in and around Alibaug. “The beachside plots are more expensive than that in the hilly areas here,” he told Outlook Magazine. Sounding the alarm at the indiscriminate selling of land by the local residents, More points out that the next generation of Alibaug is likely to be landless. “The joint family system is prevalent here. Families are selling their farming land in fragments to anyone who can pay the price. Locals are solely dependent on the weekend tourist trade. So there is a lot of money and they are spending recklessly,” said More. 

However, unlike Goa and its bludgeoning drug and alcohol trade which is often driven by the local residents, Alibaug is much quieter on this front. Raigad of which Alibaug is a part, follows the peculiar tradition of social boycotts. Despite the easy flow of money, the village panchayats, which are extremely politically active, call the shots and socially boycott families who bring in the “Goa-like culture” into Raigad. Though social ostracism is a punishable offence in Maharashtra, it is prevalent in the villages of Raigad. 

(Credit: Outlook Photos/Dinesh Parab)

With excessive land, buying comes a mushrooming of real estate agents. It is no different in Alibaug, where figuratively speaking, every square inch is covered by a real estate agent! Chunky gold chains, gold kadas and multiple chunky finger rings, vehicles such as Innovas, Ertigas, Fortuner, Discovery etc., signal individual prosperity index. “Most of the time, they do not know how to drive and these vehicles are kept parked on their porches.             

The boom in Alibaug’s local economy is here to stay for some time, say those in the know.  

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