Orientation & History
Daman the ex-Portuguese enclave is perched on both sides of Daman Ganga River also called Dawan river by locals. Daman occupies both banks of the river’s estuary. The southern bank is Moti Daman (‘Moti’ means ‘big’) and the Northern bank is Nani Daman (‘Nani’ means ‘small’). Both sides are connected by the Rajiv Gandhi Bridge. The district has an area of 72 square kms. The chief occupation of the area is fishing.
Daman is one of the two districts of the Union Territory of Daman and Diu. It is surrounded by Valsad district of Gujrat from three sides and by Arabian sea on the Western side. Along with Diu and Goa, Daman was taken over by government of India from the Portuguese in 1961. The Portuguese had been occupying the region since 1531 after they captured it from the sultan of Gujarat.
How to Reach
The closest railway station to Daman in is Vapi (13 kms). The city of Surat lies to the north of Vapi at a distance of 93kms by train and the city of Mumbai lies on the south at a distance of 140kms by train. There are ample train services on this route. From Vapi to Daman there are plenty of taxis waiting outside the railway station and also buses from the bus stand which is on a walkable distance from the railway station.
Accommodation & Eating
There are plenty of hotels and restaurants in and around Nani Daman. We have booked in Hotel Marina just behind Nani Daman police station not far from the Taxi/Bus Stand. A Portuguese style house converted in to a hotel with nice wooden interiors and managed by a Parsi couple with very friendly staff. The first floor rooms opening in to the large common area with nice old world ambience. My daughters enjoyed this area very much except for the dust and noise from the rooms on the other side which are under renovation. The Hotel also has a nice restaurant which serves vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies.
Sights & Activities
The main attraction is Fort St Jerome popularly known as the Nani Daman Fort situated on the Northern side of the river Daman Ganga . The Portuguese started the construction of the fort in 1614 AD and completed in 1672. The impressive gateway of the fort is opening to the Daman Ganga River. The gateway is adorned with a statue of St Jerome at the top and two giant human figures on either sides of the gateway.
Within the fort is the Church of Our Lady of the Sea which was constructed in 1901. Also within the fort is a small graveyard. Inside the fort there is a pathway all around the walls with splendid views of the Daman Ganga River and the Samudra Narayan Mandir on its banks. It is really interesting to watch the colourful fishing fleet on the river from the top of the fort during sunset.
About 3 km north of Nani Daman is the black sand Devka beach. Along the beach there are shacks which are serving liquor and beer and often crowded in the evenings with visitors from across the border where there is prohibition in force.
On the other side of the river is the Moti Daman Fort, dates back to 1559 AD. Inside the fort are the sleepy streets and the quaint churches which are reminiscent of the Portuguese era. Also inside the fort is the Secretariat and few other government departments.
The Church of Bom Jesus built in 1603 is a living tribute to the craftsmanship of the Portuguese artisans. The main feature of the church is the altar and pulpit with its detailed wood carvings. Other church is the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary.
About 3km south of Moti Daman is the Jampore beach. Lined with casuarinas, this beach also has its share of shacks selling beer and sea food. One can also enjoy horse and camel rides on the beach.