Drive Outs
Heritage Buildings

Bakkhali

On a nice nippy Saturday morning earlier this month, Team Destination headed towards Bakkhali island located on the southern tip of the state. We started our journey at 7.30 am and just as were crossing the gates of the Calcutta Hospital, we came across the lone milestone reading, Bakkhali 125 kilomtres, which makes this island the closet sea side gateaway from Kolkata.
It took us about a little more than an hour to reach Sagarika, the tourist centre on Diamond Harbour Road where we stopped for breakfast and steaming cups of strong coffee. The rest of the drive was interesting, but we had to be careful. High speed driving was strict no-no as we had to cross several busy intersections along the way and we also had to keep a watch on the ever speeding buses.
For those of you who are uninitiated, Bakkhali is separated from the mainland by the Hatania-Doania river at Namkhana. And to reach this island, you will have to cross this river in a barge. The ferry ghat operates between 7 am-10 pm. However, it remains closed from 12 noon-1.45 pm for lunch. Hence, you should try and reach the ferry ghat by 11.30 am. Thankfully, we did not have to wait long for our turn. As the car went up the bridge and entered the barge, we couldn't hide our excitement. There's nothing scary or dangerous about the ride. The width of the river is approximately 50 metres only. So, just in case you have a mental block, do away with it right now. Once the car was safely parked on the barge, we got out to enjoy the five-seven minute ride.
The view from the first floor deck is wonderful — you can see the length of the river, see the colorful trawlers and ferries that go all the way to Sunderban. You will have to shell out Rs 190 while going — Rs160 is for the ferry ride and Rs 30 is the tax. On your way back, you will have to pay only Rs 160. Once we reached the other side, we couldn’t wait to reach our destination. And half-an-hour later, the sight of the giant windmills at Frazerganj indicated that we have touched base. However, before we talk about our explorations on the island, let us first clear one common confusion that arises from the lack of demarcation between Frazerganj and Bakkhali.
Once upon a time, these two were individual islands, but today, they have become more like two twin villages that runs along a continuous stretch.
After we checked into Hotel Deepak, we headed towards the beach. We crossed the asphalt road lined with trees and small huts. Some sign boards informed us that many of these huts were also residence-cum-gur (jaggery) ‘factories’. After driving for about five-minutes, we reached the beach at last! Stretches of yellow powdery sand greeted us and we could see the glistening sea not very far away. As the sun was strong, we decided to come back during the evening. The sea here , is not ideal for bathing — the waves are not ‘big’ enough to topple you over — and perhaps that is why, Bakkhali is not overflowing with tourists and which is why it is so serene. Also, what acts as a welcome change is the lack of hawkers on the beach. At Bakkhali, you will find a few stalls selling tea, snacks, coconut water and knickknacks made from shells on the shore and that is such a relief.
We returned to the beach at around 6.30 pm. And it was an unforgettable experience. Except for the halogen lights which are placed close to the shore, the rest of the beach is dark. You can walk towards the sea with Jupiter, Venus, Mars and thousands of other constellations for company. The clear night sky allows you to get a wonderful view of these. You just have to close your eyes and allow the sea to soothe your frayed nerves. It is perfectly safe to be on the beach at night. There are guards who patrol the beach. You can even hire a chair for Rs 5 and watch the sea for hours. Why, you can also say hello to the little birds that use the darkness as a security blanket and comb the beach to gather food.
After our evening sojourn, we went for a morning walk along the beach that runs from Frazerganj to Bakkhali, which was really a wonderful experience. It took us about 40 minutes to walk the entire two kilometres stretch. The clear water, the hard grey sand, the fishermen on their way to work or bent over metal vessels to gather tiny bagda chingris (prawns) made for good photo op. We also spotted the famous red crabs as they crawled in and out of their sheltered holes in the sand. After the walk, we headed towards a coconut stall. Soon, we were handed two really big coconuts. As we sipped the cool refreshing water, we were joined by a massagewala who was about 10. He asked one of our team members if he wanted a massage and even before he could reply, he demonstrated his skill by giving him a ‘sample’ massage. Talk about being enterprising!
We returned to our hotel in a rickshaw van. Lalmohan Ganguly would have described this ride as a ‘romanchokor’ (exciting) one. During the ride, we crossed one of the roadside ‘factories’. And, we, gave in to temptation and ended up buying three kgs of jaggery!
We checked out from our hotel after breakfast and visited some of the other ‘must see’ spots including Henry's Island where a yummy bagda chingri (prawn) lunch was waiting just for us.
Bakkhali, is a perfect weekend destination for rejuvenating your tired mind and we are speaking from experience. Do give it a try one of these weekends, we guarantee, you will love it.
On a nice nippy Saturday morning earlier this month, Team Destination headed towards Bakkhali island located on the southern tip of the state. We started our journey at 7.30 am and just as were crossing the gates of the Calcutta Hospital, we came across the lone milestone reading, Bakkhali 125 kilomtres, which makes this island the closet sea side gateaway from Kolkata.
It took us about a little more than an hour to reach Sagarika, the tourist centre on Diamond Harbour Road where we stopped for breakfast and steaming cups of strong coffee. The rest of the drive was interesting, but we had to be careful. High speed driving was strict no-no as we had to cross several busy intersections along the way and we also had to keep a watch on the ever speeding buses.
For those of you who are uninitiated, Bakkhali is separated from the mainland by the Hatania-Doania river at Namkhana. And to reach this island, you will have to cross this river in a barge. The ferry ghat operates between 7 am-10 pm. However, it remains closed from 12 noon-1.45 pm for lunch. Hence, you should try and reach the ferry ghat by 11.30 am. Thankfully, we did not have to wait long for our turn. As the car went up the bridge and entered the barge, we couldn't hide our excitement. There's nothing scary or dangerous about the ride. The width of the river is approximately 50 metres only. So, just in case you have a mental block, do away with it right now. Once the car was safely parked on the barge, we got out to enjoy the five-seven minute ride.
The view from the first floor deck is wonderful — you can see the length of the river, see the colorful trawlers and ferries that go all the way to Sunderban. You will have to shell out Rs 190 while going — Rs160 is for the ferry ride and Rs 30 is the tax. On your way back, you will have to pay only Rs 160. Once we reached the other side, we couldn’t wait to reach our destination. And half-an-hour later, the sight of the giant windmills at Frazerganj indicated that we have touched base. However, before we talk about our explorations on the island, let us first clear one common confusion that arises from the lack of demarcation between Frazerganj and Bakkhali.
Once upon a time, these two were individual islands, but today, they have become more like two twin villages that runs along a continuous stretch.
After we checked into Hotel Deepak, we headed towards the beach. We crossed the asphalt road lined with trees and small huts. Some sign boards informed us that many of these huts were also residence-cum-gur (jaggery) ‘factories’. After driving for about five-minutes, we reached the beach at last! Stretches of yellow powdery sand greeted us and we could see the glistening sea not very far away. As the sun was strong, we decided to come back during the evening. The sea here , is not ideal for bathing — the waves are not ‘big’ enough to topple you over — and perhaps that is why, Bakkhali is not overflowing with tourists and which is why it is so serene. Also, what acts as a welcome change is the lack of hawkers on the beach. At Bakkhali, you will find a few stalls selling tea, snacks, coconut water and knickknacks made from shells on the shore and that is such a relief.
We returned to the beach at around 6.30 pm. And it was an unforgettable experience. Except for the halogen lights which are placed close to the shore, the rest of the beach is dark. You can walk towards the sea with Jupiter, Venus, Mars and thousands of other constellations for company. The clear night sky allows you to get a wonderful view of these. You just have to close your eyes and allow the sea to soothe your frayed nerves. It is perfectly safe to be on the beach at night. There are guards who patrol the beach. You can even hire a chair for Rs 5 and watch the sea for hours. Why, you can also say hello to the little birds that use the darkness as a security blanket and comb the beach to gather food.
After our evening sojourn, we went for a morning walk along the beach that runs from Frazerganj to Bakkhali, which was really a wonderful experience. It took us about 40 minutes to walk the entire two kilometres stretch. The clear water, the hard grey sand, the fishermen on their way to work or bent over metal vessels to gather tiny bagda chingris (prawns) made for good photo op. We also spotted the famous red crabs as they crawled in and out of their sheltered holes in the sand. After the walk, we headed towards a coconut stall. Soon, we were handed two really big coconuts. As we sipped the cool refreshing water, we were joined by a massagewala who was about 10. He asked one of our team members if he wanted a massage and even before he could reply, he demonstrated his skill by giving him a ‘sample’ massage. Talk about being enterprising!
We returned to our hotel in a rickshaw van. Lalmohan Ganguly would have described this ride as a ‘romanchokor’ (exciting) one. During the ride, we crossed one of the roadside ‘factories’. And, we, gave in to temptation and ended up buying three kgs of jaggery!
We checked out from our hotel after breakfast and visited some of the other ‘must see’ spots including Henry's Island where a yummy bagda chingri (prawn) lunch was waiting just for us.
Bakkhali, is a perfect weekend destination for rejuvenating your tired mind and we are speaking from experience. Do give it a try one of these weekends, we guarantee, you will love it.
Reserve forest, crocodile and deer project and the temple of Banabibi Ben Fish has an auction centre and fishing harbour here and it also has a tourist lodge called Sagarkanya Jambu Dwip: This is a small uninhabited forest island. The ride in the motorised country boats is really thrilling. You can hire the boats from the Frazerganj fishing harbour Henry's Island: Check out the box for further details
Henry's Island is located just before Bakkhali. The island is named after an European who had surveyed the area in the late 19th Century. At present, the State Fisheries Development Corporation Limited is in charge of it and runs the Henry's Island Fisheries Project. Hence, this island boasts of more than 160 bheris or ponds where different varieties of fishes are cultivated. You will also find mangrove forests here. And of course, there is the sea beach. You can stay here for a day. Plan the day trip in a manner that would enable you to explore the island, have your lunch, then set out on your journey towards Kolkata. The island is open from 10 am - 5.30 pm. If the idea of staying on the island entices you, you can book rooms at one of the two lodges — Mangrove or Sundari. But, we would aks you to opt for the the tents instead. The charges are Rs 1,500 for AC rooms and Rs 400-Rs 800 for non-AC rooms and Rs 600 for tents. The observatory atop Sundari is intriguing. Do not miss the food here, especially if you love fish. The catch is fresh and you will be spoilt for choice. But, just to be on the safe side, do let the island-in-charge about your luncheon plans a day in advance.
The State Fisheries Development Corporation Limited, Bikash Bhavan, Bidhannagar. Phone: 2337 6470/ 2358 6832/ 6540 3292/ (03210) 225511/ 266102.

Related Stories