Frazerganj, Bakkhali & Henry’s Island ~ Beach by the Mangrove
Exactly 100 years ago, Lt-Gov. of Bengal Andrew Frazer fell in love with a beach at one end of the Sunderbans. He was so drawn to that stretch of sand that he built a bungalow at Narayanitala, the nearest village.
The bungalow by the sea, surrounded by coconut groves, became a talking point among the Englishmen in Calcutta. Frazer, however, could not fulfil his dream of converting Narayanitala, later rechristened Frazerganj, into a health and beach resort. The bungalow, too, was swallowed by the advancing waters. Today, apart from the name, nothing remains of Frazerganj’s colonial past. However, don’t be disheartened, for the beach of Frazerganj, along with those of nearby Henry’s Island and Bakkhali are enchanting enough for a perfect weekend and more.
Located about 130 km from Kolkata, Bakkhali, Frazerganj & Henry’s Island is well connected by road. The highlight of the 5 hours bus journey is the crossing of the Hatania – Doania River. Bus and other vehicles are ferried by a vessel across the narrow but swift flowing river.
Bakkhali beach is one of the few beaches in India, which offers a spectacular sunrise and sunset. The sun rises and sets along the edge of the sea turning both the water and sand into a bright shade of crimson. Bakkhali is the most popular of the three resorts and have a number of hotels, including the West Bengal Government Tourist Lodge.
The beach of Bakkhali is safe but is not ideal for swimming as the water is very shallow. There are nearby fishing villages and fresh fishes are sold straight out of the fisher’s man net. There is nothing much to do in Bakkhali expect laze in the beach.
In the evening tea stall lets out plastic chairs @ Rs5 per hour and one can sit for hours munching on endless plates of Bhelpuri, Jhalmuri, Pokaros gulping it down with cups of tea.
When it comes to food Bakkhali is a favourite hunt for the fish loving Bengali tourist. Promfret, Bethki, Ilish, Pabda along with prawns and crabs are available at a throw away price at the roadside eateries. These eateries also cooks the freshly caught fish purshased from the sea beach. Do try out the fish and sea food at the Sagar Kanya, a small eatery on the road connecting Bakkhali Bus – stand to the beach.
Bakkhali also houses a Deer & Crocodile Farm. It also doubles up as a crocodile breading centre with crocodiles of different ages kept in different reservoirs. The deer are also kept in large enclosure. The place is always infested with stray monkeys.
The Bakkhali also houses a small shrine dedicated to the gurdain deity of Sundarban Bonbibi. The easiest way to visit the temple is to take a walk along the beach with the sea on the right. Walk till the last lamppost and take a left turn into the Causarina forest leading up to the small shrine of Bonbibi.
Named after Lt-Gov. of Bengal Andrew Frazer, Frazerganj is about 3 km from Bakkhali. It is well connected from Bakkhali by bus and cycle van but the best option is to walk along the beach.
The beach between Bakkhali & Frazerganj is lonely and there are several fishing villages and you are quiet likely to come across fishermen mending their boats and nets, with their children playing in the beach.
The main landmark of the Frazerganj beach are the towering wind mills. Slightly of the Frazerganj beach are several dilapidated houses almost at the verge of collapsing, locals believe them as the remains of Frazer’s famed bunglow, but there are no concrete evidences to justify their belief.
Farazerganj is a hub of fishing activities and houses a large harbour. A short bumpy cycle van ride connects the beach to the harbour. Hundred of fishing boats, of all posible shape and size, line up the harbour. It is a place of fanatic activities with fishes being unloaded and packed with ice. Benfish also runs a auction centre at the harbour.
It is also a place where boats and nets are mended. Also you can come across new boats are being worshiped before making their maiden voyage.
Frazerganj harbour is also the lunch pad for trips to the uninhabited Jambu Dip, a small island approachable by a short but rough boat ride. Apart from a few temporary fishing huts Jambu Dip has no permanent settlement. It is an ideal place to enjoy the beach all to yourself, but be prepared for rough ride and wadding through knee deep water.
Located on the western edge of the Sundarban, Henry’s Island is fast developing into in West Bengal’s favorite Beach Resort. Named after a British surveyor, who survived the area about a century ago, Henrys Island is one of the numerous island that form the Ganga – Brahmaputra delta, the largest in the world. Crisscrossed by numerous rivers and rivulets Henry’s island offer an interesting mix of beach and mangrove forest. A place, where tourist can laze on the beach and spot wildlife simultaneously.
During 1980s the West Bengal Fisheries Department took the initiative of turning Henry’s Island into a tourist spot. Several ponds were dug and a forestation project taken up. It also led to the construction of the two resorts of Mangrove & Sundari.
A kilometer long narrow Bernard Road connects Henry’s Island to the Kolkata – Bakkhali Highway. The road meanders through agricultural fields and Henry’s Island is reached after crossing a creek, where the beautifully laid garden welcomes you to the Mangrove Resort. The meatled road gives away to a brick laid road and it meanders through dense forest to reach the Sundari Resort, from there a further 10 minute walk takes you to the Kiran Beach.
The Kiran Beach is a mixture of sand and clay and is lined with casuarinas plantation with occasional mangroves. You are quite likely to have the beach all to yourself along with a company of red crabs, turning the beach into a red carpet.
Sundari Tourist Complex houses a watch tower, providing a panoramic view of the surrounding and lucky few can even spot wildlife like deer and wild pigs. Complex also house several large ponds used for fish cultivation. Fresh fish and shrimps straight out the ponds are a must try for the visitors.
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