Wednesday, August 28

Saint Martin Coral Island, Bangladesh

Saint Martin Coral Island, Bangladesh

Saint Martin's is the most beautiful and only coral island in Bangladesh and one of the best Eco-Tourism Destinations among the others. It is called the marine paradise of Bangladesh, located in the northeast part of the Bay of Bengal, just about 9 km south of the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf peninsula and 8 km west of the northwest coast of Myanmar. The island forms at the southernmost part of Bangladesh and at the estuary of the Naf River that divided Bangladesh and Myanmar marking as the international borderline between the two countries. The island is locally called as “Narikel Jinjira” that means Coconut Island when a lot of coconut grows in this island. Someone called it “Daruchini Dip” due to its lovely landscape and illusive crystal blue water of the Bay of Bengal that surrounding the island. The location of Saint Martin's Island is on the getaway in Bangladesh. The surrounding coral reef of the island has an extension named “Chera Dwip”.

Picture of St Martin's Island

The first human settlement started in the island just about 250 years ago by some Arabian sailors who named the island “Zajira”. During the British period, the island was named St. Martin’s Island. The population of the island is about 7500 and the main profession of the people is fishing. Besides algae collection, tourism services etc are the common profession of the inhabitants. Water transportation is the only way to reach this island i.e. boats and ships (mostly for tourists) from Teaknaf. The major goods for daily livelihood for the inhabitants come from the mainland Bangladesh.

From 1989 to 2004, non-residential Bangladeshis and foreigners were only allowed to visit the island. However, this has changed and now residential Bangladeshis are also allowed to visit the Island. There is no electricity supply from the national grid in the island. The tourist hotels of the island run on generators.

Image of St Martins coral

It is possible to walk around the island in a day because it measures only 8 km2, shrinking to about 5 km2 during high tide. You will get the best weather usually from November – February to visit this island. From March to July, the weather of the region may be rough. Very often, cyclone can strike during these times. The island was seriously harmed by the devastated cyclone in 1991 but has fully recovered, and was untouched by the 2004 tsunami. So from March to July is tourist off season.

In the past few years, St. Martin's visitors have increased dramatically. St Martin’s Island is perfect for tourists who wish to revive escaping the monotony of a robotic daily life. The island is all about sun, sea and palm trees. During the tourist season, the island comes alive with water and beach sports, with beach parties and bonfires lighting up the evening sky. The island is very suitable for scuba driving. One may also enjoy engine boat or speed boat tour in the very crystal blue water around this island. Though there is no security problem for the visitors, one can pop down to the Coast Guard station for any kind of security helping. There’s no land phone but mobile phone network. So you can communicate with the world and even you can browse Internet from your wireless devices.

Coral of St Martin

Chera Dip

Chera Dip is a coral based island adjacent to St. Martin but divided during tides. You can go to Cheera  Dip from St Martin’s island by walking (!) or by local motorboats or tourist boats. A lot of Corals of various species - living and dead form the land of the island. There is a small bush which is the only green part of Chera Dip enhancing the landscape of this island. There is no permanent inhabitant in Chera Dip, so it is advisable to the tourists to go there early and come back by evening. To enhance your enjoyment, you can taste there fry of fresh marine fisheries and green coconut water from a number of mobile shops dedicated to tourist services.

Hotels Booking in Saint Martin Island

Accommodation in St. Martins Island is limited, so it is advisable to book hotel before you plan to go to this Island. You will hardly get a chance to stay in this hotel if you are a sudden visitor of St. Martins Island. The remarkable tourist hotels in Saint Martin’s are Hotel Nijhum, Prashad Paradise, Sraboni Bilash, Samudra Bilash, Resort Simana Parie etc. Booking of these hotels are also possible from Dhaka, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar. All these hotels are situated adjacent to Seashore. From these hotels lobby or veranda, you can enjoy the illusive breeze and romantic sound of Sea. There are also some other motels and hotels established recently in St. Martin’s for tourist accommodation. Besides, the local fishermen and inhabitants also rent their well decorated rooms for tourists’ accommodations purpose. If you are lucky enough, you can spend the exotic moonlit night at St. Martin’s Island. The beauty of Full moon in St. Martins Island cannot be expressed in words, if you are not there at that time.

How to Go St. Martin Island

You can go there by sea truck, local motorboat or tourist boats. Currently, five shipping liners run daily trips to the island, including Keary-Sindbad, Keary Cruise & Dine, Shahid Sher Niabat, L C T Kutubdia and Eagle from Teknaf. Beside a shipping liner recently inaugurate there service from Cox’s Bazaar. Tourists can book their trip from Dhaka, Chittagong or Cox's Bazar. You need to fly or take a direct bus down to Cox's Bazaar, and then take a bus to Teknaf, which is the most southern police station of Bangladesh. You can also go by rail to Chittagong and then a bus from Bahaddarhat station to Teknaf via Cox’s bazaar.  From my own experience, it is better to travel sea truck from Teknaf and take an open dock ticket to enjoy the adventure and thrill of the mighty Bay of Bengal. You will have a chance as a bonus to enjoy the green hill tracts of Taknaf to soothe your eyes in the west and Mayanmar borderline in the east when you are in open dock of a sea truck in Naf River and estuary. Sea trucks leaves Teknaf every morning at 9.00 am, and return from St. Martin Island in the same day at 3.00 pm.

Package Tour to Saint Martin Island

Beside Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, a number of renowned local Tour Operators arrange package tour to Saint Martin Island from November to February. It is a wise decision especially for foreign tourists to hand over all headache of journey, accommodation, foods and so on to an experienced Tour Operator to visit the amazing tourist heaven Saint Martin’s island, Bangladesh.