India: Bakkhali - A Lesser Known Serene White Beach
January 1, 1970
by MADHURI KATTI
Where is Bakkhali?
India is a land with sea on three sides and mountain range on the top. This geographical feature means it is dotted with many known and unknown beaches in the East, West and the South. Wish, one could travel along it’s coast through all the small beaches connecting to small fishing villages or bigger town. But that does seem a daunting task as the terrain is not flat, it is hilly with back waters in some areas, mountains and forests in the rest. It seemed better idea to visit lesser known beaches near the big cities.
Kolkata, the oldest port city in the east of India, was once the Capital of India when it was ruled by British East India Company. The mighty river Ganges which flows into Bay of Bengal provided the best port to the entire East Asia. It was also a trading hub long time ago. One can see relics of the British Era especially the architecture in the city even today. It will require another post to talk of this historical city. Before we meander through it’s lanes and bylanes it is better to follow the river route to reach the closet lesser known pristine beaches around the well known Mangrove heritage Sundarbans.
Bakkhali, is one such pristine white beach which is far from the madding crowd yet accessible by local transport. If one is a back packer and wants to avoid luxury of private car, Bakkhali can be reached by local train too. Sealdah is the nearest railway station from Kolkata airport. It would ideal if one travels around Kolkata to get acclimatised with the weather, people, crowd and the chaos for a couple of days before venturing into far off suburbs near the beaches.
How to Reach:
From Sealdah station south one needs to take a train to Namkhana, the last point on that route and then cross across river tributaries by boat and then take a car or local transport to reach Bakhhali. It takes approximately five hours to reach the beach from Kolkata by any means of transport. There are even local transport buses plying regularly but bus is not advisable due to unpredictable bus, road and traffic condition. One must not forget that local road transport in a nation like India is not always comfortable.
It is advised to book accommodation online if one is travelling on a weekend. The Government of West Bengal, runs a lodge which is very close to the beach and is pretty clean and well maintained. Yellow fields of Sunflower had pleasantly surprised us during the train journey.For Van Gogh fan sunflowers gave a surreal touch to the trip. Imagine pristine beaches with sunflower fields near by!!! The resort garden too had sunflowers…
First Impression of Bakkhali Beach:
After refreshments, one can simply walk down to the beach which is just three minutes away. If you expect beaches with loads of tourists, it will be disappointing. Also if it is low tide, you will be surprised to see white sand beach followed by hard beach with tide marks and little pools of water with waves almost 1 km or 2 km away. But yet the sight is not disappointing. There will be many sandpiper birds prancing around and enthusiasts walking towards the water. If the sun is too hot, look for chairs with umbrellas, a recent facility provided by local women for minimal charge of Re. 10 for one hour. The sound of the sea, the taste of salt brought in by the breeze and clouds casting shadows and shades in the water will soon mesmerise you.
It is a long wait for the tides to turn but once they turn the sea turns absolutely delightful. One can return to the beach after visiting local areas or after late lunch in the evening. The sunset time is most colorful when the tide comes into too – as though to greet the crimson setting Sun. The beach comes to life with more tourists and local coconut water sellers seeking out thirsty visitors.
Evening Activities at the Beach:
Ironically, just after sunset, the beach activity increased when fresh fish kiosks started their business. A small kiosk typically displays all kinds of local sea and fresh water fishes.Fishes are sold either fried after dipping in batter or simply fresh fried with local spices. The fresh fishes sell like hot cakes, it’s not just fishes, there are prawns of all sizes and varieties, lobsters, crabs and everything edible from the sea. One is spoilt for choices. The food is simple but tasty though it may not meet best hygiene standards. Like typical street food available all over the world, it is very popular. It is attractive enough to even extend the stay for some fish lovers.
The beach unfortunately is dotted with lights which have been provided recently but yet when looks away from them into dark skies, bright stars and planets are visible. Beach can be used by Astronomy enthusiasts as well. Till 10 pm the beach is active with wild wind blowing, clouds moving swiftly over planets, stars and moon, sand moving on to the shores, deafening sound of the risen tide provides the background score. The first evening itself lures one to stay back to enjoy another quiet day. The lodge food is very hygenic and healthy. They provide free breakfast which consists of both local and continental fare. The lodge itself arranges for local sightseeing for next morning. We visited nearby places like Frazerganj and Henry’s Island – yet another beautiful white sand beach next day. The Bakkhali beach too has forest in the back drop with surprising flora and fauna.
Some birds and small animals came to greet us in the lodge next day:
The next post will be about Henry’s Island, local forest visit and red crabs nesting ground. Bakkhali may not measure much if compared to best beaches of India or the world. Yet, this sleepy fishing village with simple folks and peaceful beach is the best getaway after stressful week. One can actually feel the sea entering the soul to rejuvenate it.