Bangladesh Slideshow

03 March, 2008

Paradise Isle





"Dekha hoy nai chokhkhu meliya..."
Tagore's immortal lines describe me perfectly. I have sailed the islands of Maldives and basked on the beaches of Hawaii, but had not until now discovered what a beautiful paradise lies in my own country.

Yes, I'm talking about St Martin's Island. It took us 16 hours door-to-door to reach this little island, but it was so worth it! The view from our right-on-the-beach hotel balcony rivaled that of any other top-rated beaches I've walked on. And once my toes touched the sand and tread the water, oh it just felt so much better!

We walked the beaches for hours, watched the sunrise and sunset, waded in shallow rock pools,
admired the variety of shells scattered on the sand, were childlike in our excitement at seeing the colorful fish dart in and out of the coral reefs, dipped neck-deep in the surprisingly warm sea (reckless, I can’t swim!), looked in at the sea turtle hatchery, took a trawler to Chhera Dwip (Torn Island - so named as it is separated from the main island by a coral reef) and gorged on green coconut, watermelon and fried fish. We bought flip flops and pickles (all smuggled in from Myanmar and sold openly) from shops on the main street. I chatted endlessly to children and adults. And found three new canine pals.

Fishing constitutes the major livelihood on the island, tourism comes second (seasonal, for six months). There is many a family who've lost their man to the seas, accepting their fate stoically, and the average income of fishing families is around Tk. 200 a day! But despite the hardships, the poverty, the constant struggle and uncertainties of life, the people are undemanding, God-fearing, friendly and helpful. The islanders are a religious lot, and we came across not a single adult women anywhere (all safely ensconced from prying eyes in their homes). Almost all children are getting some form of education (primary school or madrassah), which was truly, truly amazing!

This island has been declared an ecologically critical area by the Government, in prominently displayed billboards at the jetty, and elsewhere on the island, and yellow-shirted volunteers patrol the beaches to make sure there is no picking of shells or coral. There still is though, thanks to unscrupulous tourists. And my last morning on the island was spoiled by the sight of a fisherman gutting a spotted catshark, and a manta ray awaiting the same fate!

The facilities on the island - from hotel to food, are adequate. The prices, however, are exorbitant (a very average hotel room was Tk. 1800/night, a piece of fried fish Tk. 50, a small watermelon Tk. 100). Electricity is provided through generators only in the evenings. Mushrooming hotels and mindless littering are a rising threat to the ecological balance of the island.

But if time-off had not been such a precious commodity in my life, I would spend a lot of time on this isle! Oh the pristine white beaches, the crystal clear blue water, the simple people, the fresh fruit and fish! I have been back two days but the raving will continue for weeks!

3 comments:

Home Theater said...

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Shahnaz said...

Hi!

Thanks for your kind comments. I visited your blog but apart from looking at the graphics, couldn't read anything because I don't know Portughese.

Thanks again for knocking at my Bangladeshi blog.

rabab ahmed said...

i love your writing, shahnaz apa!!

and i went to st.martin about 4 years ago and felt pretty much what you felt... i was totally blown away.

you know... i have all these grandiose ideas of writing about what i see and my adventures.... but never do.... i can't be a writer if i'm so lazy!! ...but i think you might have inspired me into getting to it..... :)