If Cox’s Bazar is the social hub of Bangladesh, with its throngs of tourists and crowded beaches, then its next door neighbour, St. Martin’s Island is the calm you need after the cheer.
Largely undisturbed, St. Martin’s island is a natural retreat for tourists who want nothing but mother nature in all her bountiful beauty. Lined with palm trees and a constant breeze, this is the only island in Bangladesh that boasts of corals in its waters. Like its hip and happening neighbour, the best place to visit this island is between November and February.
The area of St. Martin’s is between five to eight kilometres only, depending on the months of high and low tide, so it can be comfortably explored on foot in a day or two. Home to some 7,000 inhabitants, who live on income generated from the trade of fresh fish, coconuts and algae, the island has no electricity. While generator facilities are available in most hotels and resorts at night, it is hardly required with the cool climatic conditions of the area.
How to reach
The nicest way to travel to St. Martin’s is to take the Keari Sindbad ferry from Teknaf, which drops you to your location in less than two hours. Priced reasonably, this boat offers unparalleled views of Teknaf’s hills and Myanmar on either side of the Naf river. The most convenient bit about taking this mode of transport is that you can schedule a return trip a day or two later for the same price, which gives you enough time to explore your destination. You can also get to Cox’s Bazar by an airplane with an interchange of train and bus or entirely by bus too.
While sunsets are one of the most humbling things you can see on an island, Sunset Point, a rocky peninsula near the St. Martin’s resort, is famous because it is only accessible during a low tide! If one wishes to experience local life for a while, one can stroll through the sleepy streets while villagers dry their fish and sell coconuts.
Sea turtle hatcheries on the west side of the island operate at the Konapara village beach to help conserve these wild animals. The Rocky beach is the last point of the island and all the rock formations at this beach are made of coral. With permission from local land owners, one can trek through the area to see wildlife such as reptiles, migratory birds and sweet water sea turtles.
The Oceanic Scuba Dive Centre is run by ex-Navy divers and offers a fun diving experience, especially in the coral rich waters of the island. Prices are negotiable and living costs include a stay in a hut at Chhera Dwip, a tiny island where most of the diving takes place, complete with cooked meals and an experienced guide.
Souvenirs to buy
Although there isn’t much to buy on St. Martin’s, shell items and souvenirs are very popular, as is their dried fish, which is much fresher than what can be found in Cox’s Bazar. Places to stay range from low cost resorts to government guest houses to eco resorts. Prices depend on peak or off peak seasons. If you decide to go during the peak season, be sure to research well in advance.