Bakkhali is on one of the many deltaic islands spread across southern Bengal. Most of the islands are part of the Sunderbans, barring a few at the fringes. Some of these are joined together with bridges over narrow creeks. This small island juts out into the vast expanse of the Bay of Bengal.
There is a 8 km long beach stretching from Bakkhali to Frasergunj with gently rolling waves. These are twin towns now forming one continuous locality. Except on an occasional holiday the beach is not crowded. A small stretch near Bakkhali has been lighted up. It is a hard beach suitable for cycling or even driving. One can take long walks with coconut water.
It is 125 km by road from Joka tram terminus from NH-117 at the south-western edge of Kolkata. The road runs through Diamond Harbour and Kakdwip to Namkhana, where the car or bus has to be transported across the Hatania-Doania creek in a special ferry. The ferry service is available from 7AM-11PM except from noon till 1:45PM (lunch hour). The fare for crossing a car/jeep is approx ₹160 + ₹30 toll (including loading/unloading). The creek is not very wide, just about a hundred metres or so, but is considerably deep, allowing the movement of ships from Kolkata to ports in Bangladesh. The creek reduces the journey-time for the ships. Because of this, it is difficult to construct a bridge across the creek. An ordinary bridge would hamper movement of ships and a high bridge is a costly proposition. There is an excellent road from Namkhana to Bakkhali. The 130 km stretch from Kona expressway (with links to the Mumbai and Delhi sections of the golden quadrangle project linking the four metropolises of India) and Bakkhali has been marked as National Highway (NH) 117.
The road journey from the fringe of Kolkata to Bakkhali takes about 3½ hours and as much as 5 hours. However, crowded market places and occasional stretches of bad road can delay movement. Some sections are very crowded, especially in the early morning because of the bazaar, and later at the evening time, there is no bypass for these smaller towns.
West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation (WBSTC) has regular bus service from Dharmatala to Bakkhali. One starts at 7AM in the morning from Dharmatala and reaches Bakkhali at around 11:30AM and leaves from Bakkhali after half an hour for Kolkata (Dharmatala). Another starts at 8AM from Dharmatala to reach bakkhali at 12:30PM and starts from Bakkhali after half an hour forty five minutes. So the bottom-line is that there are two round trips from Kolkata to Bakkhali provided by WBSTC. This schedule is subject to change and one must confirm it from Dharmatala Bus Stand before venturing out from Kolkata. The route of the bus is Dharmatala- Alipore-Chiriakhana-Taratala-Diamond Harbour-Kakdwip-Namkahana-Bakkhali, the fare is ₹70.
There are plenty of local buses up to Namkhana and then again from Namkhana to Bakkhali.
The nearest rail station is at Namkhana. There are regular trains from Sealdah via Lakshmikantapur and Kakdwip to Namkhana. Check the time table in erail.in. The first train starts at around 4AM from Sealdah. Then at around 4:40AM then at 5:10 AM, 7:30AM and the next to this one is at a long gap at around 9:30AM. It is always advisable to take the train at 5:10 from Sealdah. Train fare is ₹25 and the journey takes around 2½ hrs. From Namkhana station you will get a van rickshaw or TOTO (fare ₹10/head) to reach the Ghat or jetty from where you need to cross a narrow creek called Hatania-Doania in a small boat.Boat fare is ₹2.mAfter that you have to give a toll tax of ₹5/head. Van fare is ₹10 per head or ₹60 if you reserve a van.From the bus stand one can get buses for Bakkhali which take around 35mins. and the fare is ₹16.50. You can also hire private cars from the Namkhana bus stand,the fare will be ₹350 to ₹500 depending on your bargaining skills. The Bakkhali bus stand is very close to most of the hotels and a 5- to 7-min walk from the beach.
The nearest airport is at Netaji Subhash Chandra (NSC) Bose International Airport or Dum Dum (CCU IATA) in northern Kolkata. It is located approximately 17 km (11 mi) from Kolkata's city centre and is India's 5th-busiest airport. Bakkhali is around 130 km or a 3-hr bus ride from Kolkata.
Taxis or hired transport are not generally available at Bakkhali or Namkhana. Those who desire to travel in hired transport should preferably arrange for it from Kolkata or try their luck at Diamond Harbour. Most Bakkhali hotels have chargeable dormitories for drivers to stay.
The ride in the crude bhut-bhuti, a motorised country boat, from Frasergunj fishing harbour to Jambu Dwip, a small, uninhabited and forested island out in the sea, can be a thrilling experience. The two-hour ride (both ways) costs ₹35 per head. The country boats can also be hired for other rides. The weak-hearted are advised not to take the rides.
For all the spots a rickshaw van will charge you at max ₹60 per head and it will take around 5 hr to visit all the spots and stay for 1 to 2 hr in Jambu Dwip.
- 1 Bakkhali Bus Stand. main bus stand in Bakkhali
- 2 Bakkhali Crocodile Project.
- 3 Bakkhali sea beach. It is a 8-km long sea beach, stretching from Bakhkhali to Fraserganj. The point shown on the map is towards the Bakkhali end. This part is lighted at night. There's a car park at the entry to the beach, and a fee if you want to take your car on to the beach - it's a hard surface.
- 4 Frazerganj Fishing Harbour (Jetty). Bhoot bhooties (motorised country boats) are available for visiting Jambudwip and other places. Travelling in the open sea in a primitive craft may get unconfortable if the sea suddenly turns rough, but hundreds of tourists go.
- 5 Henry Island. No more a separate island, it's slightly more than 5 km (15 minutes by car) from Bakkhali.
- 6 Jambudwip. Uninhabited forested island with a beautiful beach. There is no jetty. One has to get down on the watery beach.
The walk over the beach from Bakkhali to Frasergunj is a pleasant experience. The rickshaw van is the only transport available locally. On these rickshaw van you can take a trip to Henry's Island and Watch Tower. A rickshaw trip will travel through the local villages and their surrounds. From the watch tower you can view the entire Sunderban area. It is a splendid view. On one side you can see the Bakkhali Beach in the far distance and on all the other side the green expanses of Sundarban. It is cheap and since one has plenty of time, the ride can be enjoyable but do not expect much.
A temple called Bishhalakshmi is at the end of the Bakkhali main beach and is worth seeing. The pandit ji is quite different there as he won't allow you in the temple. He has his own rules.
Most of the time would be spent in enjoying on the beach but some people look out for opportunities to do other things also.
Get a massage at Bakhhali Beach (full body ₹45, head and shoulder ₹10).
Make it a point to visit Henry's island. If you have a car, its around 10mins ride from Bakkhali. Entry fee is ₹5. You can also use the rickshaw vans as well. There are 3 guest houses on Henry Island. If you wish you can stay there too. The lodges are named Mangrove, Sundari and Bani. Bani has a watchtower on the roof is very close to the sea beach. You can enjoy a good view of the surrounds from there. These lodges belong to the Fisheries Department of West Bengal. For reservations, contact: State Fisheries Development Corporation, Bikash Bhavan ☎+91 33 2337 6470. Have a look at the view from the watch tower and do walk to the beach. The walk goes through a stretch of mangrove jungle accessed by crossing a small bamboo bridge.
The credit for turning Henry Island into a holiday hotspot goes to the fisheries department of the state government which has set up a pisciculture project here. The fisheries department has dug more than 50 ponds occupying over 25 bigha on 100-hectare of land. Trees such as gora, kankru, palm, naturally growing sundari and hetal have been planted. Henry Island is named after a European who surveyed land in the area in the late 19th century. Dense mangrove forest is parted by numerous canals covering the area. Wildlife such as tiger, deer, wild pig, crocodile and snakes were common. The island was only an extension of the Sunderbans and the surveyor could not have dreamt that it would become a human habitat in little more than a hundred years.
Visit the Benfish harbour and Frasergunj Beach on the way to Henry's Island.
You can also visit the Crocodile Park and Mangrove forest just beside the Bakkhali Bus Stop. The entry fee is ₹2.
You can pay a visit to a small island, JammuDeep, amidst the sea where you have to travel via boat in high waves, the boat ride is just thrilling.on arrival you will be delighted to see the beach full with Red Crabs its really a nice view.
Credit cards are not accepted anywhere. There are a couple of ATMs, including one at Axis Bank at Bakkhali Bus Stand, but it is recommended to carry cash as the ATM tends to dry up quickly.
The stationery shops have reasonably good stocks.
- Frazargunj Indian Hotel beside Hotel Deepak. You will get many varieties with wonderful taste and reasonable price. If you buy sea fish and crab from outside and ask them to prepare it for you, they will do that happily for a small fee. These young men are very cooperative.
- New Hotel Parijat in between the local bus-stand and WBTDC Lodge provides the best food here at moderate prices. You will find all sorts of fishes like pomfret, hilsa, prawn and the standard rui and katla too. A normal rui thali with other recipes costs ₹35. Chicken meal ₹80, prawns ₹100. No breakfast available here. Extremely courteous staff.
- You can also try the various road side shacks for lunch and dinner. They come a little cheaper but the food can be sumptuous and tasty. However, because Bakkhali doesn't have a steady flow of tourists, most restaurants don't have a steady menu for lunch or dinner. You have to place an order for lunch/dinner a few hours in advance.
- Henry Island can be a paradise for non-vegetarians, but you are left with little or no option for vegetarians, which can become a major problem at times.
- Most hotels have their own restaurants and some have bars.
There are many hotels at both Bakkhali and Frasergunj and new ones are steadily coming up. The bus from Namkhana passes over Frasergunj before reaching Bakkhali. Henry Island is located closer to Frasergunj. None of the hotels have a direct view of the sea (the casuarina forest or jhau bon can be visible at maximum). The WBTDC Tourist Complex is nearest to the sea.
- Ananya Hotel (In between Bakkhali and Frazergunj), ☎ . Check-in: noon, check-out: 11:30AM. Three floors, plenty of water, hotel roof access, very good ambience and airy. Enclosed car parking available. Only problem with this hotel is the lack of any availability of food or snacks. Double room ₹300-500 with AC, 10-bed top floor dormitory for ₹120.
- 1 Bakkhali Tourist Lodge (take bus from Kolkata and the ferry across the Hatania-Doania river), ☎ (Lodge), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. The only lodge near the beach is run by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC) at Bakkhali. Credit cards accepted. ₹2500.
- Henry Island, Henry Island WBFD (10 min from Bakkhali), ☎ . Two complexes. One is just at the entrance of the Henry Island Mangrove area just adjoing the Matla river, and the other is 2 km inside it. The cottages inside Henry Island are named after various mangrove trees. The watchtower has a nice view. To book contact the State Fisheries Development Corporation (Bikash Bhavan). ₹300-600.
- 3 Hotel Amarabati, ☎ , (Kolkata office). Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Modern facilities are available. Cottage ₹750, deluxe room ₹1000, A.C. room ₹1,800, deluxe four-bed ₹2000, bathtub room ₹2800 or check website..
- Hotel Babylon, South 24 Parganas beside Punjab National Bank, ☎ . Check-out: 11AM. Clean hotel. Double rooms ₹200-400.
- Hotel Bayview, ☎ , (mobile), e-mail: email@example.com. Facilities are okay for budget conscious travellers. Food is Bengali only and seems to be clean and hygienic compared to other road-side eateries.
- 4 Hotel Deepak, Frasergunj, ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A/C and non-A/C rooms, lift, swimming pool, bar, Bengali/Chinese/Continental. dorm bed ₹100/day, rooms ₹450-850.
- 5 Hotel Dolphin, Chowrasta, 24 Parganas (South), ☎ , , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 12 noon, check-out: 11AM. A/C, non-A/C rooms, cottages, parking, garden, restaurant. On call doctor. ₹1,200-2,000 + 5% tax on A/C rooms.
- 6 Hotel Indrakanan (Artland group of hotels), ☎ . ₹125-500.
- Joyguru Abasan, Main road to beach. (2 minutes from Bakkhali bus stand.), ☎ . Check-in: 10AM, check-out: 11AM. Residential type hotel. Generator provided and running water available 24 hrs/day. All rooms have good ventilation, some rooms are facing the road with balconies. ₹500-1500.
- Sagar Belaya Guest House (at Frezergunj), ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 11:30AM, check-out: 11AM. Up to 50% off-season discount available. Bengali foods & snacks are available. Group cooking facility available, dining room@₹500/day, onsite generator 6PM-10PM daily. 8 double rooms ₹500-600, 2 triple rooms ₹600-₹750.
- Sahana Tourist Lodge, ☎ , (mobile), (Kolkata mobile), e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. 10 rooms with double beds, and one 4-bed room available on the 1st floor for ₹850. Off-season discount may be available. Car parking, onsite power generator, cable TV , children's playground. ₹425-850.
Mobile phone coverage at Bakkhali is good, covers full range up to JammuDeep. Aircel mobile services are not available. BSNL, Vodafone and Airtel has good coverage. Ideally, one should check with the hotel one intends to stay at to determine which of the mobile phone service providers have facilities in the town and whether STD calls can be made from the hotel. ISD calls cannot be made from the hotels but there are public call offices at Bakkhali and en route providing that facility.
- Bhagabatpur – crocodile project
- Sagar Island - Gangasagar
- Sundarbans National Park – gateway for the West Bengal part of Sundarbans is through Canning and Basanti, but Sunderbans accessible from Bakkhali. But best accessed though Basanti. If one reaches Netadhopan tigers can be spotted too.