Are you planning for a short offbeat weekend trip far away from the crowd, noise, and pollution?
Henry Island near Bakkhali can be one such destination to melt your heart. The scenic island on the shore of the Bay of Bengal is named after a British explorer who discovered it in the nineteenth century. It is located in the district of South 24 Parganas, almost 140 km away from the hustle-bustle city of Kolkata.
Lately, the West Bengal Government has taken some initiatives to make it a popular weekend destination near Kolkata. Henry’s Island is gaining traction from visitors every day and has become an excellent alternative to Bakkhali lately. Being a remote location, there are few resorts and hotels available for accommodation. So you better plan early.
What to expect in Henry Island?
Henry Island is an extension of Sundarban, where tourists can experience the mystic mangrove forest. The trail from the dropping point that leads to the beach is picturesque. Surrounded by the greenery, a small wooden bridge follows a path of interlocking concrete paver blocks to lead you to the pristine beach of Henry Island. The unexploited coastline, calm nature, and fresh air will surely soothe your soul like it did to me!
I have been visiting Henry Island since my childhood days and have seen lots of ups and downs in the landscape, flora and fauna. For example, in 2006, when I first visited, Henry Island did not have a nice sandy sea beach as it has now. It was muddy, and the mangrove plantations were denser.
After repeated cyclones, especially Amphan in 2020, the Bay of Bengal covered Henry Island beach with white sands, making it more beautiful and attractive to tourists. A reverse effect can be seen at Mousuni Island, where the sandy beach is replaced with mud.
You will be lucky to see some of the mangrove trees like Sundari (Heritiera Littoralis), Garan (Ceriops Tagal), Gewa (Excoecaria Agallocha), Gol Pata (Nypa Fruiticans), Keora (Sonneratia Apetala) surrounding the Henry Island sea beach.
Henry Island is a home to millions of colourful crabs and mudskippers. Once you reach there, you are likely to notice them roaming around the water and sand. The white sand of the beach makes the colour of the crabs more prominent and beautiful.
You may walk across the beach and can play hide and seek with the crabs or just sit by the beach to enjoy the beautiful landscape. With cool breeze and a touch of small waves on your feet, you can get a peaceful experience. However, do not expect large waves like Puri in Henry Island. Instead, you will get a calm beach to enjoy nature to the fullest.
If you take a walk to the left side of the coast, after 15-20 minutes, you will witness a beautiful estuary, where a small river through the mangrove forest meets the sea. At the time of sunrise and sunset, the beach near this part of henry Island looks more beautiful. Beware of quicksand and never go bathing here.
With a dense forest with lots of wildlife, Henry island is the perfect place for birdwatching. Kingfisher, black-rumped flame back, rusty-rumped warbler, plover, egret, red knot, woodpecker, bee-eater and many other migratory birds are seen on Henry Island. So, if you love birding like me, carry your birdwatching gear, including a binocular and a camera.
How to Reach Henry’s Island near Bakkhali?
There are two ways you can reach Henry island-
- Reach Bakkhali from Esplanade by bus. From there, rent a toto and reach Henry’s Island.
- Reach Namkhana station if you are travelling by train, and then hire a toto that will cost you ₹300-400 to Henry Island.
It will be best if you reach the Jelighat stop (4 Km away from Bakkhali), then take a separate ride to the left unless you have your car or hire one directly to Henry’s Island. From the Jelighat stop, Henry island is just 1.5 Km away.
The ideal time to visit Henry Island
You can visit Henry Island throughout the year. But the winter season, i.e., November to February, is the best time to visit there. The weather becomes delightful which is the perfect condition to explore the beach. You may see some migratory birds at this time.
During monsoons, adventure seekers can also come here to witness the enchanting form of the sea. And this time, the greenery all around surely attracts anyone. However, monsoon can be difficult for tourism.
Best places to visit near Henry’s Island
There are many exciting places to see near Henry Island like Bakkhali, Fraserganj, and Jambudwip. Let’s check them in detail-
1. Bakkhali Sea Beach
Similar to Henry Island, Bakkhali is also a scenic travel destination located just 7 Km away. The beautiful sandy beach, calm atmosphere and seaside tree plantations are most attractive to tourists. While Henry island is not suitable for not bathing, one can enjoy water activities at Bakkhali sea beach.
The long coastline of the Bay of Bengal near Bakkhali is perfect for strolling and hiking. After sunset, you can spend quality time on the beach enjoying the susurration of the waves. It is the closest sea beach near Kolkata for friends and couples.
2. Jambu dwip
When visiting Henry island, you can come to see the emerald sea beach of Jambu Dwip from Frasergang within an hour by motorized boat. The entire boat journey is enjoyable, and the overall experience will surely be memorable.
Jambu Dwip is a virgin sea beach with red crabs all around. The island is very important for its geographical position. Being situated in the Bay of Bengal, it safeguards the coastline of Sundarbans from cyclones.
Earlier, tourists were allowed to get off the coast. I am lucky that I could set foot on this island on my first visit! But 2008 onwards, tourists cannot get on Jambu Dwip as the government planned to preserve it.
However, now you can still go near the island on boats and watch it from the sea. As per locals, a Mangrove plantation has been done and wildlife like deer were released on the island.
Fraserganj located just 4 Km from Henry Island and is famous for its fishing harbour and wind park. The windmills constructed here make the place unique. However, most of them were destroyed in recent cyclones. From Fraserganj ferry ghat, you can take the boat ride to visit Jambudwip.
4. Bakkhali Crocodile Park
The crocodile park in Bakkhali is must visit a place for tourists visiting Henry Island. It is one of the few crocodile reservation park with a massive collection of variant crocodiles in West Bengal. You will also see deer roaming here. Please do not disturb these wild animals or try to feed them.
NOTE: After repeated cyclones, the officials have shifted all the animals from Bakkhali to other locations. You may now enter the park but there are no crocodiles and deer at present.
5. Other Tourist Attractions
If you have more time when visiting Henry Island, you can also visit Mousuni island where you can camp in a tent by the sea beach. You can also visit the local market for fresh fish. Gangasagar is also a popular tourist destination near Henry Island.
If you love visiting sea beaches, plan a 2-day trip to Tajpur, also located in southern West Bengal.
Henry Island resorts and hotels
As Henry Island is an offbeat location and a government project, there are no private hotels. Only two resorts/hotels are available for accommodation. You can book them online from the website (wbsfdcltd.com) of The State Fisheries Development Corporation Ltd, West Bengal-
- Mangrove Guest House, Henry Island, is known chiefly for its dormitory facility, starting from ₹450 per bed (Price may vary with time). You can book any of the AC and Non-AC rooms as per your requirement. Before coming to this hotel, book your room as per your need.
- On the other hand, Sundari Guest House has mostly double-bedded rooms with prices starting from ₹1000 per room and non-air-conditioned rooms. The air-conditioned rooms are available at different prices, i.e., ₹1300, ₹1500, and ₹1600 (excluding GST). Please note that the prices are subject to vary over time as per the Fishery Department.
There is large water bodes in front of the resorts of Henry Island, where fishes like Tilapia, Prawn and Bhetki are farmed. You can often see fishermen catching them with nets. The cool breeze and peaceful ambience will make your stay very enjoyable. Here you will notice a watchtower, from where you can view beautiful greenery around and a panoramic view of the coastal area.
The Henry Island resort complex provides 24×7 security, a restaurant, room service, a park for kids, and a car parking facility. We found the food served in the resorts is delicious and homely. The hotel authority may also provide a local sightseeing facility on request. Compared to the Mangrove complex, the Sundari complex is situated closer to the beach.
As alternative accommodations, you can also stay at Bakkhali. From luxury to budget-friendly, there are many types of hotels. Balutot Tourism Property is the best hotel to stay here, managed by WBTDCL. The hotel’s location, quality of the food served here, room service, everything is commendable. The other popular hotels are Hotel Amaravati, Balaka lodge, Hotel Deepak, etc.