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Henry’s Island

Will you believe me that there’s a serene white sand beach flanked by mangrove forests waiting for you just a four-hour drive from Kolkata? It’s not Digha or Mandarmani that I am talking about. It’s the exotic Henry’s Island in the south 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. It is one of the numerous isles in the world’s largest basin – the Sundarbans delta. A poor man’s Andaman, the island lacks the infrastructure of a tourist hot-spot, but it charms you with its raw beauty.

Henry’s Island

It’s one of the numerous islands in the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta – the largest in the world. The unique ecosystem crisscrossed by rivulets houses a large variety of flora and fauna. In 1980s, Benfish, the Government fisheries department of West Bengal took over the island and turned it into a successful eco-tourism project. 

The original post was written as a part of the series for Blogchatter A2Z which later made into the book Postcards from India : India’s Hidden Gems tell their Stories? Readers say it’s a “must-read for every travel enthusiast” which is “showcasing enchanting India”. Their own words, not mine. Please check it out on Amazon. It’s available in both Digital and Paperback version.
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Our Trip to Henry’s Island

Nothing was right about the plan. It was a trip on a hot summer day with a 1-year-old and elderly parents. It involved driving the SUV through narrow mud-roads followed by a 500-meter-walk through the forest lane. 

The ideal time to visit is early morning or towards the evening. The gate to Henry’s island closes at 5pm, so keep that in mind while planning. Walking a short distance in this beautiful setting should be a cakewalk but the summer heat made it uncomfortable, especially for the baby. 

The good thing about the timing however was that we got the entire island almost to ourselves. However, a warning sign for not going to the beach kept us away from the true gem. It’s really silly that they warned us from stepping into the beach, in an island!

Red Crabs in Henry’s Island

None of the travel blogs I had read earlier had this information and I had seen some spectacular pictures of the beach before visiting. I guess, people go there despite the signboard. Like the young couple who just returned from the beach when we went there. We’d know what the reason was had there been anyone around to ask. 

But we enjoyed the view, nonetheless. The raw nature was breathtaking.

Also read: The best beaches in India for families

Highlights of Henry’s Island

The Mangroves

Mangroves of Henry’s Island

The mangrove forests are an essential aspect of the beauty of Henry’s island. The trees, called “sundari” in Bengali are typical to the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta. Aside from lending the place its unique charm, these trees stabilize shorelines and protect the land from destruction during cyclones. Much of these forests were destroyed by Amhan, a disastrous cyclone of 2020 but it’s heart-warming to see the recovery. 

The beach

Exotic beach of Henry’s Island

Ofcourse the best thing to do here is to do nothing in the beaches. Just sit and marvel at the impeccable beauty of the sea. You can take a stroll and walk towards the rivers. There are like thousands of red crabs that you can find here and in the mangroves.

The Pisciculture lakes

“Bheri” – the pisciculture ponds in the island

In the mesh of many rivulets thrive atleast 164 “bheris” – ponds for pisciculture. These are artificial freshwater-bodies cut out for the fishing project of West Bengal government. You can find many of these in Frasergunj area, but Henry’s island has the largest concentration of the same. 

The Sundari lodge

The entire complex is mainstained by the government’s fishery department. They have a resort called the Sundari lodge where you can stay in individual cottages. Even if you don’t book your stay at henry’s land you can explore this resort and climb the watchtower for panoramic views.

How to Reach Henry’s Island

By Rail: The nearest railway station is at Namkhana about 25 km driving distance. There are frequent local trains (EMU) services between Namkhana and Sealdah Station via Lakshmikantapur and Kakdwip. Ticket cost is of Rs. 25.00 and the journey takes around 3 hours. From Namkhana you can hire a cab to Henry’s Island. No long-distance train or express train runs in this route. The nearest railway head is in Kolkata (namely, Sealdah, Howrah and Kolkata Railway Station), it is about 125 km away from the Henry’s Island.

Lush paddy fields on the way to Henry’s Island

By Road: Henry’s Island is located around 125 km away from Kolkata and is easily accessible by road. You can take a bus from Esplanade or Korunamoyee to Bakkhali. There is frequent WBSTC bus service to Bakkhali. Henry Island is around 5 km from Bakkhali. You will get Toto or Machine Van from Bakkhali to reach Henry’s Island. It may cost Rs. 150.00 to Rs. 200.00 for full reserve. Otherways, you can ask the bus conductor to Jetighat Stoppage, 4 km before Bakkhali, and then another 1.5 km journey but the availability of transport is very uncertain. Alternatively, you can travel by car to reach at Henry’s Island from Kolkata, it is around 4 hours road journey.

By Air: The nearest airport is at Kolkata, which is about 150 km driving distance from the Henry’s Island.

Nearby attractions

Visit the Frasergunj Windmills

Henry's Island
Sunset at Kargil beach in Frasergunj

Frasergunj is named after British lord Fraser who used to live there. You will enjoy the serene rural landscape in this historic place.

Stay overnight in Bakkhali

Balutot Tourism Property in Bakkhali

After a fulling trip here, you can go to Bakkhali beach nearby. Bakkhali is just 4km away from Henry’s Island, and the nearest spot in the mainland. You can stay overnight at one of the many hotels and resorts there like Hotel Dibney

I highly recommend the Balutot tourism property owned and operated by the West Bengal Tourism department. Next day you can explore other beautiful places in Bakkhali.

A trip to Jambudweep

The elusive island of Jambudweep is crowded by flamingoes in winter. 8km away from Henry’s island you can take a boat ride to the island.

Best Travel Resources

 

Closing thoughts

Henry’s island is a unique offbeat destination in India. It’s also an eco-sensitive zone and tourists should be mindful of their impact on the surroundings here. Respect the nature and the people who live there almost at the frontline of all the cyclones emerging from Bay of Bengal.

The best time to visit Henry’s island is in the winter when the weather is pleasant and migratory birds abound the place. This is not the place to bathe or indulge in water sports. It’s a place to walk around and be in awe of the nature. Do not litter, support the local vendors and abide by the rules laid down.

I hope you liked the post. If you did, please share and leave a comment. Let’s connect on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Sinjana Ghosh

Sinjana Ghosh is a full-time business professional with a penchant for writing and travel planning. Backpack & Explore is a journal of her travel stories and tips she collected from her experience. She is the author of the travel book “Postcards from India” which is available on Amazon, Flipkart and Notionpress.com

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11 Comments

  1. Jyoti Jha April 9, 2020

    Wow, didn’t know about this beautiful place. Thanks for sharing. Would love to visit here.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh April 9, 2020

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Swarnali Nath April 9, 2020

    I have read Henry’s Island in books always. Today it felt so nice to see the pictures and reading the post.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh April 9, 2020

      Thanks Swarnali

  3. Sitharaam Jayakumar April 9, 2020

    I have lived most of my life in Chennai and love strolls on the sands of the beaches. Henry’s Island sounds really exciting with its mangrove forests and opportunities for photography. I have visited the kolkata railway station just once and just stepped out and saw the Howrah bridge. Would like to do a tour of bengal.

    Reply
  4. Sonia Chatterjee April 9, 2020

    We had been to Bakhkhali 2 years ago for a group picnic. Discover Henry’s Island then. This place finds a mention in the books of some Bengali authors as well.

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh April 9, 2020

      Thanks Sonia. Will check out the books.

  5. Mayura Amarkant April 9, 2020

    During these dull lockdown days, your post is like fresh breeze. Thank you for introducing me to Henry Island.
    Request you to embed your Twitter handle in the sharing button, please.
    #DiaryOfAnInsaneWriter #BlogchatterA2Z

    Reply
    1. Sinjana Ghosh April 10, 2020

      Thanks a lot Mayura. It is embedded actually, don’t know if shareaholic started acting funny again.

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