St. Martin’s Island is a small island in the northeastern part of the Bay of Bengal, about 9 km south of the tip of the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf peninsula, and forming the southernmost part of Bangladesh. It is about 8 km west of the northwest coast of Myanmar, at the mouth of the Naf River. The local name of the island is “Narical Gingira”, also spelled “Narikel Jinjira/Jinjera”, translated from Bangla, meaning ‘Coconut Island’. It is the only coral island in Bangladesh.
St. Martin's Island
Most of the island’s 5500 inhabitants live primarily from fishing. Besides, the other staple crops are rice and coconut. Being very common in the island, Algae is collected, then dried and finally exported to Myanmar. Between October and April, the fishermen from neighbouring areas bring their caught fishes to the island’s temporary wholesale market. As the centre and the south are mainly farmland and makeshift huts, most of the strenuous things are around the far north of the island.
Motel Nijhum is one of the best hotels in St. Martin�s Island. Besides, Prashad Paradise and Sraboni Bilash are also well known hotels. All these hotels are situated near the seashore.
Do not expect to find taxis, tarred roads or electricity here. Except for the larger hotels that run on generators, there is no electricity in the island. The island is all about sun, sea and palm trees. During the day, the island comes alive with water and beach sports, with beach parties and bonfires lighting up the evening skies.
St. Martin’s Island has become a popular tourist spot. Currently, three shipping liners run daily trips to the island, including Sea-Truck and Keary-Sindbad. Tourists can book their trip either from Chittagong or from Cox’s Bazar. The surrounding coral reef of the island has an extension named Chera Dwip. A small bush is there, which is the only green part of Chera Dwip, enhancing the beauty of this island. People do not live on this part of the island, so it is advisable for the tourists to go there early and come back by afternoon.
You will get the best weather usually between November and February. Undoubtedly, this is the major tourist season. Between March and July, a tourist must keep his eyes on the forecast keenly, as cyclone can strike during these times. The island was devastated by a cyclone in 1991 but has fully recovered, and was untouched by the 2004 tsunami. Thus, March to July is tourist off season.
In the past 5 years St. Martin’s visitor population has increased dramatically. While this situation has proven to be lucrative for the islanders, it is causing the natural beauty of the island to deteriorate. Presently there are many efforts being put forth to preserve the several endangered species of turtles that nest on the island, as well as the corals, some of which are found only on Narikel Jinjera. Pieces of the coral reef are being removed in order to be sold to tourists. Nesting turtles are sometimes taken for food, and their hatchlings are often distracted by the twinkling lights along the beach. Species of fish, a few just recently discovered, are being overfished. Every year the fishermen must venture further out to sea to get their catch. Most of them use motorless boats.
It’s possible to walk around the island in a day because it measures only 8 sq. km (3 sq. mile), shrinking to about 5 sq. km (2 sq. mi) during high tide. The island exists only because of its coral base, so removal of that coral risks erosion of the beaches. Sadly, St. Martin’s has lost roughly 25% of its coral reef in the past 7 years.