Visitors at Saint Martin's Island
St. Martin's Island is a small island in Bangladesh. The island is located 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. The area of the island is only 8 km2. According to the history, the first settlement started here about 250 years ago by Arabian sailors who named the island 'Zajira'. After that the island was named St. Martin Island during British occupation. The local names of the island are "Narical Gingira", also spelled "Narikel Jinjira/Jinjera", which means 'Coconut Island' in Bengali, and "Daruchini Dwip". It is the only coral island in Bangladesh. The island attracts visitors much from both inside and outside of the country.
Most of the inhabitants of the island live primarily on fishing. The other staple crops are rice and coconut. Being very common on the island, algae are collected, dried, and exported to Myanmar. As the centre and the south are mainly farmland and makeshift huts, most of the permanent structures are around the far north. St. Martin's Island has become a popular tourist spot. The surrounding coral reef has an extension named Chera Dwip. A small bush is there, which is the only green part, enhancing the beauty of this island. People do not live on this part, so it is advisable for the tourists to go there early and come back by afternoon.
Photos: Anjan Kumar Das & A. S. M. Yiahia
St. Martin's visitor population is increasing dramatically. While this situation has proven to be lucrative for the islanders, it is causing the natural beauty 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 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. Fish, a few recently discovered, are being overfished.
It is possible to walk around the island in a day because it measures only 8 km2 (3 sq. mile), shrinking to about 5 km2 (2 sq. mi) during high tide. The only way to reach St. Martin's Island is by water transportation: boats and ships (mostly for tourists) from Teknaf. Five shipping liners run daily trips to the island. Tourists can book their trip either from Chittagong or from Cox's Bazar.