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Next weekend you can be at ... Jharkhali

If you are looking for serenity, Jharkhali island may be your ideal getaway. Nestled in the lap of the wonderful Sunderbans, itís an isolated tourist spot, around 100km away from Calcutta. Jharkhali is situated at an almost equal distance from Godkhali and Sonakhali in Basanti block of South 24-Parganas. The mangrove forests of the Sunderbans start where Jharkhali ends.

Tucked away on the south-east fringe of the Sunderbans, Jharkhali can be reached from Basanti and Canning via Sonakhali, Kultali and Kumirmari. After passing through lush green paddy fields, small villages and lines of trees on either side of the road, Jharkhali lies almost at the edge of brackish water.

Even 20 years back, a strong wind blowing in from the mangrove forests was common in Jharkhali, the storm-like wind probably lending the place its name.

Jharkhali is a favourite of tourists for its abundant nature and vast expansion of rivers like Herobhanga and Bidyadhari.

Deer at Dobanki

The five-km brick road leading to the river bank can be negotiated by rickshaw. The most exciting part, however, is the boat ride through the creeks where crocodiles, deer and wild swines can be easily spotted. Deer scampering off and monkeys scooting past at the sound of the boat engine are common sights. Fishermen waiting for a catch also make for a good picture.

The Jharkhali Mangrove Ecological Garden and the watch tower are must-visits. You can also go to some of the other islands like Dobanki, Kalash island, Sajnekhali and Sudhanyakhali. To book a launch or a boat, go to Jharkhali bazaar.

Power supply is erratic and by 8pm the villages are engulfed in darkness, lending the nights a tranquil calm.

A stroll through the IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) area in the morning or afternoon can be enjoyable. But tourists must keep in mind the rules and regulations. Going down to the river or strolling beyond the IFAD area at night are strict no-nos.

Going

If you go by train, get off at Canning, from where buses and private vehicles are available to take you to Jharkhali. The distance between Canning and Jharkhali is 44km. Direct buses are available from Baruipur. One can also hire vehicles from Basanti to reach the island. By car, one can reach Jharkhali through Calcutta-Dhamakhali route via Sarberia.

Staying

You can book rooms at the fisheries department lodge from Mayukh Bhavan. There are a few private budget hotels too.