Thursday, December 24, 2009


Of the three world’s greatest natural endowments of Bangladesh, the longest sea beach- all 120km of continuous natural sand- is certainly the most impressive, and most accessible in its way.

The worlds largest river delta system, with its near 700 branches and tributaries, and the world’s largest Mangrove forest are certainly impressive in their own way. But the visitor to the Sundarban forest will find it still an uncomfortable and challenging experience, with little likelihood of even glimpsing the world famous tigers. And so vast is the river system, and, so far, so inaccessible to the pleasure seeker ( Tiger Tours have plans!), that it, too, is scarcely penetrable at present.

As a tourist attraction, then, the beach is the gem. Uncut, certainly, but unquestionably the ‘jewel in the crown’. And long may it remain uncut, the largely unspoilt home of colourful and friendly people eking out a living on sea, sand and field, as they have for generations.

The dilemma is, how to conserve the environment, and the natural beauty, whilst rendering it accessible to those who would pay well for the pleasure and priviledge of visiting it.

Cox’s Bazaar is, of course, an object lesson in how not to achieve the goal. The concrete jungle of the hotel/motel area is unattractive, and destructive. No doubt, now attention is focused on Kuakata in the south, that place will suffer the same fate, destroying that which its development was undertaken to facilitate.

The question of why we so often destroy that which we love is one of the oldest philosophical questions on earth, but, although I have seen it in small ways in so many places, I don’t believe I have ever seen a better example than in the beach developments in Bangladesh thus far!

Reaching the beach is not just uncut, but rough. By road, Cox’s Bazar can now take, at best, around 12 hours, and more if the reckless bus drivers who populate the highway achieve their all to frequent collisions. And the road is, itself, rough.

It is, of course, possible to fly from Dhaka and Chittagong to Cox’s Bazar, but whilst missing the pretty awful roads, the staggeringly picturesque countryside is also avoided. What a choice!

To take the road from Cox’s Bazar to Teknaf, at the far end of the beach and easily a more
attractive and agreeable place to begin exploration… if it weren’t for the deplorable accommodation.. is to embark on a free fairground roller coaster ride of a couple of hours.

Once in Teknaf, sensibly avoiding the blandishments of the , frankly, ludicrous Wildlife Park, and of the old Pajathan hotel now worse managed than the depths which even Pajathan achieved, the last kilometers to the beach scarcely merit the name ‘road’. 

But persistence is rewarded, as ever! The unspoilt beach spreads both ways, devoid of almost everything except colourful fishing craft and friendly working fishermen.

Whether exploration is carried out on foot, by hired craft, or using the old roadway that the Bangladesh Army is slowly, brilliantly restoring but which will not be completed for another 5 years, a treat slowly unfolds.

Swimming, surfing, boating, cycling, walking, all eco friendly and challenging means of enjoying this extraordinary and extraordinarily beautiful natural resource like no other on earth.

Having traveled the length a number of times, and as one of the organizers of the 2007 Challenge of the Longest Beach I am unashamedly in love. And as a resident in one of Europe’s most popular eco destinations in Highlands of Scotland, to say so takes some doing.

The gem is uncut, the access rough, but the beach sparkles like no other!

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