Known for its fishing farms, Chunakhali is an unassuming village, on the bank of the Hana River. Less than 100km from Kolkata, the village is known for its salt water fish harvesting farms (locally known as a bheri), especially tiger prawns. Not on the tourist map yet, it can also be a budget getaway from Kolkata, either as a day trip or an overnight weekend trip.
An early morning start from Kolkata will help you avoid the traffic en route and also leave you with plenty of time to visit the fish farms. There are two ways to reach Chunakhali. You may either take the Basanti Highway or go via Canning. Part of the Basanti Highway (which ultimately leads to the edge of the Sundarbans) lies past rows of fisheries.
At the edge of the village is the Chunakhali Farm, owned by a local family, which has actually turned Chunakhali into a convenient destination. The hotel run by the farm overlooks the Hana River. Watch the passenger and ferry boats ply down the river, which is a branch of the Bidhyadhari River. If you are staying overnight, with prior arrangements, you can also go on a slow cruise down the river in a motorised boat. On a winter’s day, the hotel can also arrange for a boat picnic. Birding is also possible.
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The hotel, lying at one end of the sprawling farm, is screened off from the owners’ bungalow by mango and other trees. There is also an organic garden, ponds and a temple in the farm. The hotel is adjacent to several aquaculture farms or bheries. If you are on a day trip, order lunch and then go for a walk along the bheries. Like Odisha or Kerala, West Bengal too is known for its prawn and crab dishes. The hotel can whip up some of the typical dishes, such as ‘chingri malaikari’ or ‘kankra jhaal’ for you. During the season, you may also ask them to pack a fresh catch for you to carry back home.
In winter, take a walk past the village market, for a stroll along the narrow river channel. The trees on the opposite bank are home to cormorants and other birds. As evening descends, the sun gilds the river with orange hue, the animated river bank falls quiet. You may go up to the terrace to watch the stars and enjoy the constellations.
Information: Chunakhali can be reached via Basanti Highway past Ghatakpukur and Malancha (approx. 80km) or via Baruipur and Canning. The Chunakhali Farm hotel has simple but clean rooms (seven double rooms and two triple rooms). Charges are Rs 1,750 per head per day with all meals. Contact: 98300-11715 (WhatsApp).