Jarada Island : The blink & miss haven of Bahrain

/ New Delhi
Jarada Island : The blink & miss haven of Bahrain

Jarada Island in Bahrain offers a mesmerising experience to visitors

Located far away from the mainland and in the middle of the Gulf, Jarada island is a unique natural wonder in Bahrain that is so small that it appears and disappears every few hours, with the rising tide.
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It was still barely dawn, but our adventure had already begun. Sporting life-vests and holding the rails tight, because our lives literally depended on our grip, as soon as our speed boat left from the jetty at Prince Khalifa bin Salman Park, it was bouncing off the waves of the Gulf, almost vaulting us up in the air or sending us hurtling down as it skimmed the surface of the sea.

After about 45 minutes of a rather bumpy, yet fun and adrenalin-pumping ride, all of a sudden, we came to a halt in the middle of nowhere, far away from land. For several moments, I could not figure out why we had stopped abruptly as the boat, now still, began swaying gently with the waves that lapped its sides. At one point, I began to wonder if the boat had not developed a snag, bringing it to a halt like this.

‘‘Just wait and watch,’’ was all our guide said when I asked him about why we had stopped in the middle of the sea. All I could see, and at a fair distance, was what looked like a mini light house or some kind of navigational aide sticking out of the water. So, we all sat. Patiently, waiting and watching. And viola! After sometime, the answer began to literally appear on its own from underneath us, or rather from beneath the water.

After about 15 minutes of waiting, as the high tide began to recede, land emerged, allowing the crew of our boat to cast the anchor into the sand below and asked us to disembark from the boat. Stepping into water that had by now receded to almost ankle-levels, we walked towards what looked like the highest point of this mystery land – the same pole that had been sticking up from under water and which we could clearly see as a marker for the boats plying in the area, warning them about Jarada, the disappearing island of Bahrain.

Admeasuring all of 45,000 sqm, think of a mid-sized office building at the lowest point of the tide, or all of 48 sqm, think of a small flat, at the high tide, Jarada is a major attraction for Bahrainians as much as it is for tourists like us. But Jarada Island is a popular site, not just because of the fact that it appears and disappears as per the whims and fancies of the tides, but also because it offers an unmatched peace and tranquility that one can find here.

A visit to Jarada is considered a luxury experience not only because the speedboat and the barbecue alone can be expensive, but also because since the space on the island is limited, not too many people are allowed here at a time. Indeed, the trips to Jarada are also called private trips due to the fact that a maximum of 8-10 persons can come on the speed boats that usually ply here. Fortunately, our private tour to Jarada turned out to be entirely private since when we reached there, we were the only people and we had the entire island to ourselves.

The beauty of the island and the sea around is certainly mesmerising, with crystal clear water all around and if you care to dive just a few metres off the island, you can spot a myriad collection of the marine life, with numerous colourful creatures, most of which were nameless, atleast to me. Indeed, the waters all around Bahrain are rich in marine biodiversity, with a variety of sharks, smaller fish, clams, crabs and also coral reefs. Though we did not spot any sharks at Jarada, but all the other elements are pretty much present here and one of the favourite activities of visitors here is snorkelling or diving to get a closer view of the life under the water.

Besides activities under water, there are numerous options for water sports also available. These range from parasailing, surfing, jet-ski to a simple boat tour around the island. We did not partake in these activities instead we plonked ourselves on comfortable beach chairs and just watched the beauty all around us.

After a few minutes, our guide approached us with a bucketful of clams and asked us to pick six pieces each. And then he told us something which brought on big smiles to each of us. ‘‘I will open each of these shells one by one and if you find a pearl inside, it is for you to keep,’’ he said. Having put us on tenterhooks and palpitating with anticipation, he began to open up the clams up one by one.

Many of them were disappointing, as is the norm, since they had minuscule pearls, still in the process of formation, or nothing at all. But a couple of us did turn lucky as their shells had fairly well-formed pearls. Though yours truly is not really lucky in such games of chance, for once Dame Fortune did smile down at me, as my clams yielded a couple of small pearls.

Visitors also get a first hand experience of hunting for pearls

Visitors also get a first hand experience of hunting for pearls

To add to my rapture, almost at that same instant, a delicious aroma came wafting to my nose, carried by the gentle breeze blowing there. Immediately, I looked around and was thrilled. While we were looking for pearls, our crew had laid out a luxurious barbeque spread, with a wide variety of fresh fish, meats and vegetables.

Putting the pearls out of my mind, I sat back and relished every bite, while sipping on a refreshing, ice-cold drink.We enjoyed our meal, chatting and gazing at the distant horizon, in turns. After the meal, we went on to discover the furthest point that we could see on the island and while some of us decided to stay there and take in as much of the tranquillity and peace that was all pervasive there, away from even the handful of the people near the beach.

I am not sure whether I was chatting, gazing or napping, but after well over an hour, I was startled out of my reverie by the loud honk of the speedboat. None of us had realised, but it was time to head back to the mainland. As I boarded the speedboat again and looked at the spot where we had been sitting moments earlier, I suddenly turned philosophical, as I realised that the sight that we beheld would disappear in sometime, just like everything else in this world. Philosophical, but contented by the day spent at Jarada Island, I began enjoying the ride back home as once again a mixture of wind and water doused me. But I was unmindful, relishing the moments.

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