Travelling, especially in the season of winter is something everyone wants to do. A lot of people have long dream lists of different countries that they would like to visit at least once in their lives. During the preparation of these lists, we unfortunately forget the beautiful destinations which exist in our own country. This can be due to various reasons, among which security reasons and lack of exposure are on the top. Whatever the reasons are, we have to admit that we Pakistanis are so highly influenced by western tourist attractions that we completely neglect the wonders that exist within our own country. We have one of the highest mountain peaks in the world, endless deserts and spectacular heritage sites.
Astola Island is one of the spellbinding sites located near Pasni in the Gwadar District of Balochistan. It is also known as satadip or Island of the seven hills. Astola is Pakistan’s largest off-shore island and also the only significant one in the Northern Arabian Sea. The route to Astola starts from Karachi and enters Gwadar through the Makran Coastal Highway. The sub district known as Pasni is where there are motorized boats which take you to the Astola Islands. It takes about 5 hours to reach from Pasni under complete security.
Photographs of this Island will lead you to confuse it with Thailand until someone tells you that the island really does exist in Pakistan. Astola Island is mainly used by fisherman to catch oysters and lobsters. The Island occurs in an isolated location which helped maintain endemic life forms. There is a large breeding of green turtles which is the main attraction for tourists. There are many sea birds found on the Island such as gulls, plovers and sander lings. The remains of an ancient Hindu temple of the Goddess Kali, is also located on the Island. This is the reason why Astola Island is known to Hindus as Satadip. The island also hosts a prayer yard which is dedicated to the Muslim Pir Khawaja Khizr who was said to rule the oceans. Many believe that he occasionally visits the prayer yard to pray. The prayer yard is mostly used by the fisherman in the fishing season which is from September to May.
To promote this beautiful island World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched a pilot of corporate sector eco-tour programme in 2010 in partnership with its Pakistan Wetlands Programme covering the Makran Coast of Pakistan. The newly launched ECO Travel Programme of WWF-Pakistan aims at exploring sites of ecotourism, provide opportunities to the general public and corporate sector and promote an environment that can sustain the effort in the long term. This programme also aims at raising awareness of corporate sector companies about the conservation needs of the sites of ecotourism. Their understanding and the investment potential of Corporate Social Responsibility Funds.
The main objectives in this regard are to boost tourism, preserve natural hotspots of the country, provide access to rare marine and terrestrial species, develop a sense of responsibility for reducing our ecological footprint, and provide opportunity to solicit support for conservation of the natural resources of Pakistan and community uplift. Attractions which WWF is offering include:
- Boat rides
- Crocodile watching (seasonal)
- Bird watching (seasonal)
- Activities at the beach.