On the heart of Kaptai

By Mubasher Hasan

Waterborne entertainment is widely popular all around the world, with activities like surfing, jet skiing, cruising, canoeing, water parks, lake diving, river cruises, and what not. Bangladesh as a beautiful aquaphile landscape is a little dry (get it? sorry) when it comes to aquatic entertainment. Granted there are a decent amount of waterparks and lots of beach activities but there are plenty of popular water bodies other than the beach. People love to visit the many lakes and rivers and would be delighted to have more interactive activities on them. This shortcoming is one step closer to being resolved by a Rangamati-based organization called ‘Kaptai Kayak Club’. Colors Magazine talks to Mr. Al-Amin Pavel about the Kaptai Kayak Club and how it makes for a worthwhile lake vacation, kayaking about on the surface of Kaptai for travelers from around the map.

if watching the lake from the shore isn’t enough you can now watch the shore from the lake

In school, we have all memorized the phrase, “Bangladesh is a riverine country.” but back then hardly any of us knew what an amazing aquaphile landscape the geographical Bangladesh sports. Other than the obviously longest sea beach in the world, (another phrase we all memorized), there are tons of breathtaking landscapes that include rivers, lakes, springs, wetlands, falls and many more. These gorgeous locations attract tons of tourists, travelers and adventure seekers like bees to a hive. And naturally, other than contemplating the scenic beauty of these water bodies,there are plenty of activities to do. Many of us spent our childhood jumping, swinging or cannonballing in our local village ponds. So we visit these beautiful water bodies to try and get that same sense of adventure from cannonballing on our childhood ponds. 

Though there are many things to do at the beach like jet skiing, surfing, paragliding and what not, other more globally popular water sports can’t be seen in Bangladesh. Especially in smaller bodies of water such as lakes or springs. That is until a little organization called Kaptai Kayak Club peeked its head out of the water (I’m proud of this pun). The beautiful Lake Kaptai is already a haven for tourists and nature lovers in the heart of Rangamati. Gazing at it from the banks can easily be followed by the desire to make your way to the middle of the still, serene waters. As it seems, the same desires caught Mr. Al-Amin Pavel, Senior instructor at the Institute of Marine Technology and founder of the Kaptai Kayak Club as well. So he figured, the best way to do it would be on a kayak.

Talking about the beginning of this venture, Pavel explained how he combined his interests and expertise to cook it up. He says as a naval architect and marine engineer, he had been working on construction and designs for ships and waterborne transportation for years. Also, as an avid traveler, he is quite fond of lake Kaptai and Rangamati in general. “I always felt that we naval architects are always working on big ships and huge multimillion-dollar projects but we hardly have any contribution to the tourism sector of Bangladesh,” he explains. Inspired by the artistry in waterborne tourism activities around the world, Pavel decided to come up with something similar for Bangladesh, and he thought the best, most adventurous, and tourist-friendly activity would be kayaking. And what better spot for a soothing and exciting kayak ride than Kaptai? Therefore, as planned he designed a kayak and had it constructed from a factory. And that is how Kaptai Kayak Club started early in 2017.

Pavel had a rather interesting vision regarding the club. He explains that it was never a business venture for him, rather he sees it as an opportunity to open up a new lane in Bangladesh’s tourism sector. “I never intended to make a profit off of the kayaking club, I already am a teacher and a government official by profession, so I handed over the shares and management responsibilities to my travel enthusiast friends Babar Ali and Yousuf Rana. All I wanted was to include kayaking in the mainstream holiday activity.” Unsurprisingly, the Kaptai Kayak club successfully brought on a new activity for vacationers and tourists to look forward to, as many other organizations followed suit and included kayaking in their flyers. Pavel is proud and content with this achievement as he jokingly says how he appreciates that most of these organizations made their kayaks by being “inspired” by his design. “ I am glad that they are being able to expand the kayaking scenario and I don’t mind at all about my design. Besides they only got them to look like mine, the dimensions and the accuracy didn’t match,” he claims as long as the kayak club earns enough to stay afloat (I love these) and is able to give people a good time on the lake he is happy, as Kaptai Kayak club has already achieved what it set out to achieve, which is to open up new horizons in the tourism activity.

Continuing on, he talked about his future desires in the waterborne tourism scene. He wants to continue bringing new kinds of watercraft into Bangladeshi waters. For now, he set his mind on designing a decent houseboat. All over the world, there are plenty of diverse watercraft in tourism. Bangladesh as a riverine country also has lots of vacation destinations near water and all of those have boating and watercraft facilities. But according to Pavel none of those have the engineering precision or the aesthetics. According to him, the most concerning shortcoming in Bangladesh’s aquatic tourism is innovation. All the watercrafts starting from cargo boats to sightseeing cruises are the same. “Even the Kayaks are being made exactly like the ones from KKC. no one cares about bringing in new ideas and changes.” He explains. He believes designing requires thorough analysis and cannot be done in the spur of the moment. He explains, “A watercraft designed for European waters won’t be compatible with Bangladeshi waters. More precisely, even a watercraft designed for Sunamganj won’t be compatible with Kaptai. So, if any organization or business owner wants to collaborate on a project for a tourist boat I am willing.”

Lastly, regarding the future of the Kaptai Kayaking Club, Pavel believes that it is exactly at the place it should be and cannot be going any smoother, so he does not see the point of expanding it to any other forms. “Kayaking is the perfect goal for Kaptai Kayak Club, Hiking events from Kaptai Kayak Club don’t quite ring it.” He says.

Kaptai Kayak Club brings in the one thing we all desired in our visit to Kaptai, regarding wanting to get as close to the lake as possible. And the tourists are accepting all the action with great enthusiasm. They also offer exciting camping facilities to enjoy the serene nature of Rangamati and Lake Kaptai, Giving travelers a more personal interaction with the aquatic beauty of Bangladesh. We can only anticipate more exciting innovations in Bangladesh’s aquatic recreation.

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