Around four thousand years ago the Inuit, Yup’ik and Aleut peoples of the North American Arctic invented kayaks. Originally constructed of stitched seal skin stretched over a wooden or whalebone frame, the canoe-like boats propelled by a double-bladed paddle were ideal for hunting in icy waters. Kayaks have long since been adopted the world over, for recreation and sport. Now, in Rangamati’s Kaptai Lake, locals and tourists alike are also enjoying kayaks.
“It’s the first time we’ve tried kayaking,” says tourist Muhammad Abu Taher, visiting Kaptai Lake with Riya Ahsan, both from Chittagong’s Potia. “It was wonderful; so much fun!”
Traditional kayaks were fit for one individual but these days tandem kayaks are also common. The ten-to-fifteen-foot-long and six-foot-wide vessels are ideal for moving quietly through the water, which makes them not only enjoyable but suitable for observing wildlife and birds.
From November 2, 2017 the first kayaks for hire became available at Lake Kaptai’s Beranne Lakeshore Tourism Spot, courtesy of Diversity Tours. Initially the new enterprise began with five kayaks, but such was the popularity of the boats that two more were added within a month.
“The demand is huge,” says Diversity’s chief planning and tour operator, Riton Chakma. “We are thinking about further increasing the number of kayaks in the near future.”
“We also take the opportunity to raise awareness among the tourists who hire our kayaks of the detriment to the lake’s environment if they throw plastic or other waste into the water,” Riton adds.
As for safety, visitors hiring kayaks are offered key instructions before entering the water, such as not to stand while in the kayak. Lifejackets are provided and a rescue team is on standby in case of any emergency. Tourists can hire the kayak for Tk 150 for half an hour or Tk 300 per hour, with special offers for couples wishing to experience kayaking on the lake under the light of a full moon.