Travelling especially in winters is something everyone wants to do. A lot of people have a long dream list of different countries where they want to visit at least once in their lives. But during preparing the list unfortunately we forget those beautiful destinations which exist in our own country due to many reasons in which security reason and lack of exposure are on the top. But whatever the reason is we have to admit that we Pakistanis get highly influenced by the western tourist attractions that we completely neglect on what we have in Pakistan. We have one of the highest mountain peaks in the world, endless deserts, heritage and what not. Astola Island is one of them located near Pasni the Gwadar District in 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. If you see the photographs of this Island you might confuse it with Thailand until you read that it is Pakistan. Astola Island is mainly used by fisherman to catch oysters and lobsters.

This Island is at an isolated location which helped maintain endemic life forms. There is a huge breeding of green turtles which is an attraction for tourists. There are many sea birds found at the Island such as gulls, plovers and sander lings. The remains of an ancient Hindu temple of their Goddess Kali are also located at the Island this is the reason why Astola Island is known to Hindus as Satadip. There is also a prayer yard which is dedicated to the Muslim Pir Khawaja Khizr who according to legend is said to rule the oceans. He is also believed to visit the prayer yard occasionally and offer prayers. The prayer yard is mostly used by the fisherman in the fishing season which is September to May.

To promote this beautiful island WWF (World Wildlife Fund) launched a Pilot of corporate sector eco-tour Programme in 2010 in partnership with its Pakistan Wetlands Programme covering Makran Coast of Pakistan. The newly launched ECO Travel Programme of WWF-Pakistan aims at explore sites of ecotourism interest, provide opportunities to general public and corporate sector to appreciate those opportunities, and promote an environment that can sustain the effort in longer terms. This is also aimed at raising awareness of the Corporate Sector Companies about conservation needs of the sites of ecotourism attraction for their understanding and 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 of reducing our ecological footprint, and provide opportunity to solicit support for conservation of natural resources of Pakistan and community uplift. Attractions which WWF is offering includes

§ Boat ride

§ Exploring

§ Crocodile watch (seasonal)

§ Bird watch (seasonal)

§ Camping

§ Fishing

§ Sports

§ Activities at the beach.

The route to Astola Island is very easy its starts from Karachi and enter Gwadar through the Makran Coastal Highway. There is a sub district known as Pasni from where there are motorized boats which take you to the Astola Islands; it takes about 5 hours to reach from Pasni under complete security.