A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve! Sundarbans derives its name from the "Shundori" trees! It has the biggest tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world!!
Mystic land!! Home to the Royal Bengal Tiger! Here the Tiger is still king of the jungle. Feared, Loved, Worshipped! Sunderbans Tiger is an enigma!!
Located at the south eastern tip of the 24 Paraganas district of West Bengal about 110 kms from Kolkata.
My family and I had booked ourselves at Sundarban Tiger Camp, a private Resort on Gosaba Island. They had arranged a pick up and from then on we were taken care of by the staff of the Resort.
After a drive of one and half hours from Kolkata we arrived at Godakhali Ferry ghat at Canning, where a boat was waiting to take us to our Resort.
Sundarbans lying on the delta formed by the confluence of Brahmaputra, Ganges and Meghna rivers in the Bay of Bengal is one of the world's most unique region.
Created by sediments washed down from the Himalayas, it is the world's largest inter-tidal area, and is undoubtedly the most dynamic river basin that exists in the world today!
The total area including both land and water, is roughly 10,000 sq.kms about three - fifths of which is in Bangladesh!
Fishing is the major occupation of the locals apart from honey collecting, both jobs involve a great risk to their lives due to the continual presence of the Bengal Tiger!!
It is the only breed of tiger in the world which inhabits mangrove forests and is found in mangroves of Sundarbans.
Unlike other National Parks it is very difficult to spot the Tiger in Sundarbans, as you are cruising around the forest, not roaming in the forest!! Tigers are elusive by nature and one if very lucky, may spot the Tiger , if he swims across the river, or if he comes to drink water in the artificially created sweet water ponds, near the watch towers!!
This is perhaps the only place in the world where the Hindus and Muslims worship the same Goddess Bonbibi, goddess of the forest!
The unique folklore of this charismatic island, is a must watch!
Local drama troupes perform plays at Resorts which depict the hard lives of the people of Sunderbans, which one must not miss!
The enigma, magic & the mystery of Sunderban mostly lie in the equation of the high tides and low tides! During high tides nearly seventy percent of the forest goes underwater and all of the wildlife gets into the deeper and higher regions of the forest!! As soon as the low tide start and the water level begins to recede they again get into their business!! Spotting wildlife in such a dense forest is most likely during the low tide!!
Enjoy a canopy walk over the mangroves, at Dobanki created by the forest department, this gives you a close feel of the forest and its enchantment!!
The people, the forest , the river, the creeks, the swamps, the birds, the crocodiles, the crabs, the fish, the deers, the monkeys, the trees, without them the Tiger cannot survive!! They all form an encompassing circle and the Tiger is part of this cycle!!
I could immediately relate to the Sunderbans, and it brought back memories of "The Hungry Tide, a fascinating novel by Amitav Ghosh that I had read!
There are 220 species of birds, Brahminy ducks, Pond Herons, Egrets, Asian Paradise Flycatcher a real treat to the eye, Bronze Drongo, Adjutant Stork , Buffer Fish Owl a rarity to be seen here, the Black Capped Kingfisher Sundarbans pride, and very typical of the mangroves!! Many other variety of Kingfishers are seen! The Osprey a king among birds of prey is fascinating to watch, if you are lucky!!
These are just a few birds to name!
Here you can see the estuarine Crocodiles, Chital or spotted deer, Rhesus macaques, Crabs, Water Monitor lizards, Mud Skippers and Wild Boars, the Tigers favourite food!!
The Gangetic Dolphin was once seen in the Indian Sunderban, but now seems extinct due to high salinity and reduction in fresh water flow!!
Even if you forget about the wildlife , Sunderbans has a beauty of its own, the meandering rivers and their dusky banks the ever changing colors of the sky, the sunrise and sunsets, makes one forget the fast paced, hectic life we live in our crowded cities and metros!!
Enjoy the beauty of nature, absorb the silence, the tranquility, the swamps and the creeks, the intimidating forest!! Let Mother Nature speak!!
Enjoy the sheer delight that is Sunderbans!!
Sunderbans can be reached from Kolkata.
Kolkata is connected by rail and air with all major cities of India.
West Bengal Tourism can be contacted for stay in Sunderban.
P.C. Pranati Kamani