I had read the book “The Hungry Tide” by Amitav Ghosh. The book paints pictures of Sundarbans very beautifully- The painful life of fishermen living on whims of tigers in a land which gets lost to high tide every day, how “we can win over anything in nature” British philosophy forced poor people in Bengal to settle in this uninhabitable terrain, where simple, naïve village people believe in Bonbibi, the goddess which will protect you from tiger if you are true in your heart. This tour was a “dream come true” when I could actually imagine the scenes from the book coming real.
It is basically a trip to do nothing on. There are various tour packages which vary according to the days you have to spend the trip on. You start from Kolkata via car or train and reach Canning after some 3-4 hour drive. It is the nearest railway station to the Sundarban. Beyond this you have to go to Gosaba and catch a ferry to cross the river/estuary to get on to near the entrance to the sundarban reserves. The ride on a chakra which takes you through the village is very refreshing as you see the sun rise, people getting about their morning chores, shrimp farms etc. Once on the boat, you see the mangroves are on both side of the canal/estuary. The view does not change for the whole day. You pray to the tiger to come out and give us “darshan” so that our visit is successful. Well, it wasn’t to be. The day includes visit to watchtowers like Sajnekhali, Dobanki and Sudhanyakhali. The watchtowers are places where fresh water ponds are built and animals come for water during the morning and evening.
The tiger sighting is rare. You have to very lucky to sight a tiger. Also half the day was spent in reserve area and other half was spent in forests. The difference being that the reserve area has fencing and other manmade structures whereas forest area is pristine naturally. Also fishermen, tourist are allowed in reserve area and forest area, but the delta below that, none are allowed.
The whole area of Sundarban is subjected to climatic change due to sea level rise and according to WWF, the tigers and the forests will not survive the century. India has about 40% of the whole Sundarban belt and other part is with Bangladesh. The life of people living here is also very tough due to no industry being possible or present and frequent attacks by Tigers. This is something you could read more upon.
Overall, I would suggest you to pack a book or your favorite group of people and spend time on that boat with the endless view of mangroves around.