The vast area of the Sundarbans is the most famous of the five National Parks of Bengal and is a protected nature reserve for the Royal Bengal tiger. A part of the largest mangrove forest in the world, the Sundarbans is located in West Bengal, which then continue along the coast of Bangladesh. The most valuable tree in the Sundarbans is the ubiquitous Sundri from which the forest takes its name, and, of course, many other species of mangroves.
We made a start in the morning at 9 o'clock from the dock of the Millennium Park on the Hooghly river in the center of the city and hopped on board a cruise ship. Less than half an hour after we left for the wilds of the Sundarbans, the river offers us an absorbing look at Kolkata's iconic Howrah Bridge as we sailed out.
Located in the mouth of the vast Ganges, the Sundarbans is an archipelago of large mangrove swamps and mudflats that includes a large chunk of neighboring Bangladesh. Its territorial area is exposed to a constantly changing ebb and flow of the tides. The world's largest population of tigers is said to live here, with 276 specimens were counted on the Indian side. The Sundarbans tigers are man-eaters.
Farmers, collectors of honey and lumberjacks who live on the outskirts of tiger lands are often attacked and killed as well as fishermen too, because these big cats are powerful swimmers, and often moving between the islands. The waters are inhabited by estuarine crocodiles and even dolphins jumping out of the water of the Ganges.
The Sundarbans is the home of the famous Bengal Tiger. Besides the tiger, the Sundarbans host many other endangered species like the a whale that lives in the waters of the Indus and Ganges, diamond turtles etc. The mangrove forest also acts as a natural nursery for many fish species. Very interesting is also the local birdlife, with hundreds of species.
There are hundreds of small villages and settlements along the banks of the tributaries, and the villagers has an imminent problem with tigers, but they respect it as it is a nearly extinct animal, and the killing of tigers is prohibited. Villages have trained dogs to detect the presence of a tiger nearby.
You can sit back and relax on the deck of the boat, enjoying the beautiful view of mangrove forests. There are about four points where the boat takes you to a taste of the wild cat or deer. However, the chances of seeing a tiger are very low and you should come to Sunderbans not only to see the tiger, but to appreciate the beauty of the forests.
As a World Heritage Site, this area is a protected wildlife area. We traveled south through a dreamy dotted waterworld with fishing boats, and as the sun began to fade we entered the village of Namkhana where colorful trawlers were bringing catches of shrimp, Bekti and more.
However, as we entered in the wildlife area the next day, the journey was tiring. I had few expectations of seeing the tigers, but I had hoped to see other creatures. But the plot of mangroves was unyielding. The rich bird life is difficult to observe. For much of the time our boat snaked through monotonous islands of impenetrable shrubs.
The sense of boredom that pervaded us on board was dotted with wonderful meals of Bengali food. You could go ashore only at specific points, where we walked among watchtowers through corridors of rope that stood between us and the elusive tigers.
Our visits to the towers were almost always made during the heat of the day. The comments we received on the area did awaken us our interest. By the end of the cruise we had acquired a long list of additional bars and restaurants to visit in Kolkata. Now we have to make a return trip and try them.
Sunderbans can be visited by taking a 2 day government run package or a private package tour from Kolkata. It starts around 8 in the morning and the bus goes near the tributary, from where Sundarbans is about an hour away. You'll be spending the next 30 hours on a boat, watching the beautiful scenery through the window of the cruise. The view from the terrace of mangrove forests is fascinating. The whole scene seems to be right out of a fairy tale.