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Sundarbans is a mangrove forest on the coast of the Ganges delta by the Bay of Bengal. It is the largest mangrove forest in the world and is situated on the delta of the River Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. It is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site as The Sundarbans and Sundarbans National Park. It is known as a sanctuary of the Bengal tiger. A major part of the Sundarbans forests is on the Bangladesh side of the international border. The Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal, makes up for the 40%. The region is known for its tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests.
The name Sundarban literally translated as beautiful forest in Bengali. Shundor or beautiful and Bon means forest. Another opinion is that the name originates from the abundance of Sundari trees (Heritiera fomes). The forest covers nearly 10,500 square kilometres area. Nearly one-third of it is covered in water or marshland. Major wildlife includes 400 Royal Bengal tigers and about 30,000 spotted deer as per the last census.
Permits are required for tourists to visit the forests and we as tour operator get the same arranged for our guests. Sudhanyakhali Watch Tower, Sajnekhali Watch Tower which houses a museum, Bonobibi Temple and a crocodile park is the main tourist attraction. Other attractions are Dobanki Watch Tower, Bhagbatpur crocodile project, Buridabri, Netidhopani with a 400 years old temple and there for an extended stay. Kanak for viewing Olive Ridley Turtles, Hawksbill turtle, Caspian Tern, Osprey Herring Gull, etc. Visit Holiday Island for spotting Barking Deer. The canopy walk at Do Banki gives guests an opportunity to view wildlife from a netted enclosure. One can spot Octopus, Star Fish, Jelly Fish, Horseshoe Crab, prawn seeds as well as much other variety of fishes etc.
Take special precaution with drinking water while visiting Sundarbans, it is preferable to carry it in locally available water may not be tasty or healthy. Mosquito is a bigger threat than Tigers. Hence guests should take extra care.
Packages to Sundarbans is clubbed with Kolkata visit. Sundarban packages also have an absorbing evening watching Bono Bibir Pala i.e. A folklore of Sundarban or Baul (Folk Music) performance. Burirdabri in Sundarban National Park is famous for its watchtower, a mud-walk and mangrove cage trail leading to a viewpoint known as Raimongal ViewPoint can also be part of the package. Sundarban has popular packages of One Night, Two Nights & Three Nights packages.
Best time to visit the place is between October to February when the climate is cool and temperate. Summers are hot and humid and extend from mid-March to June. Monsoon is heavy and extends from June to September with occasional depression & cyclones.
Accommodation option in the Sundarbans is limited. Village and wildlife feel can be best felt from standard hotels and resorts. Gosaba has the largest choice of accommodations. A number of jungle camps and tourist lodges offer comfortable stay amid nature and have basic facilities. Many of the tourist boats have room for accommodating guests.
The tourist visiting in mid-January can witness a religious festival of Gangasagar popularly known as the Gangasagar Mela. It is the second-largest fair in India after Kumbh Mela.
Wildlife includes The famous Royal Bengal tiger which has its largest population in these forests, however, the Bengal Tiger is extremely reclusive and sighting is very rare in the dense forest, saltwater crocodile, black-panther, fishing cat etc. It is home to many species of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and fishes. Gangetic River Dolphin is common in the rivers. Birds like Spotted Billed Pelican, Open Billed Stork, White Bellied Sea Eagle and many more are common here. The Sundarbans is home to estuarine or Salt-Water Crocodile.
Honey collected from the forest & handicraft made by local people is worth buying. Fishes of all kinds are available from the Bay of Bengal, organic vegetables and rice cultivated by locals are the best options for food. Bengali folk songs and dances popular in Sundarban are centred around folk heroes, gods, and goddesses like Bonbibi and Dakshin Rai.
The best option is to start the program from Kolkata which is well connected by road and rail. Four major entry points are –
1. Godkhali Port opposite Gosaba Island which is nearly 95 kilometres from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU)
2. Koikhali close to Holiday wildlife sanctuary
3. Namkhana connects with the railway from Kolkata at around 110 kilometres from Kolkata.
4. Canning is the nearest railway head to the Sundarban Tiger Project and is connected to Kolkata. It is nearly 30 kilometres away from Godkhali Port.
Private & Public transportations are available to all these places from Kolkata.
The journey started more than a decade ago when a financial consultant, a social activist and a biology researcher came together to start a business in tourism that none of them knew about. But travel is something they loved and enjoyed, and so they decided to change the paradigms in their own way. And they remarked “travel is more than a profession, it’s a passion”. Read More [+]