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The Bangladeshi part of the Sundarbans is covered in Sundarbans (Bangladesh).
A broad, tree-lined river in the park

Sundarbans National Park is a huge littoral mangrove forest in the southeast region of West Bengal, India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and famous as a sanctuary of the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Understand[edit]

A river's muddy shore

On the coast of the Ganges Delta by the Bay of Bengal, the Sundarbans are the largest littoral mangrove belt in the world, stretching 80 km (50 mi) into the Bangladeshi and Indian hinterland from the coast. The forests aren't just mangrove swamps though, they include some of the last remaining stands of the mighty jungles which once covered the Gangetic plain. The Sundarbans cover an area of 10,500 km2 (4,100 sq mi), of which about one-third is covered in water or marsh areas. Sundarbans is a plastic free zone, so if you bring any plastic with you, remember to take it out when you leave.

History[edit]

The Sundarbans has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since 1966, the Sundarbans have been a wildlife sanctuary, and it is estimated that there are now 400 Royal Bengal tigers and about 30,000 spotted deer in the area.

Landscape[edit]

Flora and fauna[edit]

The forest is called the Sundarbans due to the rich growth of Sundari trees. The chief predators are the Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, saltwater crocodile, black panther and fishing cat. The Sundarbans is home to many different species of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and fishes. Over 120 species of fish and over 260 species of birds have been recorded in the Sundarbans. The Gangetic River Dolphin (platanista gangeticus) is common in the rivers. No less than 50 species of reptiles and eight species of amphibians are known to occur.

Climate[edit]

  • October to February — winter, cold and temperate
  • March to May — summer, hot and humid
  • June to September — the monsoon season, wet and windy

Monsoon cruises are spectacular.

Get in[edit]

One of the park's inhabitants

The adjacent inhabited areas of the Sundarbans are well connected with Kolkata by roadways and railways.

  • Koikhali — nearer to the Haliday wildlife sanctuary and Tourist attractions like Bonnie camp, Kalas Island and beach, Haliday Island etc. of Sundarban reserve forest. Koikhali is 83 and 92 km away from Kolkata and Kolkata airport respectively.
  • Namkhana — 117 km away from Kolkata and 123 km away from Kolkata Airport. Namkhana is also connected by a railway from Kolkata and the distance is 109 km. This place is closer to the Bhagabatpur crocodile project and the Lothian wildlife sanctuary of the Sundarbans.

By plane[edit]

The nearest airport is Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU IATA) at Kolkata. One may have to take other modes of transport to reach one's destination.

By train[edit]

  • 1 Canning railway station. The nearest railway station to the Sundarban Tiger Project. The railway distance from Kolkata to Canning is 45 km (28 mi) and 29 km (18 mi) away from Godkhali Port. Public transport services are available between Canning and Godkhali port. Canning railway station (Q60165209) on Wikidata Canning railway station (India) on Wikipedia

By car[edit]

State Highway 3 (SH 3) is the only highway in Sundarbans National Park. It starts from Krishnanagar and ends at Godkhali.

By boat[edit]

  • 2 Godkhali Ferry Ghat (opposite Gosaba Island). Gosaba is the last inhabited island towards Sajnekhali Wildlife sanctuary and Sundarban Tiger project area of Sundarban reserve forest. The shortest route distance to Godkhali port from Kolkata is 82 km (51 mi) and 95 km (59 mi) from Kolkata Airport. Godkhali (Q60626113) on Wikidata

Fees and permits[edit]

Foreigners wishing to visit the Sundarbans have to obtain a special permit. This is mandatory as per Government rule. It can now, however, be obtained at the Sajnekhali Forest Office(Ecotourism Range) . The originals have to be shown to the forest office on your arrival.

  • Tourism Centre, West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Limited, 3/2, B. B. D Bagh, Kolkata (near Great Eastern Hotel), +91 33 2210 3199, +91 33 2248 8271.

A permit for maximum of 5 days is usually granted which can be further extended subject to the permission of the local forest officer.

Get around[edit]

Map of Sundarbans National Park

You have to rely on boats for visiting the various tourist spots of the Sundarbans. You can also hire your own boat but the charges are pretty steep (₹1,500-2,000 per day). However, in case you wish to move around on your own, make sure to hire a guide or else the boatsmen may take you for a ride (the waterways of the Sundarbans are so similar to one another that even if your boat makes a round of the same place, you won't be able to tell the difference without the services of an experienced guide). The Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve is the place from where you can hire a guide.

See[edit]

  • 1 Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project. Bhagabatpur (Q60626460) on Wikidata
  • Bungalow of Daniel Hamilton, Gosaba.
  • Chargheri Char - here you can feel the mudflats and do a few hours of jungle and coastal trek (in the mud as well as the coast).
  • 2 Dobanki watch tower.
  • Haliday Island - It is famous for the barking deers (muntjacs)
  • Kanak - Ideal for viewing the olive ridley sea turtles
  • 3 Neti Dhopani watch tower. Contains a 400-year-old temple
  • 4 Sajnekhali Watch Tower and Tiger Reserve. A watch tower that also houses a museum, a Bonbibi temple and a crocodile park within its premises. Sajnakhali Wildlife Sanctuary (Q7402708) on Wikidata Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary on Wikipedia
  • 5 Sudhanyakhali watch tower. Most of the tigers are sighted from this tower. Some other wildlife-like axis deers and crocodiles may also be seen from here.

Other watch towers[edit]

  • Kumirmari watch tower
  • Jhingamari watch tower
  • Bonnie camp watch tower
  • Buridabri watch tower

All these can be covered in varying lengths of time, say in a 1N 2D package you may be able to cover 2 - 3 watch towers, in a 2N 3D package you may be able to cover a few more and so on.

Do[edit]

  • Apart from cruising around the tourism zone of the National Park, take a village walk. Visit a local school.
  • Go on a cycle trip to the local village market. Know more about the unique Mangrove Eco System.
  • Join a fishing or crab-catching expedition on a country boat around the village (you are not allowed to do that inside the Reserve Forest).
  • Take a birding walk around the village.
  • Experience a local cultural programme Bonobibi Yatra - a local rural theatre performed by the villagers.

Be sure that you have booked your lodging or trip package through a responsible tourism organisation that shares the tourism benefit with local communities, does not employ child labour, and practices environment-friendly tourism.

Learn[edit]

  • Join a cooking class, and learn how a local dish is prepared with simple local ingredients.

Buy[edit]

  • Local handicrafts
  • Honey
  • Organic brown rice

Eat[edit]

Lunch

Recommended items to eat locally:

Fresh sea fish, crabs, prawns, lobster, dry fish curry, cottage cheese, pancakes, Bengali-style rice pudding, and local sweet curds. It's best to savour the delicious dishes made of fresh catches from the water like shrimp, crab, hilsa, bhetki, pangas, partsay, boal, rohu, or katla. Some of the lodges also have their own kitchen garden to give the guests a sample of fresh produce.

Drink[edit]

Filtered or boiled water. (Do not insist on mineral water unless it is a part of your personal medication. Mineral water comes in plastic bottles, and the Sundarbans is a no-plastic zone.) Fresh coconut juice, fresh watermelon juice, mango juice.

Sleep[edit]

Caution Note: To avoid the unsavoury, corrupt, and thoroughly untrustworthy booking services based in Kolkata, it is best to get a place to stay on arrival without advance reservation.

Lodging[edit]

  • Sunder Chital Tourist Lodge, Sajnekhali. Belonging to West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. 30 double bedrooms, ₹700/- including breakfast+1 meal. No A/C. It is the only lodge close to Sajnekhali Forest Beat Office. Dormitory, ₹250 per bed including breakfast +1 meal.
  • Sunderban Tiger Camp, Dayapur Island, National Park East Range. City Office: 9, Mitter House, 71, Ganesh Chandra Avenue, Second Floor, Kolkata, +91 32 935749, +91 93 3109 2632, +91 98 3117 0453, fax: +91 33 22252 6078, . In the heart of Sundarbans and amidst 9 acres of forestland opposite Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve Forest. A boutique resort providing conference facilities and accommodations include tents, huts, and cottages, with A/C units available, all with attached baths. Meals are served buffet-style with vegetarian options. Sightseeing tours by boat. The rooms have attached clean bathrooms with running cold water and hot water on request, and are very well sanitised.
  • Sundarbans Jungle Camp, Bali Island, National Park-West Range, +91 32 1821 494 (Camp), +91 33 2455 0917 (per Help Tourism), +91 33 2485 4584, fax: +91 33 2485 4584, .
  • Houseboat in Sundarban, M.V La Fiesta, Sajnekhali, Sundarban, +91 8017175322, . A houseboat with 4 rooms sufficient to accommodate 8 persons, two washrooms - one Western-style and another Indian-style, 1 kitchen. Sightseeing tour by boat.
  • Houseboat in Sundarban, M.B India Beacons, Sajnekhali, Sundarban, +91 33 2419 1976, +91 990 329 5920. A houseboat with 2 rooms sufficient to accommodate 3 + 4 = 7 persons. Well-furnished rooms, not cabins. A unique experience of cruising during the day and staying in the middle of the river at night.
  • Sundaban Residency, toll-free: 1800 103 9161.

If you are backpacking, go to Godhkhali/Pakhirala and inquire about the boats. They are generally cheaper, but there is always the risk that you may not get one on weekends and important dates and have to abandon your tour from there.

Overnight stay on the boat, is possible and is a unique experience. However, check out the hygiene and safety of the boat before you do so. Most of the boats have single toilets and the toilets on the boats stink and may not be so clean as most of the boats carry a maximum number of passengers (25, 35, 40 or maybe 60) as per their Licensed capacity during the day and all those passengers use on-board bathrooms.

However, if you find one such nice boat, the experience of an overnight stay on the boat and the scenic beauty of the dawn on the water is absolutely breathtaking and mesmerizing.

Always insist or inquire whether the boat you would be travelling has life jackets, lifebuoys, fire extinguishers and other fire fighting measures" as those are minimum prerequisite safety measures (most of the boats do not have them). So be very careful in planning your trip in small boats. You may endanger your life by availing of the services of such small boats which do not have these safety measures.

Stay safe[edit]

The Sundarbans are the only place in the world where tigers still actively hunt humans for food and usually between 50 and 80 locals are mauled per year. The royal Bengal tiger is extremely dangerous in the Sundarbans, but most visitors need not worry since wildlife tours and accommodation that is provided by the state government will never put you in harm's way; however if you are interested in a private tour (by hiring a small machine boat), do it at your own risk! The Sundarbans are also home to a population of saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) and bullsharks are found throughout the estuaries, so swimming is not advised anywhere.

Stay healthy[edit]

Mosquito-borne diseases including malaria and dengue fever are present within the Sundarbans at varying levels depending on the season (the wet season represents the greatest risk.) The most feared animal (by locals and tourists) within the tropics is the mosquito which represents a greater threat than any man-eater could. Drinking water should be limited to bottled only and always use your best judgement when choosing what to eat.

Go next[edit]

Routes through Sundarbans National Park
KrishnanagarKolkata  N WB SH3-IND.png S  END


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