The Sundarbans is a mangrove forest extending from Bangladesh into the hinterlands of West Bengal, India. It has been named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The forest is thick and the area, covered with marshy swamps and salt water. It is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, of which only 400 are left here. Crocodiles, spotted deers, snakes, primates and many different species of birds can be seen here. Tourists need to have a permit to visit the Sunderbans especially the Tiger Reserve.
How to Reach
The Sunderbans are easily accessible from Kolkata. The popular means of reaching there include:-
Railways– It is possible to take the local train from Kolkata to Canning and travel by boat thereafter.
Road– Travelling by bus to various locations like Namkhana, Canning, Raidighi, Najat, and Sonakhali, is mandatory as the riverine waterways are accessible only from these areas.
Motoboat– A number of motorboat routes operates in the Sunderbans. The most popular routes are:-
- From Namkhana – Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project- Sagar Island to Jambudwip
- From Sajnekhali – Sudhanyakhali-Buridabri- Netidhopan to Holiday Island
- From Sonakhali to Gosaba
- From Raidighi to Kalas
It is also possible to hire private boats along with an experienced guide. The prices range from Rs 1500-Rs 2000 per day for a boat.
Attractions & Activities
The rich animal life along with the unique mangrove forest are the main attractions of the place. Some of the ‘must see’ attractions of the Sunderbans include:-
- Holiday Island famous for the Barking Deers.
- Sudhanyakhali Watch Tower – An ideal place for tiger sighting. Other wildlife like deers and crocodiles may also be observed.
- Sajnekhali Pakiralaya – Bird watching center containing 248 species of birds.
- Sajnekhali Watch Tower – This watch tower also contains a museum, a crocodile park and a Bonobibi Temple within its premises.
- Bhagbatpur crocodile project – This is a crocodile-breeding farm and the hatchery of the largest estuarine crocodile.
- Netidhopani – It has a 400-year-old temple.
- Kanak – Olive Ridley Turtles can be sighted here.
It is also possible to visit the nearby villages and chat to the local people about the hardships of living in the Sunderbans.
There are a few private resorts apart from the Government lodging facilities like the Sajnekhali Tourist Lodge, available in the Sunderbans. Bookings need to be made from Kolkata and most of them include a sightseeing trip as well.
When to Visit
The best season for visiting the Sunderbans is between September and February. The monsoon season is best avoided as the rainwater gets trapped by the trees making it impossible to get around. However, a few International tourists insist on visiting the area in April-may during the peak norwester season.
Photo Courtesy: Flickr.com/Joydeep