Where the land meets the sea at the southern tip of West Bengal lies the Indian Sunderbans, a stretch of impenetrable mangrove forest of great size and bio-diversity. A UNESCO World Heritage Site (awarded in ‘1997) , the Sunderbans is a vast area covering 4264 square km in India alone, with a larger portion in Bangladesh. 2585 sq. kms of the Indian Sunderbans forms the largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in India.
The Sunderbans National Park are a part of the world’s largest delta formed by the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Situated on the lower end of the Gangetic West Bengal, 22.00° N – 89.00° E, it is also the world’s largest estuarine forest. 70% of the area is under saline water and the area is criss-crossed by hundreds of creeks and tributaries. It is difficult to approach and even more difficult to spend time in. But for those who dare, it must be one of the most attractive and alluring places remaining on earth.
In a landscape dominated by great tidal creeks and waterways, the only way to access and enjoy the area is on motorized boats which come in various sizes and shapes. Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve is the home of man eating tigers, estuarine crocodiles, sharks and snakes. Man fights for survival in great numbers by living off nature’s bounty by accepting and fighting against these odds.
The visitor has no choice but to stay within limits and out of trouble. This means that there is very little conventional bird or game watching, more observations from water. But the dark and foreboding attractiveness of the mangroves also hides some of the most sought after birds and animals in the world and a chance encounter with a Swamp Partridge, a Brown-winged Kingfisher, a Grey Headed Lapwing, a Pallas’s Fish Eagle, a Lesser Adjutant or maybe a Mangrove Whistler is always a possibility ~ as is the unforgettable sight of the most secretive great cat in the world. Others wildlife sightseeing are spotted dear, wild boars,water monitor lizard etc.
Tiger sighting is difficult not just because of the terrain but also because the density is not evident from the limited view one gets from a boat. The fringes of Sunderbans play host to many local endemics and the visitor is well advised to spend time on land outside the core area before venturing into the heart of the National Park. Once inside the Park, the only access to land is at the various Watchtowers you can visit. Remember that the watchtowers are inside wire cages and do not allow you to stroll in tiger-land.
About, Sundarban National Park
The Sundarbans national park is situated at the South Eastern periphery of the 24 Paraganas district in West Bengal, an eastern state in India. The name of the Sundarbans forest has been drawn from a mangrove plant known as Sundari (Heritiera Minor). In its brackish waters, mudflats and trees, reside an incredible variety of flora and fauna. The vast Sunderbans also houses within it rivers, islands and villages.
Flora: The Sundarban forest is the largest mangrove forest in the world so undoubtedly the mangrove tree is the prime fauna of this region. The 64 mangrove plant species which are found however, have learned to survive in brackish waters and saline inundation. Some of the common species of plants which are found include Sundari tree, Golpati, Champa, Dhundul, Genwa and Hatal. They are extremely important because of the important role they play in the survival of marine organisms.
Fauna: Wildlife tourism is a major factor behind tourists visiting Sunderbans, and rightly so.
Apart from the Royal Bengal Tiger, The other fauna attractions which are in abundance in Sundarbans are Fishing cats, Leopard, Macaques, Wild boar, Wild Buffaloes, Rhinoceros, Indian mongoose, Jungle cat, Fox, Flying fox, Pangolin, Barking Deer, Spotted Deer, Hog Deer, Chital along with the saltwater crocodiles, irawati dolphin and various species of snakes.
The exotic birds commonly found here are openbill storks, black-capped kingfishers, black-headed ibis, coots, water hens, pheasant-tailed jacanas, brahminy kite, pariah kites, marsh harriers, swamp partridges, red junglefowl, spotted doves, common mynahs, jungle crows, jungle babblers, cotton teals, herring gulls, Caspian terns, gray herons, common snipes, wood sandpipers, green pigeons, rose ringed parakeets, paradise-flycatchers, cormorants, grey-headed fish eagles, white-bellied sea eagles, seagulls, common kingfishers, peregrine falcons, woodpeckers, whimbrels, black-tailed godwits, little stints, eastern knots, curlews, golden plovers, northern pintails, white-eyed pochards and whistling teals. Sundarban National Park is home to a large number of reptiles. Some of the more famous ones are water monitor, king cobra and rock python.
A species of river turtles called Batagur Baska (which are classified as endangered by the IUCN) are found on the Mechau Beach.
Rivers: The Sundarbans delta is formed by the coming together of three rivers, Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Besides these three main rivers, there are three other rivers which form an intriguing network of channels.
Villages: A number of villages lie in close proximity to Sunderbans National Park like Pakhiralay, Dayapur, Bali, Kumirmari, Hingalgunj, Jharkhali Village walks are popular among tourists because they offer a glimpse into the traditional lifestyle of the villagers. While visiting one of these villages, you can also observe the traditional method of honey collection.
Tourist Sopts –
Here are few tourist destinations in and around the national park, which you can consider to visit while visiting the Sundarbans National Park.
The Sajnekhali watchtower strategically placed on the Sajnekhali Island to view a large part of the forest. It is a fascinating tourist place which also has a crocodile park, a museum and the Bonobibi temple inside the premises of the watch tower land. Here, you will also get the permit to visit other areas of the Sundarbans forest issued by the forest office. also, there is a Mangrove interpretation center located inside this sanctuary.
Most famous watchtower in the Sundarbans area, the Sudhantyakhali watchtower is strategically placed in the center of the tiger reserve zone. There is a large land devoid of any vegetation and a big pond nearby the watchtower due to which you can get an amazing sight of tigers and other animals who visit at the pond to drink water. Due to the no vegetation, animals can be seen clearly from afar.
Along with the Sajnekhali and Sudhanyakhali watch towers, there are other watch towers such as Dobanki, Netidhopan, Haldi and others from where one can get the wonderful sight of the royal Bengal tigers.
Bhagbatpur Crocodile Project:
One of a kind, Bhagbatpur Crocodile Project is a crocodile breeding farm located in the Bhagbatpur area of the Sundarbans. It is known as the hatchery of the world’s largest estuarine crocodile. This place can easily be reached from the Namkhanaand.
Known as the gateway to the Sundarbans, The Piyali River flows amid the island to converge with the Matla River.
Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuary:
The Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuary is located on a small island of having 38 sq km of area and easily accessible from Namkhana.The sunset view is magnificent from this island.
Chulkati & Dhulivasani:
The forest of Chulkati and Dhulivasani is located adjacent to the Kalas Island and a famous stop by in the Sundarbans for its diverse wildlife. With various rivers crisscrossing an area of around 462 sq km, it offers you some extraordinary view of nature like the Sundarbans.
The Hiran point which is located at the southern periphery of the Sundarbans is surrounded by beautiful water bodies from three sides and offers you a great view around
Jungle Safari Timings –
Sunderbans National Park offers only boat safari to the visitors. Jeep safaris are not conducted here. The safari timing is from 7:30 AM in the morning till 5:00 PM in the evening. The entry of boats after 6.00 PM is prohibited. Although the park remains open throughout the year, however, winter season is the best time to visit it.
How to Reach Sundarbans National Park
Tourists planning to visit Sundarbans National Park may avail conducted tours organized by local tour leaders. The park has many entry points and easily accessible from different parts of West Bengal. Tourists need to reach Kolkata city which has very good network of all modes of transportation with major cities of India and abroad.
An airway is always the most convenient and efficient means to reach Sundarbans National Park. The nearest airport is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose airport at Kolkata. It is located at an approximate distance of 112 Kms from Sundarbans. Tourists need to go Canning, Basanti, Godhkhali, Jharkhali or any of the launch terminals to hire motor boat to reach Sundarbans area.
The nearest railhead to Sundarbans National Park is Canning and Seadalh (South). Local trains ply regularly and it takes only one and half hours to reach. Tourists will have to take train from Kolkata to reach Canning station. From there shared vans are available that takes you to the mainland of Sundarbans area.
A well-laid road network connects Sundarbans National Park to Kolkata. The total surface distance is approx 110 kms. Tourists can hire public transport from Godhkhali (113 kms) Sonakhali (100 Kms), Namkhana (105 Kms), Canning (64 Kms), Raidighi (76 Kms) and Najat (92 Kms) easily.
The waterway transport is the prime transportation system in Sundarbans. By hiring the motorboats from the nearest ports, you can reach the Sundarbans forest and further explore it through the waterway transports only, there was no road connectivity. Motor launch service can be hired from the ports at Namkhana, Sagar Island, Sajnekhali, Sonakhali, Godhkhali & Raidighi.
Useful Information & Quick Facts on Sundarban Tiger Reserve
|Sundarban Tiger Reserve||Facts|
|Area||10,000sq km of Land and Water|
|Value||UNESCO World Heritage Site (1997)|
|Location||Between India and Bangladesh at the mouth of the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers.|
|Unique Fact||Richest Mangrove Forest in the World (78 species of Mangroves)|
|Why it is Popular||For exotic wildlife species and faunal species.|
|Popular Flora of Sundarbans||Hargoja, Jat Baine, Son Champa,Kankra, Sundari, Tora, Khalsi, Hoya, Goran, Hental and Genwa etc.|
|Popular Fauna of Sundarbans||Royal Bengal Tiger, Fishing Cat, Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, The fiddler Crab, Esturine Crocodiles, Reptiles, Marine Turtles and Water Monitor Lizard, Irawati Dolphin etc.|
|Popular Avifauna of Sundarbans||170 species of endemic brown-winged kingfishers, marsh harriers, Jungle Crows, Green pigeons, wood Sandpipers, woodpeckers, Little stints, Common Snipes, Golden Plovers & Mangrove Whistler etc.|
|Best Time to Visit||October to March|
|Major Rivers||Ganga, Brahmaputra, Meghna and Padma|
|Achievements||Finalist in the New Seven wonders of Nature.|