Sundarbans National Park
Also please keep in mind that Sundarbans is a plastic free zone. Please do not throw used/unused plastic into this environment. Keep them with you or in a wastebasket. There is a relentless effort of making this beautiful place clean, please help to achieve it by not dumping garbage all around. Try reading The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh before embarking on the trip. It will surely add an extra dimension to your senses.
The Sundarbans are the largest littoral mangrove belt in the world, stretching 80km (50mi) into the Bangladeshi and Indian hinterland from the coast. The Sundarbans has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The part of the forest within Indian territory is called Sundarbans National Park. 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 3,850 sq km, of which about one-third is covered in water/marsh areas. 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. The forest is called 'Sunderban' due to the rich growth of Sundari trees.
Flora and fauna
Royal Bengal tiger, saltwater crocodiles, deer, birds, bull sharks, various primates and snakes.
Monsoon cruises are spectacular simply because of two reasons:
1. The movement of boats is less since a lot of people avoid that time because of the season. However, the positive is that the chances of sighting wildlife are more.
2. The cloudy sky and the lovely sunset is the best time for photography.
Sundarbans National Park is located in the south eastern fringe of the Indian state of West Bengal and part of Sundarbans Reserve Forest. The adjacent inhabited areas of the Indian part of Sundarban are well connected with Kolkata by both roads and railways. And Kolkata is well connected with big cities in India by road, rail and air. Kolkata is also connected with Bangkok, Singapore, Hongkong, Kathmandu, Dhaka etc. by air.
Sundarban National Park has a number of entry points.Irrespective of any point from where you want to vienter the Sundarbans national Park, you have to reach the entry point from Kolkata by road.The entry points are:
The shortest route distance to Godkhali port from Kolkata is 82km and it is 95km from Kolkata airport (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport). One can travel directly from Kolkata by road or can travel by train from Sealdah to Canning and travel by road from Canning to reach Godkhali.
The easiest way to reach Sundarbans is the Canning route. Buses are also available from Kolkata(KC Das at Esplanade, Sealdah Bus stand or Science City) to get to Sonakhali or till Malancha from where you get another bus to Sonakhali.
Foreigners wishing to visit the Sundarbans have to obtain a special permit. This is mandatory as per Government rules. 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.
A permit for maximum 5 days is usually granted which can be further extended subject to the permission of local forest officer.
Must see places to visit when you are in the Sundarbans:
All these can be covered in varying lengths of time; in a 1N 2D package you may be able to cover 2 - 3 watch towers, in the 2N 3D package you may be able to cover a few more and so on.
Most of the watchtowers offer panoramic views of the landscape but can get pretty crowded. A good alternative is to skip the watchtowers and cruise along the numerous less frequented channels and soak in the landscape.
Fresh sea fish, prawns, lobster, dry fish curry, cottage cheese, pancake, rice pudding (Bengali dessert).
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. Sundarbans is a No-Plastic Zone.) Fresh coconut juice. Fresh watermelon juice. Mango juice.
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 the weekend 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 maximum no of passengers ( 25, 35, 40 or maybe 60) as per their Licensed capacity during the day and all those passengers use onboard 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 as well as Fire Extinguishers/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 peril your own life as well as the lives of your near and dear ones by availing the services of such small boats which do not have these SAFETY measures. TRAVEL SAFE, TRAVEL HAPPY
The Sundarbans is the only place in the world where tigers still actively hunt humans for food and usually between 50 and 80 locals are mauled each 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, as well as the State Government, recognised/authorised agents will never put you in harm's way. However, if you are interested in private tours (by hiring a small boat with an outboard motor or so), do it at your own risk!
Always insist or enquire whether the boat you would be travelling in has life jackets, as well as fire extinguishers as those are prerequisite safety measures (MOST OF THE BOATS DO NOT HAVE THEM.) So be very careful in planning your trip in small boats.
The Sundarbans is also home to a population of Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) and Bullsharks are found throughout the estuaries, so swimming is not advised anywhere.
The sun can be pretty harsh while cruising the water channels. Make sure you carry a high SPF sunscreen and a hat