The Sundarbans is a vast mangrove forest that spreads across West Bengal and Bangladesh. It has the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This forest of mangroves is the largest mangrove belt (littoral) found anywhere in the world. It stretches from the coast 80 km into the Indian and Bangladeshi hinterland.
Although this is a forest land, it is so much more besides that. These forests include some of the last of the mighty jungles that covered the Gangetic Plain at one time. One-third of the Sundarbans is swamps or marshy areas. This area has been a wildlife sanctuary since 1966 and right now there are an estimated 30,000 spotted deer and 400 Royal Bengal tigers in this area.
Aside from this, there are also Indian and King Cobras here as well as leopards, primates of various species and even saltwater crocodiles. As far as other animals in the area, there are a significant number of birds, insects, mammals, fish and reptiles. In the rivers, you can see the river dolphins as well as more than 50 different reptile species and eight species of amphibians as well as more than 120 species of fish. There are also “sea gypsy” families here. These people catch fish by using otters trained for the trade.
The Sundarbans is well-connected by both road and rail to Kolkata. Most people get into this area by way of a safari. These trips are available from Dhaka, Khulna, and you can get an overnight Safari or one that lasts for a week. These are the best way to see the Sundarbans.
Permits are mandatory to visit the Sundarbans. You can get your permit from the Divisional Forest Office, which is at Circuit House Road in Khulna 20665.
If you wish to visit the tiger reserve, you can get a permit for that from the Field Director of the Sundarban Tiger Reserve in Port Canning.
For people who would like to get both permits, it is recommended that you contact:
Joint Secretary (Forest)
Gov. of West Bengal
Tel 225-5601 ext 411/754
Getting around in the forest is best accomplished by boat. It is possible to rent one, but this is undesirable because of the very real dangers of getting lost. If you are going to rent a boat, then it is highly recommended that you also hire a guide. You can get a guide at Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve.
What to See
There are many tourist attractions for you to see in this forest. Here are just a few of them:
Hiron Point – This is a gorgeous area that is perfect for tiger watching.
Tin Kona Island – This island is a great place for general wildlife watching.
Katka – Katka is a base for many safaris. It is a perfect spot for both bird and tiger watching.
Dublar Char Island – If you come to the forest and want to fish, this is the place to do it.
Sudhanyakhali Watch Tower – You can see most of the tigers seen in the area from this spot. Also very common here are crocodiles and axis deer.
Sajnekhali Watch Tower – This is a watch tower that includes a museum as well as a crocodile park and a Bonobibi Temple.
Netidhopani – This great site is the home of a 400-year-old temple.
Konak – If you come here looking for the Olive Ridley Turtles, this is where you are most likely to find them.
Don’t forget to visit the local villages so that you can see how the people live and to get an insight into their lives.