The Sunderbans, literally translating to ‘the land of beautiful forests’, and shared between India and Bangladesh, is a declared UNESCO heritage site inscribed in 1987.
This area has an aesthetic aura that manages to attract travelers with the richness of its ecological diversity and magnificent collection of flora and fauna. Since 1966, the Sundarbans has been a wildlife sanctuary, and is the home of an estimated 400 Royal Bengal Tigers, 30000 spotted deer and a large population of rare salt-water crocodiles .
The forest has the collection of the largest number of Sundari trees. Sunderbans masters the art of wilderness with its flowing rivers, springs, deltas, estuaries and creeks. It is a declared Tiger Reserve – home to the Royal Bengal Tiger- an almost extinct species that swims in the saline water and are often the man-eating varieties.
Some other endangered species in this Bio-reserve include Olive Ridley Turtle, Batagur baska, and King Crabs. One can also catch a glimpse of the rare jungle fowl, giant lizards, wild boar, Chital Deer and various varieties of crocodiles. The Siberian duck is another well-known attraction here. Apart from this, there are more than 64 varied types of Mangroves like Goran, Genwa, Dhundal, Garjan, Kankra, Sundari and Passur. Nilkamalor Hiron Point and Katka viewpoints are a tourist hotspot as they offer awe-inspiring views of animals. Also, one can enjoy the mud-flats locally called Chargheri, famous for coastal trekking.
Dobanki Watch Tower, towered at a height of 20 feet from the ground level and about half a kilometer long, also offers canopy walks.
Sunderbans at a Glance
The Sunderbans is located at the South Eastern end of the 24 Paraganas district in West Bengal. The forest is located in the world’s largest delta, which is formed by three rivers named Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Almost 2585 sq km of the Indian Sunderbans area is occupied as the National Park which makes it the largest National Park and Tiger reserve of India.
The Sunderban National Park and the nearby three watchtowers Dobanki, Sajnekhali and Sudhanyakhali are most visited by the tourists. International tourists come to Sunderbans to have a glance of some of the globally endangered species like the Royal Bengal Tiger, Irawadi Dolphins, Estuarine crocodiles, seawater turtles, various species of shark and ray and also the critically endangered endemic river terrapin (Batagur Baska).
One can cruise through the Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, in distinctive houseboats for a “never before experience”.
The cruise offers breath taking views of some narrow stream and creeks along with the glimpse of varied flora, fauna and if the tourists are lucky enough they may even chance upon the famous Royal Bengal Tiger.
Staring at the dark night under the stars on board while meandering in the middle of the river can be an experience of lifetime.
M B India Beacons
M B India Beacons is the houseboat service run by the tourism department of the government of West Bengal. It is typically a decorated two-room houseboat with the feel of rustic Bengal. The ambience of the houseboat syncs with the traditional culture and heritage of Bengal.
Best Time to Visit the Sunderbans
Any time in between September to March is suitable to visit the Sunderbans. But the winters being cool and pleasant are the best period to travel in the forest. While the summers, even though might be very hot, are a good time to hit the wildlife sanctuary. The monsoon with its heavy showers can make travelling quite difficult but the dark woods and lush green patches might very well make up for it.
How to Reach Sunderbans
The forest can easily be reached by rail, road or air. The Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport at Kolkata, which is the nearest airport, is just 112 kms away from the wilderness.
By road, Sunderbans is 110 kms away from the capital city, Kolkata. It takes nearly 3 hours of road journey and 2 hours of boat ride to reach Sunderbans from the heartland of Kolkata.