The Sundarbans is a magnificent mangrove forest—the largest of its kind in the world—and a fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site blanketing parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh where about two-thirds of it is located. Sundarban is a special type of forest called “halophytic;” plants throughout the Sundarbans grow in highly saline waters; plants either absorb the water by salty spray or through their roots such as in saline marshes, semi-deserts, seashores, and mangrove swamps. Lying in the delta of the Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Mehna Rivers, the forest presents an exceptionally complicated network of small islands home to saline-loving mangroves, tidal waterways, and mudflats with countless ecological processes in the works. The Sundarbans National Park comprises the park, a Biosphere Reserve, and the Tiger Reserve. The best time to visit is between December and February when conditions are least humid and hot.
Travel to the Sundarbans in India is possible via water transportation through the mangrove forest. Water taxis leave from only two points; Mongla Point and Khulna. To get to both launch points, visitors hop flights from Dhaka or travel by paddle steamer or road to the Sundarbans gateway. One of the most enjoyable ways to travel is by the Rocket paddle steamer via the waterway which takes anywhere from six to ten hours. The trip offers aendless scenic views of Bangladesh’s rural areas. Traveling by road, purchasing tickets for coach service (which encompasses an overnight journey), is another option. The fastest way to arrive is to hop a flight from Dhaka, (about 7 hours northeast of Kolkata) to the city of Jessore and continue by road to Khulna on the border of West Bengal, Dhaka, and Rajshahi. Khulna is one of Bangladesh’s seven divisions, which can be compared to provinces.
One of the Sundarbans most famous animals is the Bengal Tiger; there are more than 400 of these majestic creatures within the area. Visitors take boat tours and walking tours through certain accessible and less dangerous areas within the wildlife santuary. The chances of seeing a Bengal Tiger vary and depend on weather conditions, time of day, and often even simply luck. Tiger viewing is the main reason most tourists choose to visit the area but it can be a very dangerous journey. Each year between 50 and 90 people are attacked and killed by the tigers—they are known to actively hunt people (the majorities are Indian nationals). Tourists can only obtain a permit to visit the wildlife sanctuary section and not the main national park. Experts claim many environmental factors have forced the tigers to attack humans. The main factor is lack of prey. As well, the salty waters drive them out of their habitat and conditions which eliminate their urine (used to mark territory) create a natural need to attack humans they deem as predators.
The Sundarban is filled with a variety of other wildlife attractions. There is a very broad range of species living within the Biosphere Reserve and park including endangered animals like the Indian ython and the Estuarine crocodile. More than 20 species of birds, wild pigs, a slew of reptiles, dear, and monkeys also make their homes in the Sundarban. Rhinoceros, leopards, and several other wild cats also live throughout the park.
Lodging in Sundarbans National Park
The Sundarban Tiger Camp is one of few trusted lodging options. It is located in the heart of the area on Dayapur Island within the National Park East Range. It is the only government approved, star-classified lodging option and referred to as a “boutique forest resort.” The camp is located across from the Tiger Reserve Forest and comprises nine forestland acres. Accommodation options include cottages, tents, and huts, each with an attached bathroom and air conditioning upon request. Buffet meals are offered and include many vegetarian selections. Guests can enjoy sightseeing trips via river boats. The West Bengal Tourism Development owns and operates the Sunder Chital Tourist Lodge which can be compared to hostels. There are dorm rooms and private accommodations which include breakfast and one other meal. Here, the atmosphere is very jungle-oriented. Finally, on Bali Island, is the Sundarban Jungle Camp in the West Range where quaint, clean cottages set amid manicured gardens and enveloped by mangroves provide lodging for guests.