A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sundarbans National Park is a magnificent and pristine mangrove jungle that’s the only one of its kind in the world. It’s spread over 54 islands and extends into neighboring Bangladesh. Part of the Sundarbans is home to a 2,585 sq kilometer (1,606 sq mile) Tiger Reserve, which includes a 1,330 sq kilometer (826 sq mile) national park.
Sundarbans is home to many different species of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and fishes, making it into one of the best natural forest reserves to visit. Over 120 species of fish and over 260 species of birds have been recorded in the Sundarbans. The Gangetic River Dolphin is common in the rivers. No less than 50 species of reptiles and eight species of amphibians are known to occur. The Sundarbans now support the only population of the Estuarine, or Salt-Water Crocodile in Bangladesh, and that population is estimated at less than two hundred individuals.
Royal Bengal Tigers are the main draw,but tourists will be able to spot Saltwater Crocodiles, various primates,leopards, King Cobras and Indian Cobras.
The park is also home to sea gypsy fishing families who catch fish using trained otters.
The best time to visit the reserve is between November and March, entry is restricted through the monsoon months. Organised tours are the best way to navigate this tricky and harsh landscape, not least because all your permits, paperwork, guiding duties and logistical problems are taken care of. Travelling alone is not recommended.
At Sajnekhali, the official gateway into the reserve, you’ll find the Mangrove Interpretation Centre with a small turtle and crocodile hatchery, a collection of pickled wildlife and a blackboard with the date of the last tiger-spotting chalked up. Rowboats (400), motorboats (500) and guides (600) are available for hire near the site.
How to Get There
At the mouth of the Ganges river, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south east of Kolkata in the state of West Bengal is the Sunderban forests. The nearest railway station is in Canning, and the nearest town is Gosaba. The actual entrance to the Sundarbans national park is at Sajnekhali, and this is where entry fees are paid.
Foreigners need a permit to visit the national park. This can be obtained free from the West Bengal Tourism office, 2/3 BBD Bagh East (near the post office) in Kolkata.