Sunderbans, the beautiful mangrove forest of West Bengal is heaven for a nature lover. If you are planning to visit Sunderbans, here is the list of places to visit in the Sundarbans.
I first heard about Sundarbans when my friend’s daughter paid a visit to the place. Her mindblowing experience of the sunset was the one that left a mark in my mind about this fascinating National Park.
Sundarbans host a lot of mangrove trees, making it the largest mangrove forest in the world.
It is a magnificent wild forest where you can find all types of fauna and flora.
The mangrove is a tree/shrub that grows on the banks of rivers, in swampy areas. These trees can live in ecosystems where other normal vegetation cannot thrive. for example, salty water.
The mangrove trees are a blessing to the ecosystem since they can store a lot of carbon.
The presence of mangroves itself makes the Sundarbans pure and refreshing. The natural beauty, water bodies, and wild fauna and flora make it a unique place. People from all over the world come to Sunderbans to experience this special environment.
Confluence of River
The Sundarbans forest is a large expanse that extends to Bangladesh. There are rivers crisscrossing the forest, which makes it more attractive. Rivers Brahmaputra, Padma, and Meghna come in confluence here and give the ethereal and unique atmosphere here.
Tourists move in boats through the rivers to experience the flora and fauna of this forest.
You can find 290 bird species along with many different reptiles and other animals coexisting in this beautiful forest, as the name Sundarban suggests. You can see Gangetic dolphins here. the freshwater types are living here, not the sea dolphins.
The elegant Royal Bengal Tigers are the greatest charm of the forest, but you might not see them frequently. These tigers bear black stripes on the orange color background is a rarity. More than 400 tigers live in the forests of Sunderbans, the study says.
Sunderbans is the only place where tigers live in a mangrove.
Spotted deers, snakes, tigers, water monitor lizards, marine turtles, fiddler crab, fishing cat, etc are to name a few of the numerous types of animals that live in harmony in this special environment created by the nature.
The Sunderbans forest area is a tiger reserve and is popularly known as Sunderban National Park.
This is also a UNESCO world heritage site. A world heritage site is protected by law to preserve it as it has cultural or historical significance. The site is one of the largest mangroves and it has an interesting value as an example of ongoing ecological processes.
The area constantly developed on its own with delta formation and delta islands and then the mangrove formation. On your trip to West Bengal, there is a huge list of places to visit in the Sundarbans.
Can we see deer in the Sunderbans national park?
Oh yes, deers are very common to find and the species called the spotted deers are inhabitants of Sundarbans. These deers fear extinction due to a large amount of poaching etc. and are tagged as endangered species by zoologists.
Why visit Sundarbans?
This is an ideal getaway from the daily hurried life and busy schedules. You can laze around, doing nothing, breathing a lot of fresh air in an ethereal setting. You can do boat rides, just observe the mangroves and mud banks and probably spot some wild animals. The water, greenery, fresh air, the natural environment, etc. are sure to make you refreshed.
Sunderbans consists of 102 uninhabited islands in its Indian part.
Turtle sanctuary in Sunderbans
Kanak island in Sunderbans is where the Olive Ridley turtles come to breed. From December to March of every year a large number of olive ridley turtles come to the island. You can witness this amazing and rare scene If you happen to be there during this time. Hence this sanctuary becomes one of the places to visit in Sundarbans.
The turtles are supposed to travel around 100 miles from the deep sea to the Kanak island shore to breed. Thousands of these tiny turtles nest here and lay eggs. Once hatched, the little ones swim to the sea instinctively. This is a beautiful experience if you are an avid nature lover.
Apart from the olive ridley, the Batakur Baska turtle which is facing the fear of extinction is found in the Sundarbans. These turtles are now carefully bred on farms there to conserve them and the babies are released into their habitat.
Bird sanctuary in Sunderbans
In Sajnekhali, there is a watchtower, ideal for birdwatching. The surrounding area can be termed as a bird sanctuary as Sunderbans is a birdwatcher’s paradise. You can watch them closely with your own binoculars, click beautiful pictures and experience the direct viewing of many rare bird species. Step into the museum nearby to find information about the birds and animals in Sunderbans.
This is a must-visit place in Sunderbans to spot wild animals. If you are lucky enough, you might see a Bengal tiger too as this area has a good probability to spot tigers.
The canopy walk here, the Dobanki canopy, extends to a distance of half a kilometer. It is covered with a net to protect the walkers and is 20 feet above the ground. This walk gives you a beautiful view of the forest.
The best time to visit Dobanki is between December and March as the weather is supportive during that time for the boat ride.
People who live near the forest always worship their local deity to protect them from wild animals and any dangers that may happen in the wild forest. Here in Sunderbans, it is the Bonbibi Goddess whom the locals worship.
A small prayer is chanted by the workers/locals who enter the forest addressing the Bonbibi. They also follow certain rules and regulations like not to enter the forest during very early mornings or nighttime. Visit this place when you are in Sunderbans.
At certain times of the year, finishing is not done and they do not pluck flowers from some types of flowers. this is observed as a honour to the Bonbibi and also might have some scientific reasons connected to ecology.
These are all nature-conservation practices followed by the local simple people honoring nature in the form of the deity.
A visit to the Bonbibi temple is highly recommended for a Sunderbans visitor.
Netidhopani – must visit place in Sundarbans
This place in Sundarbans has a Shiva temple, which has a history dating back to 400 years. There is also a sweet water pond nearby, though the area is surrounded by salt water. The pond probably could have been a part of the temple as usually, temples will have a pond adjacent to it usually.
There is a watch tower here in Netidhopani from which you can see the forest and its inhabitants safely.
Netidhopani is a name of a lady who had supernatural powers. Legends have it that a lady was passing through this place in a boat with the dead body of her husband for the last rites. She observed that in a bathing ghat a lady is washing her clothes and her little son is disturbing her.
The lady sprinkled some water on the boy and chanted a mantra and the boy turned into a statue. Once her work was over, she sprinkled water again, and viola! The boy is back to life. Excited, Behula, the lady in the boat approached the Netidhopani to bring her husband back into life and she did so. Hence the name of the place Netidhopani honouring the lady with supernatural powers.
An old city is buried under here, according to the villagers.
It is also said that an old city, probably thousands of years old is buried somewhere in this region. Vessels made of mud and other remnants of the city were found here. As a result, it is assumed that there was an early human settlement here.
Bonnie Camp Watch Tower – Must visit place in Sundarbans
Bonnie camp watch tower is a must-visit place in Sunderbans. It is 50 feet in height and is the tallest among all the other watchtowers in Sunderbans. If you wish to view a lot of spotted deer, this could be your ideal spot to find a lot of deer.
There is a facility for an overnight stay here and it is indeed an altogether different experience staying there at night which could give you the feeling of an ancient life isolated from the outside world.
This camp has a park too in the vicinity and is an extremely beautiful setting.
Traveling Through the Mangroves
The only way to see the sights in Sunderbans is through the waterways. This is another specialty as the numerous branches of the rivers can take you all around the vast area giving you the opportunity to see animals and birds as well as different sceneries.
Sunsets in Sunderbans
Sun rise and sun sets in Sunderbans are out of the world experience as you see the entire area in the background of orange and red hues. This experience is enough to take you to a meditative state, aligning with nature!
Food in Sundarbans
You get regular Bengali food in Sunderbans and if you would like to try the local Sunderbans dishes, you could get them upon request. There are local varieties that are native to the region and if you are an ardent food explorer, you may try them. You could taste many fish varieties that are not available anywhere else.
During the boat tour, the tour operators do hire a cook and give you food mostly Bengali food and sometimes with the local flavour.
Naksha bori, posto bora, pitas etc. are the food varieties that are aplenty in Sunderbans.
Vegetarians also need not worry as there are enough good vegetarian restaurants available in Sunderbans. Even on the boat tours, you could state in advance that you prefer vegetarian food.
Best time to visit Sunderbans
October to March is the ideal time for the Sunderbans tour. In winter, the weather is good and comfortable for visitors. In addition, this is the time when animals come out from the dense forest to the river banks to do some sunbathing. That means you are able to spot animals more than in the other seasons.
How to reach Sunderbans
Sunderbans is in West Bengal. The nearest airport is Dumdum airport, Kolkata. The distance from the Kolkata airport to Sunderbans is 112 km. You can hire a taxi to reach Sunderbans.
If you plan to travel to Sunderbans via train, the nearest station is canning. You can alight at canning and then reach Namkhana, Raidighi, or Najat. To get to Sunderbans, you have to take a motorboat service.
There are a lot of hotels and resorts in all price ranges for you to stay nearer to Sunderbans.
How was Sunderbans delta formed?
Ganges, Brahma Putra, and Meghna rivers deposited large amounts of sediments in this area. The Bay of Bengal is nearby and the tidal action also caused the particular formation of the banks here.
The Sunderbans is a habitat for hundreds of species of aquatic and amphibian species. It has a very high biodiversity with a huge variety of flora and fauna.
The land comprises rivers, creeks, swampy areas tidal flats, and mudflats along with many islands.
The mudflats are of great importance. It prevents salt marshal erosions. They also are a habitat for a lot of microorganisms.
There are high tides and low tides happening every day, twice to be precise. This leaves sediments on an ongoing basis. There are huge networks of tidal channels, which gives Sunderbans its unique place on the geographical map. The tides submerge a large portion of the land and when the water recedes, the area comes up again.
Is Sunderbans safe for travelers?
Sundarbans generally is a safe place if you follow the rules there. The Sunderbans national park is not dangerous, however, It is a huge water body, so it is good if you be careful while you are on the boats.
Tigers in Sunderbans are maneater kind, so it is always good that you do not venture out on the jungles on your own. Sometimes they come out to the villages so it is always safe to follow the rules and guidelines of your tour operators or locals.
The mangroves of Sunderbans provide a huge barrier for cyclones or tsunamis affecting the region.
These are natural defense systems for the land to stay unaffected by natural calamities.
Another important benefit of this ecosystem is that they store carbon in the highly organic peat soils and this in turn helps offset the greenhouse gasses that are climatic active for a longer period of time. This process is called carbon sinking. A carbon sink is Anything that gathers and stores carbon-containing compounds for long periods of time. This helps in reducing the carbon dioxide density in the atmosphere and makes the planet more liveable for living beings.
What are deltas?
The deposition of sediments from the rivers creates wetlands. Wetland created by the deposition of sediments of rivers into an ocean, lake, or another river is called deltas. The longest delta in the world is the Ganges delta which has 40% of it in India and 60% in Bangladesh.
You can see the Indian side delta and explore the Sunderbans. The soil in delta regions is soft and saline. This makes it difficult for the normal vegetation to grow there. Mangrove trees alone can grow there owing to their unique features to adapt to these soil conditions.
In the delta regions, there will be ongoing high tides and low tides and it affects any plants or trees to survive there.
Mangrove trees have roots that come above the ground which help them to breathe as there is no oxygen in the soil there. Also, the silt roots and buttress roots of the mangrove tree provide adequate support for the tree to stand steady. The root sometimes comes up a little away from the plant, above the ground, breathes in the oxygen from the atmosphere, and passes on to the inner tissues of the plant.
Again, propagation of the plants is a challenge in these wet conditions but in the mangrove trees
Young plants germinate from the seeds and buds of the mother tree and hence it is not lost in the water.
The Early History of Sunderbans
The history of Sunderbans dates back to the Mourya era and the Sangam period. There are folklores that back these assumptions. Archeological Survey of India excavated the area to unearth the pieces of evidence of a civilization here that dates back from 200 AD to 300 AD. The Maurya period was from 322 BC to 185 BC.
East India Company obtained the proprietary rights in 1757 from the Mughal emperor of that time.
The above are places to visit in Sundarbans if you are on a trip to West Bengal.
What to Wear in Sundarbans
Comfortable clothing, preferably cotton clothes. Simple casual dress and comfortable footwear to walk is best for Sundarbans.
What to Buy in Sundarbans
Pure wild honey. The villagers go to the forest and collect wild honey. This is a tedious process sometimes taking days to come back. So if you are visiting Sunderbans, do not forget to buy some pure honey. In addition, you can buy handicrafts to collect as a souvenir.
The above is a detailed description of the National Park, its history, importance, and also the places to visit in Sundarbans.