SUNDARBAN NATIONAL PARK

The word “Sundarban” is derived from sundari and ban, which, when combined, means “the forests of sundari”- an obvious reference to the large mangrove trees. The 1330 sq km area of Sundarbans was established as a National Park on May 4, 1984. The Sunderbans had earlier been designated as a Tiger Reserve in December 1973. After this, a wildlife sanctuary was created in 1977.

Due to its proximity to the Bay of Bengal, Sundarban experiences very high humidity. Rainfall is quite heavy during monsoon, which last from mid-June to mid-September. After the monsoons, fair weather prevails until mid-March.  The best season to visit the Sundarban is between October to March.

Moving through the largest estuarine delta in the world is quite a thrilling experience. The flora and fauna of the region are the major attractions here. The mangrove forest presents a unique ecosystem. The wildlife includes the world famous Royal Bengal Tiger, a major attraction in the tiger reserve. Some of the other attractions include chital, crocodile, monkeys, estuarine and marine turtle, dolphins and various kinds of birds. The Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project besides being a hatchery and a sanctuary is the home to the biggest estuarine crocodiles.

Where the land meets the sea at the southern tip of West Bengal lies the Indian Sunderbans, a stretch of impenetrable mangrove forest of great size and bio-diversity. A UNESCO World Heritage Site (awarded in ’97) , the Sunderbans is a vast area covering 4264 square kms in India alone, with a larger portion in Bangladesh. 2585 sq. kms of the Indian Sunderbans forms the largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in India.

The Sundarbans are a part of the world’s largest delta formed by the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Situated on the lower end of the Gangetic West Bengal, 22.00° N – 89.00° E, it is also the world’s largest estuarine forest. 70% of the area is under saline water and the area is criss-crossed by hundreds of creeks and tributaries. It is difficult to approach and even more difficult to spend time in. But for those who dare, it must be one of the most attractive and alluring places remaining on earth.

In a landscape dominated by great tidal creeks and waterways, the only way to access and enjoy the area is on motorized boats which come in various sizes and shapes. Sunderbans is the home of man eating tigers, estuarine crocodiles, sharks and snakes. Man fights for survival in great numbers by living off nature’s bounty by accepting and fighting against these odds. The visitor has no choice but to stay within limits and out of trouble. This means that there is very little conventional bird or game watching , more observations from water. But the dark and foreboding attractiveness of the mangroves also hides some of the most sought after birds and animals in the world and a chance encounter with a Swamp Partridge, a Brown-winged Kingfisher, a Grey Headed Lapwing, a Pallas’s Fish Eagle, a Lesser Adjutant or maybe a Mangrove Whistler is always a possibility ~ as is the unforgettable sight of the most secretive great cat in the world.

Tiger sighting is difficult not just because of the terrain but also because the density is not evident from the limited view one gets from a boat. The fringes of Sunderbans play host to many local endemics and the visitor is well advised to spend time on land outside the core area before venturing into the heart of the National Park. Once inside the Park, the only access to land is at the various Watchtowers you can visit. Remember that the watchtowers are inside wire cages and do not allow you to stroll in tiger-land.

 

  • Area : 1330 sq km (Park); 2585 sq km (Reserve)
  • Altitude : 0-10 m above sea level
  • Languages : Spoken Bengali, Hindi, English
  • Annual Mean Rainfall : Around 1108 mm (Canning)
  • Maximum Temperature : Summer 42°C
  • Minimum Temperature : Winter 9°C