Sundarbans, Sundarbans National Park
Sundarbans, the world's largest estuarine forest is located on the confluence of the vast swampy delta of - Brahmaputra and the Ganges. The Sundarbans delta, densely covered by mangrove forests is one of the largest reserves of the Royal Bengal Tiger. The Park covering an area of about 10,000 sq. km of land and water (more than half of it in India, the rest in Bangladesh) is a reputed tiger reserve and is one of the UNESCO's world heritage sites. The park is also home to variety of bird, reptiles and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile.
By Air: Located at 112 kms, Dum Dum airport in Kolkatta is the nearest airport to Sundarbans.
By Rail: Located at 48 kms, Canning is the nearest railway station to Sundarbans
By Road: Road transportation is available from Kolkatta to Namkhana (105-kms), Sonakhali (100-kms), Raidighi (76-kms), Canning (64-kms), and Najat (92-kms), which are all near the Sundarbans National Park.
The Sundarbans National Park has derived its name from the mangrove Sundari trees which are found in abundance here. Apart from Sundari trees, the park consists of a large flora population like Genwa, Dhundal, Passur, Garjan and Kankra. The most remarkable feature of this place is the bayonet-like roots of mangrove forests that stick out above the water level. One can also witness the impenetrable tall Goran trees ranging between 1.8 meters and 3.6 meters covers the entire region.
Fauna and other species at Sundarbans
The Sundarbans delta accommodates more than 200 endangered tigers. These Royal Bengal Tigers have developed a unique characteristic of swimming in the saline waters, and are world famous for their man-eating tendencies. Apart from the tigers, the Sundarbans National Park is home to a variety of wildlife like the jungle cats, fishing cats, axis deer, wild boar, rhesus monkeys, mongooses and the largest estuarine crocodiles in the world.
The delta is the breeding ground of immense variety of birds like Heron, Egret, Cormorant, Fishing Engle, White Bellied Sea Eagle, Seagul, Tern, Kingfisher as well as migratory birds like Whimprel, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Stint, Eastern Knot, Curlew, Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Pintail, White-eyed Pochard and also Whistling teal.
Apart from wildlife Sundarbans houses an excellent number of aquatic and reptile habitats. Some of them include the Olive Ridley sea turtle, hard-shelled Batgur Terrapin, Pythons, King Cobra, Chequered Killback, Monitor and Lizards including the Salvator lizards. This National Park is an ideal habitat for the native as well as migratory birds such as Open Billed Storks, White Ibis, Water Hens, Coots, Pheasant Tailed Jacanas, Pariah Kites, Brahminy Kites, Marsh Harriers, Swamp Partridges, Red Jungle Fowls, Spotted Doves, Common Mynahs, Jungle Crows, Jungle Babblers, Cotton Teals, Herring Gulls, Caspian Terns, Gray Herons, Brahminy Ducks, Spotted Billed Pelicans, Large Egrets, Night Herons, Common Snipes, Wood Sandpipers, Green Pigeons, Rose Ringed Parakeets, Paradise Flycatchers, Fishing Eagles, White Bellied Sea Eagles, Seaguls, Common Kingfishers, Peregrine falcons, Woodpeckers, Whimprels, Black-Tailed Godwits, Little Stints, Eastern Knots, Curlews, Golden Plovers, Pintails, White Eyed Pochards and Whistling Teals.
Cruise at Sundarbans
Sundarbans is best viewed through the cruise that could be hired from the nearby locals or luxury launches from M.V. Chitrarekha and M.V. Madhukar, operated by the tourism department. The M.V. Chitrarekha offers all the basic facilities required by the tourists, including overnight accommodation.
The local boats are available at Canning, Gosaba and Basanti whereas the luxury launches starts their journey only from Canning. The local attractions at Sundarbans include the Sajnakhali Sanctuary, Netidhopani - a 400 year old temple, Bhagatpur - home of estuarine crocodiles, Kanak - nesting place of the Olive Ridley Turtles, and Haliday Island - house of barking deer. Do not miss out the ideal picnic spot, Kaikhali located on the way to Sundarbans.
Piyali is the gateway to Sundarbans, 72-kms from Kolkatta by road and close to Sajnekhali, Sudhanyakhali, Netidhopani through waterways. A small river Piyali flows through the green paddy fields and mingles with river Matla. Picturesque Piyali delta makes an ideal romantic holiday destination. A beautiful tourist complex with accommodation and recreation facilities is situated here.
By waterways: Sundarbans are approachable only by waterways. Motor launch facilities are available from Namkhana - Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project- Sagar Island - Jambudwip; from Sajnekhali - Sudhanyakhali - Buridabri - Netidhopan-Holiday Island; from Sonakhali - Gosaba; from Raidighi - Kalas.
Best time to visit: The ideal time to visit the Sundarbans delta is between the months of September and May. You can see large numbers of migratory birds and the sun-bathing Royal Bengal Tigers on the river banks.