The Sundarbans is indeed a beautiful place where muddy, silty mangrove lands meet the Bay of Bengal. Nestled in the region’s dense mangrove forests are some remarkable yet lesser-known places that will blow your mind. By Moyena Parikh
The Sundarbans gets its name from a type of mangrove trees called Sundari, which is found at large here. The mangrove forests make it conducive for many flora and fauna species to thrive. This is why the Sundarbans is a biosphere reserve, a national park as well as a tiger reserve wherein the Royal Bengal tiger, spotted deer, saltwater crocodile, brahminy kite and whistling teals, among others rare species, take shelter.
This go-to-destination covers an area of 40,000 square kilometres and stretches from Hooghly River in West Bengal, India, to Baleswar River in Bangladesh.
The offbeat places in this area offer some of the most scenic views of lush greenery and meandering rivers. Additionally, while watching the setting sun from the Sajnekhali Watch Tower and stargazing by the banks of Dutta River can be a relaxing experience for those seeking tranquillity, spotting a Royal Bengal tiger at the Sundarbans National Park can be thrilling for adventure lovers.
The next time you visit the Sundarbans, plan a trip to this forest area dotted with many hidden tourist places. Filled with Golpatar and Sundari trees, the forest is considered to be a ‘gateway to the Sundarbans’ only locals know about. As you walk through the jungle, the cool atmosphere coupled with the sounds of birds can take away all the stress caused by a fast-paced city life.
While tourists flock to the Ichamati River, which acts as an international boundary between India and Bangladesh, a ride on wooden boats can give you a glimpse of the banks of the neighbouring country. Additionally, a boat ride along the river will take visitors to the ruins of zamindar houses, General Shankar Roy Chowdhury’s Adi Bari, the lovely Machranga Island, as well as temples like Ramkrishna Mission, Kuleshwari Kali Temple and the 300-years-old Jora Shib Mandir.
One of the famous sweets found here is chanar malpua, which visitors must try. Other delicacies include various kinds of fish, chicken and mutton, especially those made in the Taki region.
To reach the Golpatar jungle by air or road, you will have to arrive at Taki from Kolkata. If you prefer travelling by train, then you can board the locals from Sealdah to Taki Road station.
Inscribed in 1987, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a part of the world’s largest delta created by the majestic rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Filled with numerous narrow creeks and tributaries, waterways and islands, it makes for a lesser-explored paradise.
The national park offers an exciting adventure for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. You can spot the famous Sundarbans Royal Bengal tiger, wild boars, exotic birds, crocodiles and marine turtles, among other animals, as well as visit wildlife museums and watchtowers in the national park. The unique mangrove ecosystems found here will enthral those wanting to immerse themselves in the region’s natural beauty.
Kolkata has the nearest airport and railhead. They are well-connected by roads, which will take you to Godkhali Port. A motorboat ride from here to Sajnekhali Island will land you at the national park.
Sajnekhali Watch Tower is an important spot located in Canning, inside Sundarbans National Park. It not only serves as one of the entry points to the Sundarbans but also is close to many resorts in the area.
The watch tower can accommodate 20 people who can enjoy the scenic beauty of the lush, wild mangroves, the soothing Bidyadhari river, as well as spot tigers and crocodiles. A bird watchers’ paradise, some of the birds found here include seven colourful species of kingfishers, sandpipers, the occasional pelicans, white-bellied sea eagle and plovers.
Nearby places to explore include the Bono Bibi Temple, Mangrove Interpretation Centre and the tourist lodge of the Bengal Tourism Department.
You can reach the Sajnekhali watch tower easily by bus and train services to Canning. From there, you can then book a motorboat to reach the watch tower.
Known as Nilkamal, Hiran Point is a protected sanctuary. A wonderful place to spot wildlife in its natural habitat, it is also famous among bird lovers for its variety of bird species.
Located in the Sundarbans Mangroves Forest, some of the animals you can catch a glimpse of include deer, tigers and wild boar. Among birds, you can spot the yellow chestnut Halcyon, blackhead fishery Halcyon, large egret and medal buck, to name a few. Additionally, visitors can also witness varied types of butterflies here.
As soon as you arrive at Kolkata via air, train or road, you will have to drive down to Khulna Mongla to reach Hiran Point.
The calming environs of the Dutta River can soothe the mind and soul of any weary traveller. Visitors can sit on the banks of the river or the deck of a boat and immerse themselves in the views of a clear starry night.
Found in the Sundarbans delta, other major places to visit along the river include Pakhiralaya, Sajnekhali and Jamespur Islands found amid lush mangroves. You can also head towards Panchmukhani, where five rivers — Padma, Meghna, Bhairab, Madhumati and Hugli — converge and flow into the Bay of Bengal.
The nearest airport and railway station is in Kolkata. Visitors can also choose to travel by state-run buses or car and reach Godkhali Port to get to the Dutta River.
Bonnie Camp is a stunning place known for housing the highest watchtower in the Sundarbans, which stands at approximately 15.24 metres, along with an eco-museum, a beautiful park, an artificial bridge and a Bono Bibi Temple.
Formerly known as Sundarikati Eco Conservation Camp, it was renamed Bonnie Camp by the renowned novelist Buddhadeb Guha. Apart from the enchanting landscape, you can also spot deer and enjoy the view of the sweet-water swamp and the Bay of Bengal. In the dead of the night, you can even hear the roaring tigers and barking deer.
Bonnie camp can be reached via the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata, as well as trains. You can then take a cab to Sajnekhali, followed by a six-cylinder boat to reach the camp.
(Hero and Features Image Credit: Indrajit Das/ CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons)
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