In the south western part of Bangladesh, in the district of greater Khulna, lies the Sundarbans, “the beautiful forest.” It is a virgin forest which until recently owed nothing to human endeavour and yet nature has laid it out with as much care as a planned pleasure ground. For miles and miles, the lofty treetops form an unbroken canopy, while nearer the ground, works of high and ebb-tide marked on the soil and tree trunks and the many varieties of the natural mangrove forest have much to offer to an inquisitive visitor.
Here land and water meet in many novel fashions. Wild life presents many a spectacle. No wonder, you may come across a Royal Bengal Tiger swimming across the streams or the crocodiles basking on the river banks. With the approach of the evening herds of deer make for the darking gladeswhere boisterous monkeys shower Keora leaves from above for sumptuous meal for the former. For the botanist, the lover of nature, the poet and the painter this land provides a variety of wonders for which they all crave.
The Sundarbans is a cluster of islands with an approximate area of 3600 sq. km. forming the largest block of littoral forests. It’s beauty lies in its unique natural surrounding. Thousands of meandering streams, creeks, rivers and estuaries have enhanced its charm. Sundarbans meaning beautiful forest is the natural habitat of the world famous Royal Bengal Tiger, spotted deer, crocodiles, jungle fowl, wild boar, lizards, rhesus monkey and an innumerable variety of beautiful birds. Migratory flock of siberian ducks flying over thousands of sail boats loaded with timber, golpatta (round-leaf), fuel wood, honey, shell and fish further add to the serene natural beauty of the Sundarbans.
This is indeed a land for the sportsmen. the anglers and the photographer with its abundance of game. big and small, crocodile. wild b ar. deer, pythons. wild birds and above all the Royal Bengal iger, cunning, ruthless and yet majestic and graceful. For the less adventurou5ly inclined, there are ducks and snipes. heron and coots. yellow-lags and sandpipers. It is also the land for t e ordinary holiday makers who desire to rest or wander aroun at will to refresh their mind and feast their eyes with the rich t easure that nature has so fondly bestowed.
The Sundarbans is an abundant natural resource for a number of leisure, travel and research activities. These include wild life photography including photography of the famous Royal Bengal Tiger, wild life viewing, boating inside the forest, wild call recordings, nature study, meeting fishermen, wood- cutters and honey-collectors. Peace and tranquility in the wilderness, seeing the world’s largest mangrove forest and the riverine beauty are a few of the treasures that greet the visitors.
Below is a list of famous places to be kept in mind for the wildlife spotter :
- Hiron Point (Nilkamal) for tiger, deer, monkey, crocodiles, birds and natural beauty.
- Katka for deer, tiger, crocodiles, varieties of birds and monkey, morning and evening symphony of wild fowls. Vast expanse of grassy meadows running from Katka to Kachikhali (Tiger Point) provide opporunities for wild tracking.
- Tin Kona Island for tiger and deer.
- Dublar Char (Island) for fishermen. It is a beautiful island where herds of spotted deer are often seen to graze.
Only means of transportation inside the forest is by boat. There is no road or no trail of a path anywhere! The wood-cutters make temporary dwellings at the edge of the forest at a height of 8-10 feet for fear of wild animals, others live on boats. In the Chandpai region it is fascinating to see the nomadic fishermen (living with families on boats) catching fish with the help of trained otter. Exciting activities take place in Dublar Char in the forest when fishermen from Chittagong gather for four months (mid Oct. to mid Feb. ) to catch and dry fish. But the most daring and exciting fall activities is presented by the honey-collectors who work in groups for just two months (April-May) and it is interesting to see how they locate a hive and then collect honey.
Flora and Fauna
The Sundarbans is endowed by nature with rich flora and fauna. It is a wonderful place to see or to shoot a Royal Bengal Tiger with Camera if one has the time to wait in the forest. There are a good number of tigers in the Sundarbans. Lovely spotted deer are easy to find. Besides there is a wide variety of wild life for which the Sundarbans is so famous. Pictured above is .
The Sundarbans cover an area of nearly 240 sq. miles or 3600 sq. km. and is bounded in the north by Bagerhat, Khulna and Satkhira districts, in the south by the Bay of Bengal, in the east by Baleswar (or Haringhata) river, Perojpur, Barisal district, and in the west by Raimangal and Hariabhanga rivers which partially form Bangladesh boundary with West Bengal in India.
The climate in the Sundarbans is moderate. Air is humid. Full monsoon is rom June to September. The annual rainfall average between 65 and 70 inches. During ebb-tide the forest becomes bare by 6-7 feet and at high tide (30 miles an hour) the entire territory of the forest floats on water.
Best time to visit the Sundarbans is from November to March. Exciting honey collection season is during April-May Hunting is prohibited by law in the country for the preservation of wild life. Certain species of birds, however, can be shot with prior permission of the Divisional Forest Officer, Khulna (Phone 20665 & 21173).
Water transport is the only means of communication for visiting the Sundarbans from Khulna or Mongla Port. Private motor launch, speed boats, country boats as well as mechanised vessel of Mongla Port Authority might be hired for the purpose. From Dhaka visitors may travel by air, road or rocket steamer to Khulna the gateway to the Sundarbans. Most pleasant journey from Dhaka to Khulna is by paddle steamer Rocket presenting a picturesque panorama of rural Bangladesh. Day and night-long coach services by road are also available, The quickest mode is by air from Dhaka to Jessore and then drive to Khulna by road.
The journey time varies depending on whether the tides are against or in favour in the river. Usually 6 to 10 hours journey by motor vessel from Mongla to Hiron Point or Katka.
Below is a list of accomodations inside the forest :
- Hiron Point: Comfortable three-storied Rest House of the Mongla Port Authority. Prior booking is to be made. (Dhaka Office tel. 404 071)
- Katka : Forest Department Rest House located here. Prior booking essential.
Drinking water is to be carried as the water available is saline. Cholera vaccine is to be taken well in advance. Anti-malarial anti-diarrhoeal, insectrepellent cream, drinking water, green co onuts, medical kit, light tropical dress, thick rubber soled boots tc. are to be carried with the tourist. It will be wise to take the help of an experienced guide to make the journey fruiful.
Permission from the Divisional Forest Officer, Khulna is required to visit to the forest. Prior permission must be obtained through written application from the Divisional Forest Office, Circuit House Rd., Khulna (tel 20665 or 21173). Required entrance fees for visitors, vessel or boat are payable at the relevant forest station/range office.