"WEST BENGAL- THE SUNDERBANS" State of West Bengal by lynnehamman

State of West Bengal Travel Guide: 962 reviews and 3,498 photos

'Sundarban' literally means 'beautiful jungle' or 'beautiful forest' in the Bengali language. The name Sundarbans may also have been derived from the Sundari trees that are found in Sundarbans in large numbers.

Having seen, heard and read much about the Sunderbans, I am so glad to have actually been there. We have watched many documentries on television about this fairly remote area of West Bengal, and it lived up to expectations in all areas except one- we saw hardly any wildlife, let alone a Tiger.
This area is the worlds largest river delta. The reserve covers an area of 2585 sq km.It is home to the largest population of the Royal Bengal Tiger (last count 264) When we were there, we were told that the last sighting had been in November ( 9 weeks before) The Mangrove Eco-System is the largest in the world.. The only way to actually get to see the Sunderbans is by boat. This makes quite an interesting change to the usual mode of travel in India.
Despite the fact that we saw no tigers, we did see birds and spotted deer. The scenery,however, is breathaking.

The Sunderbans feel mysterious. And they are. Every year villagers who live and work in the region just disappear. The Royal Bengal Tigers have an appetite for humans- and their attacks are not unexpected. Tigers are an part of life here- and villagers (Muslim & Hindu alike) pray to the forest god Bonobibi and to the Tiger-god, Dakshin Roy, for protection against attacks.
Tigers are excellent swimmers, and because fishing is the main source of income, and puts food on plates - fishermen are in danger of being dragged off their boats. Fishing boats have husband and wife teams working them, and seemed to be keeping near the shallows.
Near the villages some areas have been fenced off, no doubt to give them a bit of protection. The number of deaths has officially declined.
Honey-collecting is big business in the Sunderbans. It is the most dangerous job. The Honey-Collectors have devised what they believe to be a good way of tricking the tigers. Tigers are less likely to attack if they suspect that they are being watched. The Honey-Collectors therefore wear a painted human face mask on the back of their heads. Forestry workers also use this tactic. So whether it is belief in their Gods or tricks with masks- these resourceful people go about their daily tasks.
I wonder if the swimming prowess of the tiger is the reason for the decline in numbers of the blind endangered Irriwaddy river dolphins, which used to populate the waters here.
These dolphins were nowhere to be seen. The water certainly seemed quite pristine.

We went out on the water very early before sunrise, and cruised for hours. So we saw sunrises. We also went on late afternoon cruises, and saw the sun setting. The vastness of the water, the density of the mangroves and the serenity- is difficult to actually explain.But the beauty was of a kind that I had never experienced before. There was no sound except the soft put-putting of our boat's engine and the call of birds. The mangroves consist of different species of trees, and they are thriving in the salty waters of the Sunderbans. We cruised through some very wide channels, and also into narrow ones, where the mangroves were only a few feet away on each side of the boat. We saw millions of tiny new mangrove seeds that were sprouting, ready to take their place amongst the old and dying trees. Even the shapes of these old trees was mysterious and unusual.
We really enjoyed the time here- it is so peaceful. Everything is probably much the same as it always has been. I hope that it never changes.
I will explain the acommodation in my tip section.

Because getting to the Sunderbans independently is problamatic, and a special permit is required, I rcommend that a tour is taken. The organizers took care of everything. We never do tours as a rule, so I was a bit confused as to how to set about the tip section.I hope that they make some sense.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:The scenery is beautiful. It is a very green part of the country
  • Cons:Not easy to get to Sunderbans
  • In a nutshell:Lovely unspoiled state that should be seen by all nature-lovers
  • Last visit to State of West Bengal: Jan 2009
  • Intro Updated Jun 11, 2009
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Reviews (12)

Comments (30)

  • Oct 13, 2013 at 5:17 AM

    I am very much thankful that you write on VT. This page especially lead me to a place I would have otherwise never even thought of visiting. Wish you many more travels!

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Jan 17, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Goutam thanks for visiting my Sunderbans page- its a magical place, and I enjoyed being there. I leave for India in 2 weeks! Very excited...

  • goutammitra's Profile Photo
    Jan 17, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    Yesterday I went to Sunderban Tiger Camp for a days visit. I was remembering you and Richard there. Reading your tips gives much pleasure than The Lonely Planet!

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Oct 25, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    The kingfisher and the lovely sunset of the river with the mist is beautiful. Too stay in a tiger camp, you have to be brave and you are brave. Excellent page young lady!

  • bungi333's Profile Photo
    Sep 18, 2010 at 11:22 PM

    Hi Lynne. Would you be able to tell me how much it cost and how long it took to get to Sundarbans? How long is good enough to stay there?

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Mar 4, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    The Sunderbans look a very mysterious place and a very exciting one ! Superb photos !

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    Feb 27, 2010 at 5:23 AM

    Back for the interesting update. Fascinating to see such an unspoiled area: your tips and photos have really done it justice. I hope you see one of those elusive tigers on a later visit.

  • ranger49's Profile Photo
    Feb 4, 2010 at 7:19 AM

    Back for a second look. Good update, and how well the video complements your text.

  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo
    Feb 4, 2010 at 3:56 AM

    Tigers are absolutely my favourite animal - man-eating tendencies or not! This would definitely be on my India itinerary if ever I head that way. leyle

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jan 16, 2010 at 3:17 AM

    Would love to see the tigers in the wild :-)) Oh and this boat looks similar like a Venezia traghetto :-) So you will have fun in Venezia and take these one day :-)

lynnehamman

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.- Rudyard Kipling”

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