Sunderban National Park
|Place||24 Paraganas District|
|Best time to visit||September to March|
|Nearest town||Gosaba (50 km)|
|Main Attractions||Royal Bengal Tiger, Crocodiles, Olive ridley turtles, Migratory Birds|
Established in 1978 in twenty four Paraganas district, Sunderbans Tiger reserve is spread over an area of 2608 sq. kms. Sixty percent of the demarcated area of the Sunderbans sprawling actually over 9630sq.km, is in Bangladesh. The national park with a core area of 1330sq.km, has been designated as a World Heritage Site in 1985 and is a part of the Project Tiger. The Sunderbans has three wildlife sanctuaries at Sajnekhali, Lothian Island and Haliday Island.
The park has estuarine mangrove eco-system as it is situated in the deltaic estuaries of the Ganga and Brahmaputra. The entire inter tidal zone has been designated as Biosphere Reserve under the Man and Biosphere program. This littoral forest supports a diversity of trees and shrubs adopted to conditions and inundation by high tides. Straddling the rivers Hooghly in the west and Teulia in the east the park has many small rivers, forested islands besides the vast stretch of mangrove swamps.
Sunderbans is home to the magnificent Royal Bengal Tiger. The park harbours the largest number of tigers among the tiger reserves of the country and is the only Mangrove tiger land in the world. The man eating tigers here are good swimmers and eat fish and crab. The other fauna are fishing cat, water monitor, wild boar, different species of deer, rhesus monkeys, large numbers of crocodiles and Gangetic dolphin(in the Raimgangal river) and a variety of other fish, olive Ridley sea turtles etc. Project tiger has also launched a programme to protect the Olive ridley sea turtles. Another interesting place to visit in the Sunderbans is the Sajnekhali Bird Sanctuary which has a variety of birds such as Brown winged kingfisher, Grey headed lapwing, Golden backed woodpecker, White swans, Swamp patridge, Pallas fish eagle etc. There is a crocodile pool and a mangrove Interpretation centre which houses specimens of snake, fish and other fauna with sound and light shows at Sajnekhali. Other places in the Sunderbans are Bhagatpur Crocodile Project which is a crocodile breeding farm ( access from Namkhana), Sagar Island, Jambudweep, Sudhanyakali watchtower, Buriidabri Tiger Project, Netidhopani Watchtower, Haliday Island.
The best time to visit Sunderbans is between September and March especially during winters to catch a glimpse of the Migratory birds. Foreign tourists require permit, which can be obtained from Writer`s Building, which houses the West Bengal Secretariat in Kolkata .The address is The Joint Secretary (Forest), Govt. of West Bengal, 4th Floor, G-Block, Writers’ Building, Calcutta- 700 001.There is a nominal entry fee to the park payable at Sajnekhali.
Where to stay
Forest lodge and forest rest-houses are available for accommodation at Sajnekhali (Sunder Cheetal forest Lodge 60 beds), Bakkhali and Piyali apart from that there are private accommodations at Sunderban Tiger Camp at Dayapur.
How to get there
Sundarbans is accessible only by riverine waterways.
Air : Nearest airport is Dum Dum airport at Kolkata (166 kms). Indian Airlines connect Kolkata with all the major cities in India.
Rail: Nearest railhead is Canning (48km). From Kolkata there are suburban trains to Canning (64 km).
Road: There are bus service from Kolkata to various embarkation points Namkhana, Raidighi, Sonakhali and Najatare from where private as well as WBTDC’s Motor launch services are available for Sundarbans. The embarkation points are at a distance of Namkhana (105 km), Sonakhali (100 km), Raidighi (76 km), Canning (64 km), Najatare (92 km) from Kolkata.
The riverine routes and approximate time taken from various embarkation points:
From Namkhana – Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project (2.5 hours) Sagar Island (2.5 hours) Jambudweep (3.5 hours)
From Sajnekhali – Sudhanyakhali (40 minutes) Buridabri (Tiger Project Area) (5 hours) Netidhopari (3.5 hours) Haliday Island (3 hours)
From Sonakhali – Gosaba (1 hour)
From Raidighi – Kalas (5 hours)