Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest
The word ‘Sundarbans’ means the beautiful forest. Though the name of Sundarbans comes from the name of the ‘Sundari tree’ (the tree of beauty), actually Sundarbans is so beautiful that it has been called the natural wonder of the world. Sundarbans Tiger is famous around the world as ‘Royal Bengal Tiger’. Besides tigers, Sundarbans is known as home to a wide variety of wildlife species including birds, Chitra deer, saltwater crocodile, keto turtles, freshwater crocodiles, snakes, etc. The mangrove forest Sundarbans is located in the basins of three rivers—the Ganges, the Meghna and the Brahmaputra of Bangladesh and covers three districts of Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat of the country, and occupies a part of West Bengal of India. The Indian part of the forest is called the Sundarbans national park. There is no disagreement that Sundarbans is the biggest unbroken mangrove forest in the world. Of 10,000 square kilometers area of the Sundarbans, 6,017 sq km is in Bangladesh and therefore the rest is in India.
The world’s largest mangrove forest Sundarbans was listed into UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Sundarbans are confined by a net of marine streams, mud chars and small islands of mangrove forests. About one-third of the total volume of the Sundarbans is covered by rivers, creeks and beels (marshes).
The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name of Sundarbans is the Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris). Apart from South Asia, this species of tiger is found nowhere else in the world. So all the tourists traveling in the Sundarbans want to see the tiger. This Royal Bengal Tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh.
According to Banglapedia, there are a total of 362 tigers in Bangladesh. According to a 2004 survey by the Forest Department, the number of tigers in the Sundarbans is 440. The following year, a camera trapping survey found that the number of tigers in the Sundarbans had dropped to 106. However, in the 2018 census, it increased to 114. (Source: bdnews24.com).
In addition to the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Sundarbans is home to about 50 species of mammals, 320 species of native and migratory birds, about 50 species of reptiles, 8 species of amphibians and about 400 species of fish. Notable animals include Chitra (spotted) deer, Maya deer, rhesus monkeys, wild cats, leopards, hedgehogs, otters, moor fowls, crocodiles, dolphins, pythons, tortoises and boars. Deer and boar are the main victims of tigers.
Most of the Sundarbans plants are of mangrove type. There are trees, shrubs, grasses, epiphytes and climbing plants. The most famous trees of this forest are Sundari and Gewa. In 1903 D. Prawn wrote a book on the plants of the Sundarbans. In his book, he listed 334 plant species under 245 genera; Of these, 17 were pteridophytes, 87 monocotyledons and the remaining 230 dicotyledons. The Sundarbans alone contains 35 species out of about 50 genuine mangrove plant species known to date. Most mangrove plants are evergreen, short, shrubby or tall arboreal. Many of them usually grow in groups without leaving the bottom of the forest empty. Notable plants in the Sundarbans include Gewa, Garan, Keora, Ora, Pashur, Dhundul, Bain, Hendal, Golpata etc. Shrubs like Golpata, Jhana, Tiger Fer n etc. grow densely on the banks of almost all the canals. The tigers use these bushes to hide themselves.
Top things to do in Sundarbans
Tourists have ample opportunity to see the natural beauty throughout the Sundarbans, the largest habitat of wildlife in Bangladesh. However, the most popular destinations in Sundarban among travelers are: Kotka Beach or Jamtala Beach which is also known as Tiger Point, Dublar Chor Island and Fishing Village, Hiron Point or Nilkamol Wildlife Sanctuary, Mandarbaria Sea Beach, Kachikhali Sanctuary, Karamjal Wildlife Sanctuary and Crocodile Breed Center, Manikkhali, Andarmanik and Dobeki areas.
1. Jamtala or Kotka Beach
One of the main attractions of Sundarbans is its Jamtala Beach or Kotka Beach. Kotka beach is located in the south-east corner of Sundarbans, about 90 km from Mongla port. It is the main sanctuary in the eastern part of Sundarbans. There is an observation tower here. From this tower you can see thousands of deer roaming through the vast hemp bushes, you will be thrilled by the roar of Sundarban’s tigers. And if you are lucky, you may see the Royal Bengal Tiger itself. There is a walking path from Jamtala Observation Tower in Kotka to Kachikhali Station of Forest Department via Kachikhali Beach. Tigers, deer, pigs and venomous snakes are often seen in this dense forests along the way. So, you’ve to be careful. And for this reason, there is no alternative to this creepy place for adventurous tourists. It’s really captivating!
Sundarban’s Jamtala or Kotka beach is a piece of wild beauty. About three kilometers of dense Sundari, Gewa, Garan, and Keora forests you’ve to cross to reach the beach. On the way to Jamtala beach, you will’ve to pass over not only mangrove forest but also some fern bushes. Remember, Kotka beach is impeccably beautiful but notorious for quicksand. Seemingly meek waves on the beach cause regular deaths. There were also incidents of 11 people drowning together at Jamtala beach. When you go to Jamtala or Kotka beach in Sundarbans, you’ll see many amazing natural beauties. The beach has two sections. One is bushier, the other is a little more open. Chars slited up with turbid muds. Dead roots of trees washed in salt water here and there. With all these, you’ll explore a wonderful beauty on this beach. Let me remind you again, it is safe not to land on this beach because of the ever-changing wave pattern and quicksand. Jamtala or Kotka is in fact a wild and extremely risky beach in Sundarban. Yet, considering the beauty, Jamtala beach is incomparable in one word. So, it would be wise to enjoy the beauty of Sundarban’s Jamtala Beach standing away at a safe place.
2. Dublar Chor
Dublar Chor is a sandy island in the southern part of the Sundarbans (Bangladesh), southwest of Kotka and southeast of Hiron Point. This Chor is well known for the holy bath of Hindus, Rasa Mela and deer roaming. It is an isolated chor between the Kunga and Poshur rivers.
Dublar Chor is basically a fishing village. Livelihood of the residents here is fishing and making fish dry. After catching hilsa in the monsoon season, many fishermen camped for four months in remote Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Khulna and Satkhira. Fishing villages were established in Meher Alir Khal, Alorkol, Majherchor, Officekella, Narikelbaria, Manikkhali, Safrakhali and Shalarchor areas. During these four months, they remain busy making these fishes dry. The dried fish, collected from here, stocked and sold in the wholesale market of Asadganj in Chittagong. Fishermen enter Dublar Chor with prior permission to collect fish from Bagerhat, the headquarters of the Eastern Division of Sundarbans.
Hindu Rasa Mela and the holy bath are held every year in the month of Kartik (November) at Dublar Char. It is said that in 1923, a devotee of Harichand Tagore, who lived in forests, started this fair. Numerous domestic and foreign tourists and philanthropists come here to take a sea-bath on the occasion of Rasa Mela. The view of sunrise and sunset on Dublar Chor is very impressive. Red-breasted kingfisher and Madantak birds can be seen here. Among the animals, deer are the most common.
3. Hiron Point
Hiron Point is a protected sanctuary in the southern part of Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest in Bangladesh. Another name for Hiron Point is Nilkamal. Its location is on the west bank of Kunga River, in Khulna Range. Hiron Point is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Being a sanctuary, Hiron Point has easily become a safe haven for wildlife: reptiles, birds, monkeys, deer and tigers. As a result, the Royal Bengal Tiger, one of the attractions of Sundarbans, spotted deer, mud-stinging birds and meditative falcons roam freely. Deer, monkeys, guinea fowl, crocodiles and other animals can be seen when you’re walking on the beautiful wooden road at Hiron Point. There is also a watch tower at Keorasuthi, just 3 km from Hiron Point. The natural beauty of Sundarbans, including Hiron Point, can be enjoyed from this Watch Tower.
4. Mandarbaria Sea Beach
Mandarbaria sea beach is a beautiful beach in the Bay of Bengal, located in Satkhira district, which is one of the most scenic places of Sundarbans in Bangladesh. The beautiful nature of the Sundarban on one side of the Hariabhanga river, and Mandarbaria beach on the other side, intoxicates the minds of tourists. Surprisingly, though Sundarban is the best tourist destination in Bangladesh, The Mandarbaria beach is a place unknown to most people in the country. The distance of Mandarbaria beach from Nildumur naval wharf of Burigoalini in Satkhira district is about 75 km. You’ve to come by car from Satkhira to Nildumur, and the rest of the way by engine driven boat or speed boat. One of the small rivers that flows through the Sundarban is 75 km way of your journey. So the Mandarbaria beach, which is about 8 km long, is only suitable for special travelers who are willing to take the trouble of crossing this path to hear the incessant roar of the surging waters of the Bay of Bengal.
To cross the estuary of Kholpetua-Kapotakkho river from Nildumur ghat to Mandarbaria, you better choose Kalagachhia-Arpangashia-Malancha river route. The evergreen Sundarban on both sides of the river will captivate you along the way. You’ll see deer herds, various species of animals, flying scenes of Pankauri and Balihas. Besides, the footprints of deer or tiger on this secluded Mandarbaria beach will undoubtedly increase the excitement of your trip. During the winter season i.e. from October to February, engine driven boats, speedboats and steamers ply from the Nildumur dockyard in Burigoalini to Mandarbaria beach. So winter is the best time to visit Mandarbaria beach.
How to get to Sundarbans
From Dhaka to Khulna:
There are buses, trains and launches directly from Dhaka to Khulna. Sohag, Hanif and Eagle Paribahan buses ply regularly from Dhaka city to Khulna from 6 am to 11 pm. It takes about 8 hours to reach Khulna by road from Dhaka. At Sadarghat Launch Terminal in Dhaka you will find many launches of different companies going to Khulna.
Khulna to Sundarban: To reach Sundarbans from Khulna, you have to go to Mongla, 50 km away from Khulna city. There are private cars and buses from Khulna to Mongla. You can rent a trawler or launch from Mongla Ghat to Karamjal in the Sundarbans in two hours. Departing from Khulna to Sundarbans via Mongla in the morning, you can return to Khulna in the evening after completing a short journey.
But it is better to take three days out for a satisfying Sundarbans trip.
Sundarbans Tour Packages & Companies
The most convenient way to tour Sundarbans is to go around with a tour package from a good tour company. Let’s know the names and phone numbers of some of the tour companies, so that we can choose a good tour package for Sundarbans travel.
Dingi & Bhela Vessel
Bengal Tours Ltd, Phone: 01552-555550;
The Guide Tours Ltd, Phone: 01711-540431;
Badaban & OT Ali Vessel, Khulna
Rupantor Eco Tourism Ltd, Phone: 01711-829414;
3 Vessels Operater of Satkhira
Barsha Tourism, Phone: 01715-251963;
Sundarban Wanderers & Adventures Limited, Phone: 01711-439557;
Royal Tour by Royal Gondola Vessel, Phone: 01711-295738.
The general cost for Sundarbans travel package depends on the quality of food and ship. A medium type tour usually costs 5,000 taka to 8,000 taka per person. However, it can be difficult to get a vessel if you don’t confirm your booking in advance a month.
Things to keep with you while traveling Sundarbans
It is better to have pure drinking water with you when traveling anywhere, but it is important to take enough drinking water when traveling to the Sundarbans. Also, be sure to pack your first aid kit in your bag before heading out. With the help of an experienced tour operator, your trip will be smooth. Moreover, have an armed forest guard with you when traveling after obtaining permission from the forest officer. Also carry in your bag the necessary clothing, a pair of sneakers, winter clothes for winter, a light blanket, mobile phone with a charger and camera. Also take a power bank so that your phone doesn’t run out of charge and you face no disturbance of taking beautiful pictures of the wonderful forest and amazing wildlife when you’re walking through a dense forest path or boating in a river around Sundarbans.
Sundarbans travel fees
According to the Sundarbans travel policy, domestic tourists except visiting the wildlife sanctuaries will have to pay a fee of 70 taka, 15 taka for minors (under 12 years) and 1,000 taka for foreigners per person. On the other hand, for visiting the wildlife sanctuary areas, domestic tourists have to pay 150 taka, foreign tourists 1500 taka, students 30 taka and minors 10 taka. And for traveling only in Karamjal area, domestic tourists have to pay 20 taka, foreigners 300 taka, minors 10 taka, domestic researchers 40 taka and foreign researchers 500 taka per person. Registered vessels have to pay entry fee at different rates to enter the Sundarbans. 1,000 taka for launches larger than 100 feet, 800 taka above 50 feet but below 100 feet, 500 taka for boats smaller than 50 feet, 300 taka for each trawler, 100 taka for domestic boats, 2,000 taka for speedboats. Speedboat (with mother vessel) 500 taka, Jaliboat (tourist boat) 200 taka. Along with these fees, tourists will also have to pay VAT at a fixed rate. The staying fee for a launch for one day is 300 taka. Each boat is provided with two guards by the forest department.
Sundarban National Park
Although the Sundarbans is an uninterrupted forest, the Indian part of it is known as the Sundarban National Park. It is located in the South Chobbish Pargana district of the Indian state of West Bengal. The Sundarban National Park is a wildlife sanctuary, mainly for tigers. This delta area is covered by dense mangrove forests and is one of the largest habitats of the Bengal Tigers. There are different species of birds, reptiles, along with saltwater crocodiles. The Sundarban National Park covers an area of 3,850 sq km, of which about one-third is submerged. Sundarban National Park was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1966. It is estimated that there are currently 400 Royal Bengal Tigers and about 30,000 deer.
Things to see in Sundaban National Park
The Sundarbans National Park is famous for its forest and wildlife conservation. Lots of watch towers have been installed for tourists. Here you can see Bhagwatpur Crocodile Project besides Royal Bengal Tiger and Deer. In addition, three more sanctuaries have been set up near the Sundarban National Park. These are the Sajanekhali Sanctuary, Lothian Island and Haliday Island Sanctuary known for the barking deer.
How to go to Sundaban National Park
The Indian Sundarban National Park is located on the southeastern border of West Bengal. The park is connected to Kolkata by both road and railway. Godkhali Port near Sundarban National Park is 82 kilometers away from Kolkata. There is also a railway station called ‘Canning’ near the Tiger Project in the Sundarban National Park, only 45 km from Kolkata and 29 km from Godkhali port. There is a public transport system between Canning and Godkhali port.