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Sundarban – Into The Wilderness

The idea of exploring Sundarban, the other part of the nature was silently implanted in my mind long ago from updates in various travel forums that I follow. Finally the idea was nurtured by my friend-cum-philosopher-cum-(mis)guide Avik on a casual gathering at Dilip Da’s place. Avik is soon about to move out with his new assignment, and thus he placed this idea of having a tour together before he moves out. Avik being the only forest lover in ourgroup, has always been neglected out while choosing destination, but not this time. Even we all were excited about exploring this other part of the nature. Sundarban is known for being world’s largest block of mangrove forest which is shared by India and Bangladesh, most of it, around 60%, being in Bangladesh. The region is densely covered by mangrove forest and the largest reserve for Bengal Tiger. Sundarban has also been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The term Sundarban in Bengali means Beautiful (Sundar) Forest (Ban) or can be debated that the term might have got coined from Sundari (a species of mangrove) trees. Whatever it be, right now, our focus was to plan a trip to Sundarban as fast as possible. The only way to explore Sundarban is by waterways, as the same being formed by Ganges Delta. I called up few boat men of whom I had contacts from my friends who have been there previously, but the charges seems to be on the higher side. Generally a 2N/3D Trip To Sundarban can easily be done within Rs. 4000/- per head with a group of 7 pax.

Within next few days, we spoke to various agents and friends who have been to Sundarban. The idea was to fix the plan as soon as possible, as Sundarban is generally best visited in Winter. And we being almost in the end of January had very less time in hand and also Avik could move out with his assignment anytime soon. Suddenly the idea of getting in touch with our same-old reliable person, Dipankar Da proved to be fruiful. Having very close relation with Dipankar Da, and he being in tourism business helped us understand various types of tours and touts around Sundarban.

He also made us understand, that “To visit Sundarban, expecting to explore the nature and various animals other than the Royal Bengal Tiger“. Sundarban being mangrove forest it’s tough to spot a Tiger. As unlike other forest, one cannot go for the safaris inside the forest, instead explore the forest through waterways. He also made us realize that, Sundarban is best explored with a Naturalist instead of a general guide if we really want to know the details of the Sundarban ecosystem. He further informed us that the tour can indeed be done within Rs. 4000/- per head or less if we stay at general hotels at Pakhiralay and go for a general guide instead of Naturalist, which is what most tourist do. But unfortunately those category of tourist doesn’t visit Sundarban to explore the nature but for a holiday. There’s always a fine line of difference between having a trip and travelling.

Within next few days, he came up with an idea of staying at Bali Island which would be like staying further off from the chaos and letting us enjoy the wilderness. We asked him and his family to join us too, if possible. Fortunately he confirmed that, he’s free on those days and indeed he’d join us and would also bring one of his friend who’s a Naturalist and have been associated with various projects of Sundarban.

Tip : The key aspect of visiting Sundarban on a budget is to visit in a group of atleast of around 10 pax. The boat cost being the key expense gets shared, which helps the overall per head cost to fall gradually. One may also choose to stay in boat to avoid the hotel cost, but that have it’s own issues. Other than trading off the luxury of staying in a hotel room, there’s a high risk of mosquitoes too. But young groups, with adventurous mind may choose to do the same with proper precautions.