Towards the south of Calcutta, the rivers Ganga and Hoogly
divide itself into many distibutaries. The speed of water is reduced and
the river deposits its silt just as it is about to merge into the sea. In
due course, the accumulated silt takes the shape of islands on the mouth
of the rivers. These are the famous Gangetic deltas. They provide an ideal
atmosphere and environment for the Sundari trees to grow. Spread over an
area of almost 10,000 sq kms (now shared by Bangladesh and India), the
Sunderbans are home to many exquisite animals and birds. The Indian
Government has declared this 1330 sq kms of area as a national park.
The pristine beauty of nature is made alive by the variety of the flora and fauna. The Fleming Red flowers of Genwa, the crab like red flower of Khalsi add to the dazzling display of nature. This 'fairyland' is made fascinating by the millions of micro organism found on the fringes of the islands.
Once this area was a paradise for tiger hunters. But the rapid fall in the Royal Bengal Tiger population forced the government to declare tiger poaching as illegal and the area came under the Project Tiger. Tigers in Sunderbans is known to swim a record distance of 10 kms. They also hunt fish if hungry or steal honey from the bee hives. Though Sunderban tigers are described as man-eaters, specialists say they rarely attack human beings. Tigers are not the only attraction in Sunderbans, there are estuarine crocodiles and shy jungle cats or the fishing cats. The reptiles found in the forest includes the King Cobra, Rock Python and Water Monitor.
During the winters the olive ridley turtles descend to nest the shores of Kanak island. The tigers can be easily spotted at the water holes at Sajnekhali, Sudhanyakhali, Netidhopani and Haldi. No permission is required for a general river cruise outside the core area and sanctuary . But there are particular places where permission will be required.
The best time to visit Sunderbans is during winters between September and March. There are regular bus services from Calcutta to this place. But the main areas of the sanctuary can only be accessed only by riverine waterways. The best and the safest way to visit Sunderbans is on conducted tours. One can also avail the services of the private vessels from Canning, Gosaba or Basanti. Accommodation in the sanctuary is available, in the comfortable tourist lodges. Sajnekahli has a 60 bed tourist lodge. Overnight facilities are also available at Bakkhali and Piyali.