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A Guide to Visiting Sundarbans – World’s Largest Mangrove Forest in Bangladesh

A Guide to Visiting Sundarbans – World’s Largest Mangrove Forest in Bangladesh

Sundarbans National park is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and grants sanctuary to around 100 alluring Royal Bengal Tigers, which are still believed to hunt humans for food. Although these rare breeds of strong swimmers are out of sight and remain hidden in the tiger reserves, solo travel still entails signing up for a travel guide.

“Sundarban” is a Bengali word that translates to “beautiful forest.” It is the most extensive tangle of mangrove trees, at the mouth of Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna Rivers, in the Bay of Bengal. The magnificent forest spans up to 10,000 square kilometers (3,900 sq. miles), of which 35% lies in West Bengal, India, and the rest of it in Khulna division, Bangladesh. An archipelago of 102 islands prevails in the Indian segment of Sundarbans, of which only 54 are inhabited.

Visiting Sundarbans - world's largest Mangrove Forest in Bangladesh
World’s largest Mangrove Forest Sundarbans in Bangladesh

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History

The remains of the city of Chand Sadagar in Baghmara Forest Block, the ruins at Netidhopani, the Sundarbans village drawings by Frederic P. Layard, and other historical ramshackle in the Sundarbans gives an idea of the history of this delta. If you are planning to solo travel, these spots are a significant tourist attraction.

In the Mughal period, sometime around 200-300 AD, the emperors leased the lands to the residents of Sundarbans. Akbar’s army also warded off criminals to the forests, where tigers later attacked these refugees. Mughals lost most buildings to the hands of salt smugglers and Portuguese pirates in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Sunderbans: The Mystic Mangrove

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The British East India Company obtained proprietary rights to the area in 1757, and a Forest Department was established later in the 1800s. Soon in 1865, major forestland was declared reserved under the Forest Act, 1865, and the remaining portions were declared reserved the following year.

Why you should visit Sundarbans

Home to a plethora of wildlife species, Sundarbans is a serene web of littoral mangrove trees that line the border of India and Bangladesh. So what makes these forests unique?

  • The enthralling chance to spot a Royal Bengal Tiger and other exotic species like water monitor, king cobra, or rock python.
Sundarbans Royal Bengal Tiger
Sundarbans Royal Bengal Tiger [By Soumyajit Nandy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]
A herd of Chital deers at Sundarbans UNESCO World Heritage Site
A herd of Chital deers at Sundarbans UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Throng to Sundarbans if you love birds. Bird watching is the favorite pastime in a spun-out solo travels to these swampy lands.
  • There are more than 60 plant species to gawk at, like the red Kankra’s flowers or the yellow Khalsi’s flowers.
  • Take a walk through the enchanting villages of the forest and discover their way of life. If you are nice enough, the local collectors will also let you savor the fresh honey samples.
A walk through the forest in the Sundarbans
A walk through the forest in the Sundarbans
Mangrove palm (Golpata) at Sundarbans
Mangrove palm (Golpata) at Sundarbans
  • In both group and solo travels, the key motive is to view and photograph the wildlife safely, which can be done through watchtower sightings. Sajnekhali, Sudhanyakhali, Dobanki, and Burir Dabri are famous watchtowers deep in the forest to provide a panoramic view of birds, deers, tigers, etc.
  • If you are bored of regular resorts or hotels, try boat housing this time. With floating boats, feel like you are living on the clouds and enjoy the local cuisine of Sundarbans.

How to visit Sundarbans

From Bangladesh:

Safaris from Dhaka and Khulna are the best way to reach and discover Sundarbans. These are made available by numerous agencies and can stretch from overnight to a week. Here are few agencies offering package trips are:

  • Arranger Tours and Travels, 6 Farazi Para Main Road, Khulna, Tel: +88041723031, +8801817-403070
  • Exotic Holidays Ltd., Shop # 31-32, 19c/1-A Block-F, Ring road. Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207. Tel: +8801916886225
  • Pugmark Tours and Travels, KDA Building, Shibbarirmore, Khulna, Tel: +8801715-167740, +8801919-298001

But suppose you want independent trips without involving agencies (which is not recommended for Solo Travels, considering the misadventures). In that case, you can organize a trip from Munshiganj-Satkhira, Khulna, or Mongla. Issuing the permit from the Divisional Forest Office is the first of the many hassles generally taken care of by the agency on your behalf. But once the license is issued, you’ll be able to row a boat from Mongla or Dhangmari to Hiron Point. Then, at last, hire a guide from Hiron Point for strolling through the woods.

Sundarbans Mangrove Forest in Bangladesh
Exploring the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest in Bangladesh

Boatmen will settle for no less than Tk 200 for the trip. For foreigners, the entry fee is 750/day (as charged by the center).

From Kolkata:

Located southeast in West Bengal, the inhabited islands of Sundarbans are accessible via both roadways and railways from Kolkata

Kaikhali: Lying at a distance of 92 km from Kolkata airport, it is not so far away from the highest watchtower of Sundarbans, i.e., the Bonnie Camp. This 50 ft tall camp also facilitates an overnight stay. Other sites such as Halliday wildlife sanctuary, Kalas Islands, and the beach are also accessible. 

Canning: Only 45 km from Kolkata, this railway head is nearest to Sundarbans Tiger Project. You can travel via public transportation to Godakhali port as well, which is 29 km away.

Godkhali port: It is 82 km from Kolkata and 95 km from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata. It is the last island and is close to the Sajnekhali Wildlife sanctuary and Sundarbans Tiger project.

Namkhana: Farthest from Kolkata, Namkhana is 123 km from Kolkata airport. It is close to the Lothian wildlife sanctuary and Bhagabatpur crocodile project.

Best time to visit Sundarbans

The winters are the best time to get the best out of your Solo Travel Journey to the Sundarbans. The weather is more pleasant compared to any other time of the year. Also, the chances of wildlife sightings are considerably high. The animals come out from the dense greens at daytime to bask in the warmth of the sun.

Amazing sunrise view from the boat in the Sundarbans
Amazing sunrise view from the boat in the Sundarbans

A boat safari is also a good choice for experiencing a lucky encounter with a swimming Bengal Tiger and also enjoying the local food available on these floating boats. So, conclusively, the months from October to March are best suited for a Jungle Safari in Sundarbans Forests.

Leisure time during Sundarbans tour in the floating boat
Leisure time during Sundarbans tour in the floating boat

The other months are not so comfortable for Sundarbans visits for one or the other reason.

The hot temperatures reaching 30-42 degrees Celsius from April to June are too hot and humid for tourists to bear. Moreover, the heavy rainfall of the monsoon from July to September raises river water to dangerous levels.

What to shop

  • Wild Honey extracted from the jaw of the Royal Bengal Tiger is collected by the locals during April – May. You can either sample it or even buy some for yourself or your family.
  • Beautiful articles which the local people skillfully handcraft are good mementos to bring back home or gift your friends and family members after returning from your solo travel.
  • Sundarbans is also famous for its organic brown rice, which is good for your health and tastes terrific. 

Where to stay in Sundarbans

Considering the ecological sensitivity and focusing on the eco-friendly aspect of the forests, the stays are given a village feel rather than a luxurious touch. Most hotels run on solar power or a generator. If you want a unique experience, you can choose to stay on a houseboat.

Mid-range Accommodations

This resort is best for a well-planned trip to Sundarbans for both, a homely experience and no holes in pockets.

It is a low-key resort in the middle of lush greenery lying 105 km from Kolkata airport; this is the best resort for solo travel. It is 11 km from both Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve and Mangrove Interpretation Centre.

Budget Accommodations

Large beds, friendly staff, and the feel of home-cooked food are what this hotel is all about. It is under budget and is a great location for sightseeing.

Tora loosely translates to “tiger”. This hotel gives you a countryside experience with warm and spacious rooms and a small pond. And it’ll surely fit right into your budget.

Luxury Accommodations

A friendly staff, delicious food, and all basic to up class amenities are available here. With expertise in various cuisines and fine rooms, this hotel sets itself apart from others.

This rustic resort in Sundarbans National Park sits close to the Tiger Reserve Forest at Sajnekhali. The scenic beauty and flavourful cuisine of this place are beyond compare. 

Permits to enter Sundarbans

  • The mandatory permit is issued at Divisional Forest Office, Circuit House Road, Khulna, +20665.
  • The permit to visit the Tiger Reserves is given by the Field Director, Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, Port Canning.
  • For the Foreigner Permit contact: The Joint Secretary (Forest), Govt. of West Bengal, 4th Floor, G-Block, Writers’ Building, Kolkata- 700 001. Tel: 225-5601 Ext: 411/754.
  • The Entry permits can be obtained for Sundarbans Tiger Reserve at Bagna, Canning, or Sonakhali.

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Bangladesh Sundarbans Tour Guide
How about an adventurous tour in the Sundarbans?

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