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Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary: Facts and Figures

Area : 2,608 sq km
Languages : Bengali, Hindi and English
Best Time to Visit : September to March
STD Code : 03218 (Canning)

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary: Introduction

The name Sunderbans is perhaps derived from the term meaning 'the forest of sundari (Heritiera fomes), a reference to the large mangrove tree that provides valuable fuel. Along the coast, the southern part of the forest passes into a mangrove swamp, which has numerous wild animals and crocodile-infested estuaries. It is one of the last preserves of the Royal Bengal tiger and the site of a tiger conservation project.

Situated south of Kolkata, Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most unique ecosystems in this part of the world and is dominated by mangrove forests. Situated at the mouth of the Ganges, Sunderbans spreads over 54 islands and two countries (the West Bengal state in India and Bangladesh) and is a part of the world's largest delta region.

A UNESCO world heritage site Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary, is home to the largest number of wild tigers in the world.

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary: Climate

The Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary region has a tropical climate with hot summers and cold winters. Maximum and minimum temperatures during the summer are 42C and 37C respectively. In winters, the maximum and minimum temperatures are 29C and 9.2C respectively.

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary: Biosphere

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest estuarine delta in the world and the biggest colony of the Royal Bengal Tigers. These evergreen mangrove forests pulsate with myriad forms of life, which hide during hide tide and the ebbing tide reveals them on the glistening mud flats. The land is split by numerous rivers and water channels all emptying into the Bay of Bengal. It is believed that Bonbibi, the goddess of the forest, protects the woodcutters, honey-collectors and fishermen on their hazardous missions through the forest. For, as the local saying goes, `here the tiger is always watching you'.

Project Tiger was implemented in Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary in 1973 and later the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve was demarcated over an area of 2,585-sq km. The core area of 1,330 sq km has been declared a national park and a world heritage site. The reserve has a tiger population of 287(1984 census). The only mangrove species, the tiger here has adapted well to its habitat.

The Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project is a crocodile-breeding farm. Tours are organized by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC). This place is accessible through Namkhana. Both the West Bengal Tourism Department and the WBTDC organize conducted tours to the Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary by their motor launches. Bhagabatpur is a hatchery of the largest estuarine crocodile in the world.

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary provides important habitat for a variety of reptiles including river terrapin, Olive Ridley, estuarine crocodile, monitor lizard, water monitor and Indian python.

The only species of turtle known to nest in the Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary is the Olive Ridley but hawksbill has also been caught in fishermen's nets. The creeks are spawning grounds for some 90 species of fish, 48 species of crabs and a large variety of molluscs.

Sajnekhali has a bird sanctuary and is the only place to have a hotel in this area. There is a Mangrove Interpretation Centre here. There are watchtowers at Sajnekhali, Sudhanyakhali, Netidhopan, Haldi and a number of other places.

The Sajnekhali area contains a wealth of water birds, noteworthy residents including Asian openbill stork, black-necked stork, greater adjutant stork, white ibis, swamp francolin, white-collared kingfisher, black-capped kingfisher and brown-winged kingfisher.

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary is also important for waders, including the Asian dowitcher, a rare winter migrant. Interesting marsh birds found in the reclaimed areas include egrets, purple heron, which is a rare vagrant from Africa, and green-backed heron.

Birds of prey at Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary include osprey, Pallas's fish eagle, white-bellied sea eagle, grey-headed fishing eagle, peregrine falcon, Oriential hobby, northern eagle owl and brown fish owl.

Other interesting places in Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary include Netidhopan, which has the ruins of a 400-year-old temple, Holiday Island, which is a retreat of the barking deer and Kanak, which is the nesting place of Olive Ridley Turtles. Piyali is 72 km from Kolkata and is a gateway to the Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary. It is being developed as a tourist complex.

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary: How to Reach

By Air
Dum Dum (166kms), is the nearest airport at Kolkata.

By Rail
The nearest railhead is at Canning, 48 km away. The nearest town is Gosaba, 50 km away.

Sunderbans is accessible only by riverine waterways. From Kolkata there are suburban trains to Canning and buses to Namkhana, Raidighi, Sonakhali and Najat from where motor launch services are available for Sunderbans.

By Road
Means of road transport are available from Kolkata for the places like Namkhana (105 km), Sonakhali (100 km), Raidighi (76 km), Canning (64 km), and Najat (92 km), which are all near the Sunderbans and have access to the riverine waterways leading to it.

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary: Where to Stay

Forest lodges and forest rest houses are available for accommodation at Sajnekhali.

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary: Links to outside world

At Sajnekhali, STD/ISD facilities and postal facilities are available. Internet facilities are available at Kolkata.

Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary: Travel Tips

Permission has to be acquired to visit the tiger reserve from the Field Director, Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, Port Canning.