Sundarbans National Park is one of the last tiger reserves in Bengal. It covers about 10,000 kilometers in the Ganges delta. The park became a tiger reserve in 1973, a wildlife sanctuary in 1977 and a national park in 1984. UNESCO included it as a world heritage in 1987.
The name Sundarbans means a beautiful jungle in the Bengali language. It is also derived from Sundari trees found inside the park.
Geography of Sundarbans National Park
Sundarbans is located at South 24 in Aprgand District of Bengal. It lies at 30 Degree 24” – 30 Degree 28′ north longitude and 77 Degree 40′ – 77 Degree 44′ east latitude. The park has an altitude of 7.5 meters above sea level. It has 54 small islands on the boundaries of Ganga.
The park is also known as the largest mangrove forest in the world. Vegetation includes mangrove scrub, forests, wet and rich grassland. The region has fresh and saltwater rivers from the Ganges and saline water at Bengal Bay. Coastal evolution includes estuaries, beaches, swamps, tidal creeks, back dunes, levees and coastal dunes.
The park has also seven rivers that heads towards the sea. The tidal deposits form creeks and new islands. There are mudflats at the estuary where tidal current occurs. The mudflats interior part is the home for mangroves.
Plant Species at Sundarbans National Park
The 64 plant species can withstand different conditions of tidal effects. You can see Genwa’s flaming red leaves, Kanakara’s crab-like flowers and Khalsi’s yellow flowers. Common trees are Kankra, Goran, Genwa, Passur and Dhundal.
Fauna of Sundarbans National Park
The wildlife sanctuary is the home for tigers and wild animals. There are birds, aquatic animal and reptiles living in the park. About 30,000 deer and 400 royal Bengal tigers are spotted here. Bengal tigers are great swimmers in the saline waters. They are a fierce breed that would not hesitate to attack a human. Other mammals include the wild boar, fox, pangolin, chital, grey mangoes, and fishing cats. There are bullsharks and saltwater crocodiles living at the estuaries (area of the river mouth affecting sea tides).
The park is very suitable to bird-watching. Get the chance to see a blue-eared kingfisher, white ibis, water hens, open-billed storks and spotted doves. Aspian terns, common snipes, jungle crows, cotton teals, night herons, wood sandpipers, paradise flycatchers and seagulls are sighted in the Sundarbans.
The park also houses some of the fishes like butter fish, silver carp, sawfish, starfish, electric rays, gangetic dolphins and common carp. Amphibians inside the sanctuary are skipping frogs, tree frogs and common toads. You will be able to spot some reptiles like sea snakes, green turtles, chameleons, estuarine crocodile, king cobras, russels vipers and monitor lizards. Others include common kraits, rat snakes, pythons, mouse ghekos, hawks bill turtles and chequered killbacks.
Activities to Do in Sundarbans National Park
Village walks is a nice thing to do apart from exploring around the park. Visitors can visit the local school and have a cycle trip to the market. You could go crab-catching or on fishing expeditions around the village. You can take a bird walk, a cooking class and watch cultural programs at the rural theater.
There are boat safaris to the Bhagatpur Crocodile Project, a crocodile breeding farm. Other places to see are the Sagar Island, Sudhanyakali watchtower, Jambudweep, Haliday Island (Barking Deer), Sajankhali Bird Sanctuary and at Kanak (Olive Ridley Turtle’s nesting place).
Means of Transportation at Sundarbans National Park
A boat is the only means of transportation to get through the park. There are local boats and luxury launches that the tourism department manages. This includes the M.V. Madhukar and M.V. Chitrarekha.
Lodging at Sundarbans National Park
Forest rest houses are available at Piyali, Sajnekhali and Bakkhali. Sundarbans Jungle Camp on Bali Island also offers lodging facilities.