Sundarban is the floating land of mangroves and the home for Royal Bengal Tigers. Sundarban is also the place for crocodiles, Chitals, Sambars and many birds. Sundarban is located in south West Bengal at the edge of Bay of Bengal and shares the border with Bangladesh. This is the place for wildlife photographers and nature lovers. This is an ideal place for them who want to sail through mangrove woods. The sail along the narrow channels of the rivers is an amazing experience. You can suddenly spot a deer or a herd of deer. The crocs lay lazy on the banks of the river channels. If you are really lucky then you can get the sight of the beast – The Royal Bengal Tiger.
The only way to explore Sundarban is in boat sailing along many river channels. 1 night – 2 days trip is good to explore Sundarban though many goes for 2 nights – 3 days trip which can be boring at some point of time. I would always suggest a 1 night – 2 days trip. One can take a boat from Canning but I would suggest you to book the boat from Godkhali. It would surely save some time in transportation because if you take the boat from Canning, you will have to reach Godkhali by boat which will take long time in sailing but if you hire a vehicle (Tata Magic) from Canning, you can reach Godkhali early by road because a bridge has been constructed recently which connects Canning and Godkhali. If you reach Godkhali early, you get more time to sail in the woods on the day of your arrival.
How to Visit Sundarban
There are frequent trains from Sealdah station in Kolkata to Canning station in south Bengal. It is suggested to catch the trains depart early in the morning. The first train that departs from Sealdah station is at 5. 45 am, the second train departs at 6.30 am and then trains are there at regular intervals. It takes around 1 and half hour to reach Canning from Sealdah.
Once you reach Canning, you have got 2 options. You can reserve a vehicle (Tata Magic) directly to Godkhali or you can go via Sonakhali. A reserve vehicle directly to Godkhali will cost you Rs 600-700 approx. (rate is as of Jan, 2014). In case you don’t get a vehicle directly to Godkhali then you will have to reach Sonakhali by auto rickshaw and then to Godkhali again by auto rickshaw.
Hiring a Boat – Sundarban Package Tour
I would always suggest booking a boat in advance because on arrival they charge more because they know you would not go back without making your trip. Boats can be hired from both Canning and Godkhali. There are so many agencies at both the places that provide you boats on your demand. They charge on per day basis. If you hire the boat only you would have to arrange your food on your own which is really a head ache so it is better to go for a package which includes the boat and food per head. You can place your demand of what you would like to have on boat. They can arrange all and the cost of package per head will depend on the type of food you order. Each time I visited Sundarban, I have availed a same kind of package trip and each time it was a 1 night – 2 days trip.
Places to visit in Sundarban
There are no such places of interest that we find in other tours. Sundarban trip is all about sailing in waters. There are watch towers at some islands which provide you an aerial view of the mangroves. If you are lucky, you can spot deer or a tiger from the watch tower. The foot bridge over the mangroves deep in the jungle at Dobanki is really a super attraction.
Godkhali is the island wher your tour to Sundarban starts from. The boat will start sailing from here after all necessities are loaded on boat. Make sure you buy all requirements from here before you sail off. If you reserve your boat from Godkhali, the boat will be waiting for you at the river bank. Once you reach there, you would find the signboard that welcomes you to the land of mangroves and tigers. Photo session starts from here. Do not forget to pose in front of the signboard that welcomes you in Sundarban.
It is another island on the other side of Godkhali. Boat may take you to this beautiful village if they have something to load from the market place. Gosaba has a market place just by the river bank where villagers come from remote areas to shop. There is an ancient bungalow which was established in British period by Sir Daniel Mackinnon Hamilton. He was a Scottish businessman who made Bengal his second home and used to stay in this bungalow. He was close associate of the Nobel Laureate poet, Rabindranath Tagore and Mr. Tagore visited this bungalow long way back. The bungalow is still there but it is in a poor state because of lack of maintenance. You can have a walk around the market place and the bungalow and then get on to your boat.
The boat starts sailing from Gosaba or Gidkhali and then takes you across the mighty river Bidya. After the sightseeing some channels of the river within the woods, the boat will take you to Pakhiralaya – another island. All resorts are located at or near Pakhiralaya. The first night is spent here in any resort at Pakhiralaya. I never stayed in any resort because I love spending nights in boats the way boatmen lives. Spending night in a boat is not recommended if you have family. Staying in boat is okay for young people.
It is another island which has got the office of the forest department that issues permit for you and your boat to sail deep inside the forest. All boats start sailing the next day morning from Pakhiralaya and banks in Sajnekhali for the permission. The forest department has beautified the location for tourists with a museum which is really a good one that portraits the life of local people, life of forest personnel who work hard to save the Royal Bengal Tiger and so many other things related to Sundarban wildlife. There are ponds with crocs, there are Chital, Sambar etc. It takes half an hour to one hour to get the permission. By that time one can go around the place and then it is time to sail deep in the forest.
Once you have the permission from the Sajnekhali forest office, now it is time to go deep in the mangroves. After you get the permission, the first destination on way to your sail deep inside Sundarban is Sudhanyakhali. The place has got a watch tower created by the forest department which gives you an aerial view of the mangroves and river channels all around. You can spot a wild animal, if you are lucky enough. I never got a glimpse of any wild fellows from here because my luck favors me when I sail deep through the channels. Last time we spotted a beautiful owl here in Sudhanyakhali.
After you have visited Sudhanyakhali, it is time to sail and sail. The stretch from Sudhanyakhali to Dobanki is really long but this is the actual and most thrilling part of the Sundarban boat journey. In this stretch your boat goes along very narrow channels of the rivers with different kinds of mangroves on either side of the channels. On this stretch, the chance or scope of spotting crocodiles and tigers is the highest. Last time we spotted 4 crocs at different locations on this stretch.
After a long journey, the boat drops you at Dobanki ghat. There you have a foot bridge as I have said earlier which takes you over the mangroves. The bridge at Dobanki starts from one place where your boat would drop you and ends at another place where from your boat would pick you up. The walk on the bridge within the mangroves is really an awesome experience. There is high scope that you would spot a deer or any other wild fellow because at Dobanki forest department has created sweet water ponds which actually draws animals for sweet water. Last time we spotted 2 deer and so many types of birds.
After the boat starts sailing from Dobanki, it is time to visit Panchmukhi, the meeting point of five rivers. Five rivers meet at a point with a beautiful surrounding. There is high scope and chance that one can spot a deer or a herd of deer at the banks of the rivers at Panchmukhi. We spent a lot of time at the middle of the point by anchoring our boat. Actually we had the fun of bathing here by pulling out water with a bucket from the river. From Panchmukhi, it is time to sail toward Godkhali. Lunch is done on the way and by evening the boat drops you at Godkhali.
How to Get Out of Sundarban
Once your boat drops you at Godkhali, you can reserve a Tata Magic vehicle directly up to Canning. In case you don’t get a reserved vehicle, you can reach Canning via Sonakhali with a bus or auto. There are train services from Canning to Sealdah at regular intervals. I would suggest reaching Canning by 7 pm so that you reach Sealdah by 8.30 pm.
Stay tuned to Travel Updates section, I will surely come up with more information on Sundarban. You can contact me for any information or query you have. I will surely revert back to you as soon as possible.