Here is a precise guide to travelling to the Sundarbans, spotting the royal Bengal tiger and experiencing bioluminescent plankton at night in Sundarbans, India.
As we all remember Sundarbans being the world’s largest mangrove forest from our geography books, I was always curious to travel and explore the Sundarbans forest. The Sundarbans lies on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. Though 60% of the forest lies in Bangladesh rest 40% is in India, Out of which only some part of it is accessible to tourists/humans.
It is believed that majority of the forest is protected from human exploitations because of the Man eating guardian- ‘The royal Bengal tiger of Sundarbans’.
Which is why, the first question to be addressed-
Is Sundarbans safe to travel?
Yes, Sundarbans is very much safe to travel. As you aren’t allowed to step into the forest but just do a safari encircling the forest. Which is partially the reason why tiger sightings are very difficult in Sundarbans. Tourists are taken on large size boats and broad gauges which doesn’t really possess a threat from the tiger. The tour guides and the forest department are very cautious about the same. Which doesn’t nullify the frequent tiger attacks on fisherman’s and honey collectors, who risk their lives to earn a living.
When is the best time to spot the tiger?
The mating season (winters) is when tigers come to the shore, which is the best time to spot the royal Bengal tiger of Sundarbans. The sighting also depends on the tide of the river. The best time to go is 6 days after a Full moon or No Moon, as there is a Neap tide and the chances of tiger coming to the shore is high.
On my trip, I just missed a tiger sighting by 10 mins, while the other boat saw the tiger!
Where to stay?
I was travelling with this Tour company- Tour de Sundarbans (https://www.tourdesundarbans.com/), with an exclusive stay at Ecovillage, situated on the bank of Gomor river. The rooms were simple and clean along with amazing Bengali food and tea. The Owner- Rajesh along with the tour guides were very polite and fun to hangout! There are also two loving German Shepard dogs at ecovillage.
How many days should I go for?
Ideally speaking, 2 days are enough to explore the forest. But if you are going for the purpose of photography, then you could increase the number of safari days. If you are travelling in private group tour with Tour de Sundarbans, then you could customise the itinerary according to your needs.
Since I was travelling solo with a group, I chose to go for the 3nights and two days itinerary.
What to see in Sundarbans?
Well, there is a large variety of wildlife to be explored from the spotted deer to the wild boar. The forest is famous for its wild jungle cats (felis chaus) and the five different kingfishers.
Besides the safari, We walked on the marshy forest land in a protected patch of area (without animals, specially the tiger). I’d definitely recommend doing it as it really connects you to nature.
The phenomenon of bioluminescent plankton-
The highlight of the trip was the night boat ride in pitch darkness under the moonlight, experiencing the bio illuminances algae in water. It was like a gazillion stars in the sky and the water too! The experience was completely surreal. This night safari was organised by Tour de Sundarbans, I am not sure if other tour companies do the same.
Buts its definitely a must experience.