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Sunderban Tiger Camp

Overview and Zones

Sunderbans National Park is the largest estuarine mangrove forest in the world.

The Sunderbans National Park lies in the south-east of Kolkata in the South 24-Paraganas District of West Bengal and forms part of the Gangetic Delta, close to the Bay of Bengal. The Sunderbans National Park was given the status of a National Park on 4 May 1984. Before this it was been declared as a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1977. It was designated as the core area of Sunderbans Tiger Reserve in December 1973. Sunderbans National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in the year 1985.

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.

Awarded as a "UNESCO World Heritage Site" Sunderbans is the world's largest delta & mangrove swamp. It is here that the river Ganges creates a unique estuarine forest whose fragile eco-system is supported by numerous rivers and lakes that surround the area. It is also the world's largest estuarine forest and one of the most attractive and alluring places for any tourist.

The vast swampy delta of the two great Indian rivers, Brahmaputra and the Ganges stretches over areas consisting of mangrove forests, swamps and forest island all creating a chain of small rivers and streams. The Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal is home of the Royal Bengal Tiger.

These evergreen mangrove forests pulsate with a myriad forms of life. Above the Kingfisher and White-bellied Sea eagle add a brilliant burst of colour. The sea creeps in at high tide. The forests float. The ebbing waters reveal nature so alive on the glistening mud flats. The land is split by numerous rivers and water channels all emptying into the Bay of Bengal. Venture further to discover a rich tribal folklore. It is believed that Bonobibi, the goddess of the forest, protects the wood-cutters, honey-collectors and fishermen on their hazardous missions. For, as the saying goes, `Here the Tiger is always watching you'.

Delta-forest home of the Royal Bengal Tiger. The Ganges, which is rightly known as the Ganga, carries silt and fertility from its ice-melt sources in the high Himalayas, through the lush plains of India, past the riverine port of Calcutta. Here, however, it is no longer the Ganga because it has become one of the major distributory. For, in the flat Grey-clay lands of Bengal, the great river splits into numerous channels, dividing and sub-dividing like the roots of a tree, till it pours through many mouths into the Bay of Bengal.

The rich biodiversity of Sunderbans is situated at the southern tip of West Bengal, India. The dense mangrove forests, the flora and the fauna together contribute to the magic of this vast delta. Positioned between the great Indian rivers – The Ganges and the Brahmaputra, Sunderbans even stretches to river Meghna in Bangladesh.

The unique biodiversity of this delta wins applause from all those who visit it. The delta at the meeting point of the great rivers, Ganga and Brahmaputra covers a total area of 9630 square kilometres Out of the 102 islands at Sunderbans, 54 are inhabited and the people here make a living from agriculture, fishing and honey collection.

Sunderbans boasts of being the largest mangrove swamp, the largest delta and the largest Estuarine National Park in the World. The delta is also among the largest Tiger Reserves in the world. It has been bestowed the prestigious honour of being a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 owing to its great natural wealth.

The majestic 'Royal Bengal Tiger' adds to the charm of the Sunderbans. The mangrove forest is the only natural abode of the tigers.



Culture

The human settlement at Sunderbans dates back to 600 years. The people here are dependent on agriculture, fishing and honey collection. The major edible fishes include bhetki, pomfret, hilsa, parshey and other fishes. Prawn seed collection also paves the opportunity for quick financial gains for the locals. The quintals of honey from the beehives, made by bees from the distant Himalayas are collected by the people.

Religion is a vital issue for the people at Sunderbans. To avoid the natural hazards, quite prevalent in this region, the people have taken recourse to the same religious belief. It is the only place in the world, where you will find both Hindus and Muslims pray to the same Gods, such as Bonobibi, Monosha and Gazi Pir. There is a substantial Christian community, but it too dwells in communal harmony. This bonding among the people, irrespective of religion is the setting of a beautiful example for all to follow.

There would be only a few families in Sunderban which would be spared of a tiger attack. A native of Sunderban would not utter the word “tiger” but prefer to call it “uncle”, just for the sheer fact that “taking the name of a tiger, is synonymous to calling the tiger. Few researchers believe that as high as 80% of the Royal Bengal Tigers are born Man-Eaters. The wife generally stays as a widow, back home when the husband goes for honey collecting into the jungle, not practicing any rituals of a married Indian woman. Some believe it is done to make the tigers believe that she is already a widow.

At one point of time there were so many widows, due to tiger attacks, that there was a village actually being called “Vidhwa palli”, or the widow village. There are generally 50 casualties every year from tiger attacks, but there is no instance of a tourist boat being attacked ever. THANKFULLY!!!

The everyday life of a Sunderban resident generally revolves around two things - The tide and the tiger.



Zones

1. Sajnekhali :

The mangrove interpretations centre and watch tower.

2. Sudhanyakhali :

A popular watch tower for wildlife sighting.

3. Dobanke:

Canopy walk to the watch tower whilst visiting the spotted deer rchabilitation centre.

4. Netidopani :

Has the remains of a 300 year old temple, worshipped by people of all religions and a watch tower for a    bird’s eye view of the surrounding forest.

5. Burirdabri :

Visit the Bangladesh side of Indian Sunderbans, where the flora and fauna is very different. Also, experience the caged and mud walk leading to the Raimangal view point (view of Bangladesh).

6. Dayapur Village :

During the village walks interact with the locals and experience their life of hardships.


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