Sundarbans - The "Beautiful Jungle" of Bangladesh
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Sundarbans is one of the world’s largest single areas of tidal halophytic mangrove forests. Highlighting the environmental value of the Sundarbans, it has been designated a Ramsar site, making it subject to the Ramsar Convention international treaty that promotes the conservation and sustainable utilization of crucial wetlands. The Sundarbans, literally meaning “beautiful jungle” or “beautiful forest”, lies at the mouth of the Ganges and is home to an estimated 200 Bengal Tigers and a herd of approximately 30,000 spotted deer, as well as an impressive variety of reptile, invertebrate and bird species.
Covering an area of 10,000 square kilometers, 6,000 square kilometers of which is in Bangladesh and the balance in West Bengal, India, the Sundarbans is a complex ecosystem intersected by a network of tidal waterways, small islands of mangrove forests and mudflats. Twenty-six of the known fifty broad mangrove types found in the world flourish in the Sundarbans. The freshwater rivers originating in the Ganges meet the saltwater tides from the Bay of Bengal, creating a unique environment supporting extensive plant and animal life. Sixty-four plant species have been recorded in the Sundarbans, and in the months of April and May the area looks as though it has been set on fire, with the flaming red leaves of the Genway and the red flowers of the Kankara, mingling with the bright yellow flowers of Khalsi. Other commonly found plants are Passur, Garjan, Goran and Sundari.
The resident Bengal Tigers get around the Sundarbans by swimming in the saline waters. These magnificent animals are considered to be an endangered species. Other mammals found in the Sundarbans include Fishing Cats, Wild Boar, Common Grey Mongoose, Macaques, Flying Fox, Chital and Pangolin. Birding enthusiasts will have plenty to see in the Sundarbans and can look out for Coots, Water Hens, Pariah Kites, Marsh Harriers, Jungle Crows, Herring Gulls, Grey Herons, Cormorants, Peregrine Falcons, Woodpeckers, Pintails, Curlews and much, much more.
Creatures in and around the waters of the Sundarbans include Gangetic Dophins (endangered), Sawfish, Butter Fish, Silver Carp, Electric Rays, Star Fish, Crabs, Prawns, Shrimps, Common Toads and Tree Frogs. Reptiles include Estaurine Crocodiles (endangered), Chameleons, King Cobras, Olive Ridley Turtles (endangered), Monitor Lizards, Pythons and Chequered Killbacks.
The only way to explore the Sundarbans is by boat, and the tourism department of Bangladesh operates luxury launches for this purpose. Alternatively, many locals offer safari tours on their private boats. Between November and February, visitors are most likely to see Bengal Tigers sunning themselves on the riverbanks. Hiron Point is excellent for spotting tigers, deer, monkeys and crocodiles, while Katka in the early morning or evening is alive with the activity of birds. There is no doubt that the Sundarbans will be appreciated by all who enjoy the wonders of nature at its best.