Sunderbans – The Largest Mangrove delta in the World (20th to 23rd Feb, 2020)

Sunderbans – literally means “beautiful forests”, and it is not hard to figure why. Another reason is the Sundari trees, which are dominant in this mangrove area. The Sunderbans mangrove ecosystem is a unique natural wonder and is the largest inter-tidal delta and mangrove system in the world

Nature India has meticulously planned and organized its first ever bird watching & wildlife trip to Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal from 20th Feb to 23rd Feb 2020. Only few seats are available, hence please register very fast. (See details at the end)…..
Disclaimer: Most of the images in the blog have been downloaded from Internet.
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Sunderbans – The Largest Mangrove Delta in the World

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Tiger-Sunderban

Where the land meets the sea at the South Eastern tip of the 24 Parganas district in the state of West Bengal, lies the Indian Sunderbans, a stretch of impenetrable mangrove forest of great size and bio-diversity. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sunderban covering some 10,000 sq. km of mangrove forest and water (of which some 40% is in India and the rest in Bangladesh), is part of the world’s largest delta formed with the sediments deposited by three great rivers, the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, which converge on the Bengal Basin. Intricate networks of interconnecting waterways, of which the larger channels are often a mile or more in width and run in a north-south direction, intersect the whole Sunderban area. It got its name from one of the mangrove plants known as Sundari (Heritiera fomes).

In the Indian Sunderban, the western portion receives some freshwater through the Hoogly-Bhagirathi river system but that portion designated, as the tiger reserve is essentially land-locked, its rivers having become almost completely cut off from the main freshwater sources over the last 600 years. Thus, waterways in the Tiger reserve are maintained largely by the diurnal tidal flow.

Sunderban is a vast area covering 4262 square kms in India alone, with a larger portion in Bangladesh. Out of this, 2585 sq. kms of the Indian Sunderban forms the largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in India. The park was established as a national park on 4th May 1984 and is surrounded by a buffer zone of 885 square kilometers. The core area of the park has it’s own natural boundaries with the river Matla on it’s West, the river Haribhanga on it’s East, with Netidhopani and Gosba in the North.

The main occupation of the inhabitants of Sunderbans is collection of honey, fishing, and other forest products. Honey collectors gamble with their lives to eke out a livelihood in the Sundarbans, but are forced to sell it to the forest department for a pittance. Honey collectors, in fact, have a popular saying: “Modhu khoja mane Bagh khoja” (finding honey equates finding a tiger).

Key to birding in the Sunderbans is overcoming the geographic and physical hurdles. Birding is difficult not just because of the terrain but also because the density is not evident from the limited view one gets from a noisy boat. In a landscape dominated by great tidal creeks and waterways, the only way to access and enjoy the area is on motorized boats which come in various sizes and shapes. Sunderbans is the home of swimming man eating Tigers, estuarine crocodiles, sharks, birds, snakes and marine creatures. Man fights for survival in great numbers by living off nature’s bounty by accepting and fighting against these odds. The visitor has no choice but to stay within limits and out of trouble. 

But the dark and foreboding charisma of the mangroves also hides some of the most sought after birds in the world and a chance encounter with a Brown-winged Kingfisher, a Grey Headed Lapwing, a Pallas’s Fish Eagle, a Mangrove Pitta, a Lesser Adjutant or maybe a Mangrove Whistler is always a possibility ~ as is the unforgettable sight of the most secretive great cat in the world. The Royal Bengal Tiger of the Sunderbans is a powerful swimmer, easily crossing the wide and deep rivers. It is easy to fantasize a tiger leaping onto the boat from the Hental clumps on the shore! (The _Palmacea_ plant Hental is considered by the locals to be a favourite resting/ambush site for the tiger. The drying orangish leaves among the green do seem like ideal camouflage.) Yes, your brain plays tricks, especially in a place with as evil a reputation as the Sunderbans !!!

The fringes of Sunderbans play host to many local endemics and the visitor is well advised to spend time on land outside the core area before venturing into the heart of the National Park. Once inside the Park, the only access to land is at the Sajnekhali compound and the various Watchtowers you can visit. Remember that the watchtowers are inside wire cages and do not allow you to stroll in the open in tiger-land. 

However Sunderbans is most famous for its diversity of Kingfishers that are found in its vast Mangrove abode…..these include Stork-billed Kingfisher, Black-capped Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Ruddy Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher and Brown-winged Kingfisher…. The Latter is a globally near-threatened bird and is perhaps more likely here than anywhere else in India. 

Around 200 bird species are found in Sunderbans  including Red Junglefowl, Lesser Whistling-duck, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Common & Greater Flameback, Coppersmith Barbet, Green Bee-eater, Green-billed Malkoha, Greater Coucal, Eurasian Collared Dove, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Grey-headed Lapwing, Pallas’s Gull, Brown-headed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Whiskered Tern, Brahminy Kite, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Sltay breasted Rail, Bluethroat, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Little Egret, Little Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Asian Openbill, Lesser Adjutant, Ashy Woodswallow, Small Minivet, White-throated Fantail, Bronzed Drongo, Common Iora, Ashy Prinia, Oriental White-eye, Blyth’s & Clamorous Reed Warbler, Common Tailorbird, Greenish Warbler, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Chestnut-capped & Striated Babbler, Purple-rumped, Purple & Loten’s Sunbird and several wader species including Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Pacific Golden Plover, Temminck’s Stint, Terek Sandpiper, Redshank, Sand Plovers etc. 

Other Fauna:  Nothing makes the tourists more excited than a tiger sighting…..While it is hard to spot the majestic cat, there are other kinds of denizens of this mangrove forest….that include Fishing cat, Rhesus macaque, Leopard cat, Indian grey mongoose, Wild boar, Flying fox (Bats), Ganges river dolphin and Pangolin. The chital deer and rhesus monkey are common sightings. Sunderban is also famous for its reptile & marine life, including the saltwater crocodile, Water monitor Lizard, King Cobra, Rat snake, Russell’s Viper, Dog-faced Water snake, Checkered Keelback, red-tailed Bamboo Pit Viper, Turtles, Rock Python and an array of other marine creatures including red fiddler crabs & hermit crabs, Mangrove horseshoe crab, Mud Skippers, Octopus, sawfish, electric rays, silver carp, starfish, common carp, prawns, shrimps, and a wide variety of fishes.

 Flora: It is estimated that there are about 78 species of mangroves in these forests. They are extremely important because of the important role they play in the survival of marine organisms. Some of the common species of plants which are found include Sundari tree, Peara Bayen, Garjan, Giriya Sak, Genwa and Hental (Local names).

The most common Mangrove tree is the Avicennia marina (Peara Bayen)…. So named because the trunk is reminiscent of the guava tree’s blotchy, peeling trunk. Rhizophora apiculata (Garjan) has distinctive stilt roots. Excoecaria agallocha (Genwa) has Red leaves at this time of the year & its roots are snake-like with bulbs at the base. Ceriops decandra (Jhamti/Jale Garan) has rounded leaves reaching up & broom-like roots. Suaeda maritime (Giriya Sak) is a shrub. All over the landscape, the spiky roots of Sonneratia spp.( Kaura/Keora) and Aerial roots of Avicennia alba pop up (called pneumatophores) from the mud banks. The Tiger palm Phoenix palludosa(Hental/Bogra) are fairly plentiful. While Heritiera fomes (Sundari tree) for which the place is named are in few isolated pockets as much of it occurs in Bangladesh. 

Apart from the boat rides criss-crossing the various channels through Sunderbans, we would also be visiting some of the various famed Watch towers like

Sajnekhali Watch Tower: It is counted among the most renowned watch towers in the park, because of its close proximity to a number of resorts in the Sunderban area. This place also serves as the head office of the forest department. A tourist can obtain the permission to enter the national park from this spot only. The watch tower can accommodate 20 people at a time. The major attractions in this region are Bono Bibi Temple, Mangrove Interpretation Centre and the tourist lodge of the Bengal Tourism Department. It is believed that the goddess of Sunderbans – Bonbibi defends the common man in the form of Dukhe from Dakshin Roy, the tiger god. Irrespective of religion, the people of the delta worship Bonbibi before entering the forest. Some of the bird species can easily be seen from this tower

Sudhanyakhali Watch Tower:  is the perfect place from where there are chances to spot a tiger. The watch tower can hold 25 people at a time. There is a pond having sweet water behind the watch tower. Wild animals come and drink water at this point. There is vast grassland behind the pond which endows an invigorating site of the wilds. Other than the tigers, one can also spot other wildlife species such as crocodiles, wild boars and spotted deer.

Netidhopani Watch Tower: This watch tower is linked with the famous tale of Lakhindari and Behula. The lore goes that Neti was a washerwoman, a dhopani in Bengali, who led the hapless Behula, widowed on her wedding night, to the gods for bringing her husband Lakhinder back to life. The tower can accommodate 20 people at a time and it also embraces a sweet water lake in close proximity.

Click here to see the impressive list of Birdlife in Sunderbans National Park….
https://www.kolkatabirds.com/main/sunderchecklist.html

“Come, explore the amazing wildlife in Sunderbans….. The gorgeous greens of the mangrove forest, the clean unpolluted atmosphere, and the unending waters, will leave you mesmerized.”

FireShot Capture 288 - Crazy Sunset by Shahnawaz Barnard - P_ - https___500px.com_photo_150054033_.jpg

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COMPLETE TRIP DETAILS:

Date: 20th Feb 2020 (Thursday) 09.00 hours to 23rd Feb 2020 (Sunday) 16.00 hours (travel days included)

Mode of Travel :
Mumbai – Kolkata- Mumbai (by Air/Rail on personal expenses)
Local travel in AC Winger from Kolkata – Sunderbans – Kolkata and then by Boat in Sunderbans (By Nature India)

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Suggested Travel Options:

From Mumbai to Kolkata & back (To be done by participants themselves)

By Air: We suggest you to book tickets for following flight:

Mumbai – Kolkata- 20th Feb 2020
Spicejet Flight No. SG – 241, Mumbai (5.15 hours) to Kolkata (7.50 hours) – Direct flight

OR any other flight which reaches Kolkata not later than 9.30 am

Kolkata – Mumbai – 23rd Feb 2020

Spicejet Flight No. SG – 6366, Kolkata (18.00hours) to Mumbai on 23rd Feb 2020 (20.50 hours)

OR any other flight that leaves Kolkata after 17:30 pm

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Planned Itinerary: (Kolkata to Kolkata)

Day 1. Thursday, 20th Feb, 2020: Arrive at Kolkata Airport in morning – proceed to Gadkhali by road (around 3.5 Hrs) in AC Vehicle – Transfer to boat from Gadkhali till Bidya Village, Gosaba – Lunch on Boat – Birding on the way during boat ride – -Reach Bidya village by evening – Overnight at J.D.camp Resort, Gosaba.

Day 2. Friday, 21st Feb, 2020: Morning departure from Bidya Village – Enter the Park from Sajnekhali – Start full day safari through Sunderbans –
We keep looking for the various mangrove species of birds such as Orange-breasted Green Pigeons, Kingfishers (Black-capped, Brown-winged, Pied, Collared, Common etc), White-bellied Sea Eagle, Mangrove Pitta, Mangrove Whistler, Changeable Hawk Eagle (dark morph), Lesser Adjutant and a variety of waders. We might also encounter other species like Marsh crocodiles, Spotted Deers, Wild Boars, water Monitor Lizards, Irrawaddy Dolphin, Variety of Crabs and if lucky, then an elusive “Mama or Uncle” (Bengal Tiger) – Breakfast and Lunch will be served fresh on the Boat itself – Overnight at J.D.camp Resort, Gosaba.

Day 3. Saturday, 22nd Feb, 2020: (Repeat of day 2) Morning departure from Bidya Village – Enter the Park from Sajnekhali – Start full day safari through Sunderbans –
We keep looking for the various mangrove species of birds such as Orange-breasted Green Pigeons, Kingfishers (Black-capped, Brown-winged, Pied, Collared, Common etc), White-bellied Sea Eagle, Mangrove Pitta, Mangrove Whistler, Changeable Hawk Eagle (dark morph), Lesser Adjutant and a variety of waders. We might also encounter other species like Marsh crocodiles, Spotted Deers, Wild Boars, water Monitor Lizards, Irrawaddy Dolphin, Variety of Crabs and if lucky, then an elusive “Mama or Uncle” (Bengal Tiger) – Breakfast and Lunch will be served fresh on the Boat itself – Overnight at J.D.camp Resort, Gosaba.

Day 4. Sunday, 23rd Feb, 2020: Depending on the time, we shall do some birding in a village near our resort for some interesting species including Dusky and Smoky Warblers, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Striated Babblers, Chestnut-tailed Starlings, Osprey etc –
start for Gadkhali around 10 a.m, and then drive to Kolkata airport reaching there by 4 p.m to catch a flight back home.

More details on the itinerary will be given to those who register….

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Trip charges : (Kolkata to Kolkata)

Rs. 23400/-

Includes Stay in Twin sharing basis in JD Resort, Bidya Village, Gosaba near Sajnekhali close to the park’s entrance, Pick-up & Drop in AC Winger from Kolkata Airport & back, Park entry charges, Full day Boat rides in  8 cylinder comfortable boat (with attached bathroom and roof) , local guide charges, All meals (Veg. / Non-Veg food), Articles on Sunderbans NP and bird checklist, on board mineral water and snacks………

This does not include any other charges and also any individual camera charges …. Individuals will have to pay additional charges if any to the forest dept. as per the rules.

Stay Arrangement: JD camp, Bidya Village, Gosaba (Non AC Twin Sharing stay) and travel by a fully motorized boat with attached bathroom.

 

Registration: You can register by sending a confirmatory mail to natureindiatours@gmail.com and by paying a non refundable Advance of Rs.12000/- after getting a registration mail from us. (The seats will only be confirmed after receiving the advance amount) …..the remaining amount can be sent by 1 month prior to departure……Please Register at the earliest as only 9 seats are available.

Resource Persons: Local Tracker & Expert, Mr. Adesh Shivkar and Mandar Khadilkar

Mode of Payment: You can either
1) Transfer the advance money directly to HDFC A/c : (Will be provided along with registration mail) …. please mention your name, date and other details….

OR

2) Courier a cheque of Rs.12,000/- to the address given in the registration mail

Please Note:

  1. Once registered, the advance amount of Rs. 12,000/- is strictly non-refundable
  2. Alcohol & Smoking is strictly prohibited on all Nature India Tours
  3. This is primarily a Wild-life watching trip
  4. Weather conditions: Weather in East is unpredictable and Nature India will not be responsible for any days lost due to bad weather.
  5. Kindly register on this trip only if you agree with Nature India‘s rules and policies
    http://natureindiapolicies.blogspot.in/2012/08/nature-india-policies.html

Please revert on natureindiatours@gmail.com ID, in case you need any clarification.

For any other queries we are available on 9930318665 / 8369427283 (Mandar) or 9820455713 / 9869071091 (Adesh)………

Hope to see you for this wonderful trip

Thanks for your patience.

Warm Regards,

Adesh Shivkar & Mandar Khadilkar
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