Sundarbans Mangrove Forest
The "Beautiful Jungle" of Bangladesh
The UNESCO World Heritage Siteof 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 inBangladesh 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.
Tourism in Sundarbans
The Sundarbans is of unique scientific and biological interest & offers opportunities for tourism, outdoor recreation, biological research and conservation education. Some areas in the forest have been earmarked as protected. No forestry operations are carried out in these areas, which support a rich concentration of wildlife as well as vegetation, which has not been disturbed for decades. The Sundarbans has excellent potential for tourism.
Main Festivals in Sundarbans Forest
Rash Mela Festival in Dubla Island
Dubla Rash Mela is not only a big fair for Sundarbans, it is undoubtedly one of the biggest fairs in the country. At the centre of the festival are twenty thousand temporary fishermen who are engaged in catching and drying fish on Dubla and nearby islands. In the Bangla month of Agrahayan every year, the fair continues for 3 days during full moon time. Dubla island stands on the Bay of Bengal and is a part of the Sundarban Forest. The fair on the Dubla island was started in 1923 by Hari Bhajan, a disciple of Thakur Hari Chand, The life of Hari Bhajan was very extraordinary. During his stay in Sundarbans for twenty four years, he lived on the fruits of the forest. He had many disciples in nearby villages. One of his notable works was to start the Dubla Rash Mela during the Rash Purnima. To celebrate the occasion and keep alive the memory of Thakur Hari Chand, the devotees, especially the fishermen of the Sundarbans, organise this five-day fair.This has become a grand occasion for many foreign tourists visiting the Sundarbans and people come from India as well. Around 40-50 thousand people join the celebrations every year. Handicrafts and precious wooden items are put on sale.
Honey Collection Festival in Sundarbans Forest
People who look to do real adventure in Bangladesh, I thing the best adventure is to go for Honey festival trip. Every year, first day of April in Burigoyalini forest (Western part of Sundarbans) is arranging a festivals with honey gathers I went with (Bengal Tours Ltd, seems the only company is doing this trip for photographers) to the Honey collection trip twice in my life, every moment every place when you go to find and collect honey with the honey collectors; you never know what’s going to happen.
In the western part of sundarbans, about 400 families are depending on honey collection. The forest department arrange cultural program, when the allow two months to collect wild honey from the forest, some of them also become the victims of tiger, in the western part of the sundarbans, tiger is killing humans. The character of the forest is very bushy type, so when you are walking I have a fear of tiger and the bee bites.
In my last trip, I joined a group of photographers from Khulna, we cruise about six seven hours to reach Burigoyaliin forest offices, the night before festival. Next day first half of the morning was thousands of people with colorful program with official procedure to getting the permission of the forest. Afternoon, we went inside of the forest with a group with honey collectors; they fired some hand bombs to frightening the tigers. We have dressed with full slips and head with cup and net to protect from the bites. But it is quite impossible to save you from bees because when the cut the bee heaves bees started to attach and sometimes it can be worse. So it’s really wise to stay steady and stay close to the smoke. The honey collators first search for the bee heaves and then when the find one, the make a smoke to thrive the bees away. The unique thing is, the never get bee bites; it is adventurous with rise because it is always a unknown forest and people just come for two months to cut honey from this forest. It is just a unique experience .