Sundarbans – a visit to the wilderness
Sundarbans had been in our bucket list for a long time. Somehow it eluded us for some reason or the other, but this year we managed to squeeze a couple of days for a trip to the Sundarbans which finally turned to be quite a memorable event!
Our trip started from the Science City from where we boarded the bus. After travelling for over three hours, we reached Godkhali near Goasaba. From Godkhali, it was a boat ride followed by a van and then again by boat, we reached the village of Satjelia. It was going to be our stay for the night.
Satjelia – a word meaning the village of seven fishermen is a small village island. The homestay was located there – it was a picturesque location with the homestay in midst of an equally charming village. The people were also too friendly and helpful.
After a sumptuous lunch we went out for a walk of the village. We walked around the village for about an hour and then reached the jetty for another boat ride.
This boat ride was surely special. It was a small boat that took us through the creeks and mangroves. It was really a surreal experience to travel by a small boat in the vast water bodies and so near the mangrove forests. The dense forests had an eerie feel to it. There was not much sound except that of the mild splashing noise made by the oars of the boat.
The cranes were standing as if meditating on the muddy shores of the river. And our eyes were constantly going furtively towards the mangroves looking for the golden yellow colour hoping to be one of the few lucky ones! As the tide was waning, the boatmen took the boat out from the creeks to the main river. Sundarbans is all about the tide and the tiger – that was what our boatman had to say. After watching the sunset from the boat, we were back at the eco village.
The eco village had arranged a musical soiree in the evening bringing in local singers. They performed various local songs that made the evening immensely enjoyable. We had a group of musicians among us who joined the singers and it was a magical fusion of the indigenous harmonium and drum with the strums of guitar. And in this intoxicating atmosphere, “Hariya” – the local liquor, was arranged for us. What more could you ask for?
After such an enjoyable evening and dinner, we retired for the day. We have a long day on the next.
The next day we started early in the morning on a trawler boat. After obtaining the required permissions from Sajnekhali, our long journey through the wilderness started. Our journey towards the mangroves started with the “Para Siempre” (That’s what our boat was called!) sailing through the heart of the Gomdi river. The morning was so foggy that we could hardly see a few meters ahead of our boat. The cold wind blew against our cheeks making us tug our jackets close to us. As the boat moved through the vast stretches of rivers and rivulets bringing us close to the forests that are so dense. It gave us an eerie feeling, a feeling that we are being watched by those burning eyes of the creature who is so elusive.
The Sundarbans has its name derived from the “Sundari trees”, a pneumatophore which helps to bind the soil of Sundarbans. These trees are now declared endangered. From Gomdi, we took a route through various creeks and finally came to the confluence of rivers Gomdi, Bidya and Matla.
Sundarban is full of birds like kingfishers, egret, Brahmani eagles, pond heron, black cormorants, magpie robin, green bee eaters and many more.
We were also lucky to see deers, crocodiles, the rare water monitor lizard, wild boar and wild cat. Believe me, the thrill of seeing this animals in their natural habitat is much better that seeing them confined in a zoo.
By 12.00 noon we were at Dobanki watch tower. Dobanki watch tower is an interesting place. It is vast stretch of canopy walk about 20 ft above the ground. I felt that it was just the reverse of a zoo where the humans are caged and the wild animals roam about freely.
From Dobanki again our journey through the rivers started with the forests beside us. By 3.00 PM we were at Sudhanyakhali Watch Tower. Sudhanyakhali did not disappoint us. Just near the sweet water pond stood a deer with her fawn a little away. She was there to drink water. She was looking stealthily here and there oblivious of the fact that so many pair of eyes was watching her excitedly! As she came nearer, I realized that the deer was one of the most beautiful creatures. As we left Sudhanyakhali watch tower, our time to return to the city life had come.
The trip to the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest of India now came to an end. From the dense jungle, time had come to return to the concrete jungle. So bidding goodbye to the jungle and our new friends, we were back at Godkhali where buses were ready to take us back to Kolkata.
Sundarbans was a unique experience. It was a perfect combination of thrill, adventure as well as leisure. Though the King of Sunderbans did not appear before us, it was nevertheless memorable to spend two days in the villages and traversing the rivers of the place.
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