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National Park West Bengal, Bird Watching, Royal Bengal Tiger( Panthera tigris), Mangrove Plants, Bhagabatpur, Netidhopani, The Sajnekhali Sanctuary

 

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Sundarban National Park – Call of the Wild

   

Gear up for tracking the tigers in the wilderness. The upcoming season is an exciting one for all the adventure lovers. No matters what’s the age. What I believe is, one need not be young to enjoy some of the things that seem so intimidating. There are many options within range that can add zing to life. Even a simple walk through the national park can be an exhilarating experience.

A tiger trail
is an experience in itself. Powerful and stealthy, the tiger is the largest and heaviest of the cat family and much feared by other animals and humans alike. The Bengal tiger has the classic orange and black tiger’s coat. It patrols its own territory and usually hunts alone, stalking its prey or killing it by ambush. Immensely strong, it can bring down animals much larger than itself. Once common throughout Asia, the Bengal tiger is now restricted to small areas India and the surrounding countries.

India has some of the world’s top end national parks and wildlife sanctuaries whose area extends several thousands of square kilometers and where wildlife can be observed in its natural surroundings. One such national park is the Sundarban National Park in West Bengal. Where the land meets the sea at the southern tip of West Bengal lies the Indian Sunderbans, with a series of densely forested islands and saline water channels, Sundarbans is home to Royal Bengal Tiger( Panthera tigris ) along with the spotted deer’s, wild pigs, Wild boars, Porcupines, Rhesus macaque, herons, kingfishers and white-bellied eagles.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sunderbans is a vast area covering 4264 square km in India alone, with a larger portion in Bangladesh. Sundarbans National Park in India is one of the world's largest deltas and the mangrove forest formed by the confluence of three rivers- the Ganga, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna- covering an area of 2,585 sq km wildlife sanctuary, which forms the largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in India.

A paradise for birdwatchers. There are about 248 bird species found in Sunderban national park including a large number of migratory birds from higher latitudes that visits the park in winter months. The list includes such rarities as the Masked Finfoot, Mangrove Pitta, Mangrove Whistler, Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Storks, Green Pigeons, Sand Pipers, Large and Small Spoonbills, Darters, Seagulls, Teal, Partridges, great variety of Wild Geese and Ducks.

   

Myth or Fact The Sundarban National Park got its name from one of the mangrove plants known as Sundari (Heritiera Minor). In the Sundarban area of India some people believe that, as tigers attack from behind, you can prevent this by wearing a mask showing a face on the back of your head. It is believed that Bonbibi, 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'.

Other attractions The Sajnekhali Sanctuary : The wide variety of birds at Sajnekhali sanctuary captivates your eyes for sure.

Netidhopani :
At Netidhopani, the ruins of a 400-year-old temple tell a tale of its own adding mystery to the surroundings.


Bhagabatpur : Bhagabatpur is renowned for having a hatchery of the largest estuarine crocodiles in the world.

Kanak : Kanak is the nesting place for the Olive Ridley Turtles.

Holiday Island: The last habitat of the Barking Deer in India is the Holiday Island thronged by the tourists every year.

Piyali: A perfect picnic destination - Piyali is the main gateway of Sundarbans, near Kolkata and Sajnekhali, Sudhanyakhali, Netidhopani through waterways. A small river Piyali criss crosses the green paddy fields and joins river Matla.

When to Visit The best time to visit Sunderbans is during winters between December and February. Although the park is open for longer from September to March. The possibility of observing the mighty Royal Bengal Tiger enhances in the winter season when one can watch the King of Jungle sun-bathing on the banks of the river. This is the period when the maximum migratory birds are also present here.

Entry Permit
The entry point to Sunderban Tiger Reserve is either Sonakhali via Canning, or Bagna via Dhamakhali. For visiting South 24 Parganas Forest Division, on the western part of river Matla, the entry points are Namkhana, Raidighi or Jharkhali via Canning/Basanti.. Entry Permits are available at Canning, Sonakhali and Bagna for STR and at Canning, Namkhana and Raidighi for Western part of Sunderban Forest .

 

The foreign tourists willing to observe the tigers and implement the Tiger Projects and visit the Sajnekhali, have to obtain the special permits for entry into the Sundarbans National Park. The tourists should contact the Secretary, West Bengal Forest Department, Writer's Blidge, Kolkata - 700001, on request.

Getting there
By Air : Dum Dum Airport - Kolkata is the nearest airport is at a distance of 112 kms from the Sundarbans National Park.

By Rail : The nearest railhead is Canning, 48-kms away from the Sunderbans National Park. From Kolkata there are suburban trains to Canning and road transport to Namkhana, Raidighi, Sonakhali and Najat from where Motor launch services are available for Sundarbans.

By Road :
The excellent road network connects Namkhana to Kolkata, Sonakhali (100-kms), Raidighi (76-kms), Canning (64-kms), and Najat (92-kms), all lying nearby the Sunderbans.

Cruises : The tourists can hire a cruise in the riverine waterways from different places covering different stretches.

1. From Namkhana - Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project (2.5 hours) Sagar Island (2.5 hours) Jambudweep (3.5 hours)
2. From Sajnekhali - Sudhanyakhali (40 minutes) Buridabri (Tiger Project Area) (5 hours) Netidhopari (3.5 hours) Holiday Island (3 hours)
3. From Sonakhali - Gosaba (1 hour)
4. From Raidighi - Kalas (5 hours)

Contributing Writer:  Swapnil Gunjal, Travel Writer swapu02@rediffmail.com

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