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a walk on the wild side

Sunderban Wildlife, Calcutta

The rivers Ganga and Hoogly divide itself into many distibutaries towards the south of Calcutta. As it is about to merge into the sea the speed of water is reduced and the river deposits its silt. In due course, on the mouth of the rivers the accumulated silt takes the shape of islands. These are the famous Gangetic deltas. They provide an ideal environment and atmosphere for the Sundari trees to grow. Spread over an area of almost 10,000 sq kms (now shared by Bangladesh and India), they are home to many exquisite animals and birds. The area of 1330 sq kms has been declared as a national park by Indian Government.

The variety of the flora and fauna makes the pristine beauty of nature come to life. The Fleming Red flowers of Genwa, the crab like red flower of Khalsi add to the dazzling display of nature. This 'fairyland' is made fascinating by the millions of micro organism found on the fringes of the islands.

This area, once, was a paradise for tiger hunters. Tiger poaching was declared illegal by the government due to rapid fall in the Royal Bengal Tiger population and the area came under the Project Tiger. Tigers in Sunderbans is known to swim a record distance of 10 kms. They also hunt fish if hungry or steal honey from the bee hives. Though Sunderban tigers are described as man-eaters, specialists say they rarely attack human beings. Tigers are not the only attraction in Sunderbans, there are estuarine crocodiles and shy jungle cats or the fishing cats. The reptiles found in the forest includes the King Cobra, Rock Python and Water Monitor.

The olive ridley turtles descend to nest the shores of Kanak island, during the winters. The tigers can be easily spotted at the water holes at Sajnekhali, Sudhanyakhali, Netidhopani and Haldi. No permission is required for a general river cruise outside the core area and sanctuary . But there are particular places where permission will be required.

The best time to visit Sunderbans is during winters between September and March. There are regular bus services from Calcutta to this place. But the main areas of the sanctuary can only be accessed only by riverine waterways. The best and the safest way to visit Sunderbans is on conducted tours. One can also avail the services of the private vessels from Canning, Gosaba or Basanti. Accommodation in the sanctuary is available, in the comfortable tourist lodges. Sajnekahli has a 60 bed tourist lodge. Overnight facilities are also available at Bakkhali and Piyali.

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