Growing up I remember visiting the Circus during the winters. The visuals that continue to mesmerize me till date are that of the savage lions and tigers galloping through a fiery hula hoop. And since the Circus site was only 15 minutes away from my place, I could hear a faint roar of the majestic Wild Cats traveling through the wee hours of a nip-biting winter morning. Nothing excited me more than knowing that these wild, untamed beasts were roaming so close to me and this inspired me to become a Green Panther.
I always wanted to get a close glimpse of tigers and first-hand experience connecting with the mighty beasts.
Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night
However, it breaks my heart to read the numbers – the statistics that declare the gradual demise of this stalwart of a species – Tigers. An estimated population of 3890 wild cats is present in the world today. And a majority of the tigers are habituated in Asia only. And not more than 100 remain in Sundarban (India). Given their dwindling numbers, I had to act fast. So, I packed my bags and planned to head to Sundarbans – Home To These Majestic Felines.
Sundarbans – A magical mangrove and one of the largest in the World, is a bonafide UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Sundarbans is recognized as the largest reserves for the Royal Bengal Tiger. But having explored the jungle, I can vouch for the woodland for being more than an abode of the ferociously extraordinary beast. This wild and uncharted territory is home to crocodiles, jungle cats, pangolins, common grey mongoose and spotted deer.
Best Time To Visit
As a wanderlust, I had to meet my bucket list of places on Earth. And Sundarbans held the top spot. Mother Nature – like a true magician – transforms Sundarbans into a heavenly abode every season. But the best time to visit Sundarbans is during the monsoons.
You get to experience a poetic atmosphere – with drizzles of rain, seeping through the towering tropical trees, droplets of rain on the backwaters feel like a sequence of dancing aqua on the beats of a drum, the austere rustic aroma of the jungle, enthralling your mind, body, and soul. As I said, you will get revolutionized into an artist, who forever yearns to achieve the light of pure bliss, sincere life!
How to reach Sundarbans?
Sundarbans is a protected jungle, adorned with numerous tributaries, rivers, and similar waterways. There isn’t a direct road or track towards the mangrove. So, if you are thinking of driving or traveling via a train or bus to the jungle, then you’re royally mistaken. There is a single point of contact to access the jungle and that is Godkhali Port.
I got to entertain three options of reaching Sundarbans – A: By train, B: By Bus and C: By Car.
Traveling from Kolkata to Sundarbans – I calculated the complete Kolkata to Sundarban distance – which is approximately 102 kilometers 63.37 miles.
a) Train journey from Kolkata To Sundarban: Nearest railway station – Since Sundarbans does not have a railway station. The most preferred train journey options are the routes – Kolkata – Ghatakpukur – Malancha or Basanti – Godkhali – Goshaba. You can also take a train ride of about 1 hour, 20 minutes – from Sealdah Station to Canning (the last station). Get more information about Sealdah Station Schedules here. You can also opt for a train journey via Howrah Station.
However, Canning is the nearest railway station to Sundarbans – about 48 kilometers. You can choose Sealdah or Howrah Station to reach Canning and from there take a tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) or a bus to reach the Godkhali Port for the jetty ride.
b) The next option is reaching Sundarbans by bus. You can avail a bus ride from Howrah and opt for any bus ride that goes to Namkhali. Buses also ply by Canning to Namkhana. Howrah is only 17.7 kilometers from Kolkata, whereas, it’s 41 kilometers from Canning.
c)The final option is by a car drive – which I ultimately chose as my source of transportation to reach Sundarbans. It took me 4 hours to reach Godkhali Port. The roads were conveniently connected with valid roadway networks. And the ride was super smooth. However, try to rent a car, instead of driving your own. Because you will not be able to continue further down to the forest driving.
Whether you are traveling by bus, train or car, you can enter the jungle via motorboat services from Raidighi, Najat, Sonakhali, and Godkhali.
The Only Option of Accessing Sundarbans
Whether you choose a train, bus or car ride, you will ultimately have to use the boats or jetties from Godkhali port to enter the Jungle and its waterways. Thus, renting a car or hiring a car would be super convenient, along with hiring a trusted driver who is well-informed and acquainted with the roads.
Point to be noted: If you are traveling by car, make sure to leave super early to avoid traffic and congestion.
Where to stay at Sundarbans
After reaching Godkhali Ferry Ghat or Port you can take a launch, houseboat or boat ride to Gosaba – which is another gateway to the jungle. There are a few accommodation options available at Gosaba.
Staying At Sundarbans
You need to book for your source of accommodation in Sundarbans before anything else. It is not a last-minute task – something that you should avoid at all means. Sundarbans is a regular mangrove. The Forest Department of West Bengal manages the jungle. And thus there are a few rules and regulations to follow. You can talk to your hotel representative or tour manager to provide you with all the necessary details. However, it is a common requirement to carry your official identity proof and similar details. If you are a foreign national, you need to carry your passport and visa, along with other official identification and documents.
If you’ve booked a hotel or resort, you will have to rent a motorized boat to reach your place of accommodation. If you plan to stay in a launch or houseboat, then the concerning houseboat team members will attend to your requirements from the Port area itself.
Afloat On The Lap Of Mother Nature On A Houseboat
A planned trip from Kolkata to Sundarbans started aboard on the deck of a Rustically beautiful Houseboat. The weekend to the backwaters of Bengal – Biosphere Reserve that I got a chance to cruise through the narrow creeks, afloat on the lap of Mother Nature!
Why a Houseboat?
- Sundarban Houseboat packages include sightseeing and every type of itinerary that is required to experience Sundarbans to its core.
- The joy of cruising through the waterways of the jungle is beyond one’s imagination. And I did not want to let go of this opportunity.
- Being able to see the animals in their own natural habitat and not through cages was mesmerizing.
- The experience of seeing bright yellow eyes glaring back at you through the darkness of the jungle is a thrill which not many can experience.
- Getting a chance to enjoy the beauty of nature without having to give up on a few amenities.