A realm of vastness,
A poetry on it's own,
Yet a story unknown.
A journey that could easily make you want to get off that boat, yet the peace that keeps you in place, Sundarban was one such love affair for us. A 3 hour journey by road from Kolkata and a 2 hour boat ride to our stay at Sundarban kept us longing for a great experience. Home to the mighty Royal Bengal Tiger, the infamous man eating tiger of the Mangroves. Although (and sadly enough), we did not have an encounter with the beast, we heard folklore and stories from the locals which made us feel its presence. I think it's the anticipation of seeing a tiger that makes it all the more exciting.
This blog again will be a photo blog, with little facts about the place. I think the folks of Sundarban write their own stories, and live their struggles everyday.
A boat ride for the locals costs a mere Rs.2 to get to one's destination. Some hands are clutching onto their umbrellas, while others have to run errands.
Life is not a rat race here. It is slow paced, and you get to see different shades of life.
Fishing encompasses majority of the survival means. The man-animal conflict arise due to the fishermen, crab collectors and honey collectors who wander into the deep and dark forests. Despite the intervention of the authorities, the conflicts continue on a regular basis. Fencing is done using Nylon nets which serves as a psychological barrier for the tigers. These nets are laid if there is a village nearby. A beast tamed by a mere net sounds surprising on its own.
The Mangroves are truly mesmerising. Their survival in the harsh and saline delta seems nothing short of a miracle.
After a 2 hour boat ride, we reached the Eco village where we would stay put for the night.
We then headed deep into Mangroves on a rowing boat. The river made a gentle sway and we were eagerly anticipating what would come next. Here are some of the scenes we witnessed from our little boat.
All species and animals here have to adapt to their environment. Seeing crabs on trees is something you will notice only in these regions. For us city dwellers, this is scary when you see yourself so close to a crab, but the locals are not disturbed by its presence at all.
After a bit of a struggle getting out of these inner waters, we managed to witness a beautiful sunset. The vastness is so inviting, you feel like a speck in front of the grandeur.
We got to witness the stories of Sundarban via the folk songs - Baul. The light was very bad so you will have to excuse the quality.
We did try some Astro photography. Failed attempt perhaps? Here are a couple of images nonetheless. We also have this debate of whether we could see the Milky way in these photos.
The next morning we bid adieu to Eco village and it's lovely and lively faces that kept us comfortable.
The quest of finding some unusual habitat was in store for the day. Unlike other forests across the country, this one has to be covered on a boat, there is no land safari. You do get to go into the forest watch towers by foot, but they are guarded from tigers. Sundarban is divided amongst the two neighbouring countries with the maximum coverage belonging to Bangladesh. The waters are also less saline in Bangladesh which makes it more habitable for wildlife. For now, we were going to be amidst the peace of the forests, except for the motor noises of our boat, of course.
These Saltwater Crocodiles can grow upto 20 feet in length. We saw one which was about 15 feet. Could you see that in the below image? The tides in Sundarban alter every 6 hours. So you have 4 tidal changes every day. These animals hunt and attack during low tide and go deep into the forest lands during high tides.
These waters also make for some abstract images.
As much as we were disappointed without sighting the Royal Bengal Tiger, we were happy enough to see some wildlife which justified the money we spent.
What excited us most was spotting a Red tailed Green Pit Viper. According to our guide, finding snakes is more difficult than finding tigers in Sundarban. That was quite a fascinating fact. The Pit Viper is a highly venomous snake. This slender and long snake was well camouflaged amidst the bushes and only a trained eye could spot it.
Sundarban is a vast expanse of over 20000 square kilometers of nature. The forest is named after the beautiful Sundari tree. It was a completely different experience altogether. Our trip can be summarised with this below shot taken at the Panchamukhi Point - The confluence of five rivers.
I sat, looking into an endless dream,
Heard tales of struggles and toil..
Of simplicity and care,
Smiles that moved cyclones,
Feet that swayed with the folklore,
The hands that clasped for the Goddess,
For protection from the royal beast,
All under the abundant stars of gleam..
Sneha and Vinod