A part of the world’s largest delta formed by the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna, the Sunderbans is a vast tract of forest and saltwater swamp stretching for about 160 miles along the Bay of Bengal from the Hooghly River Estuary in West Bengal to the Meghna River Estuary in Bangladesh. Sprawled over an area of 4262 sq. kms in India, Sunderbans is the largest estuarine sanctuary in the world, and habitat to some of India’s most amazing wildlife species.
The Sunderban Tiger Project was formed in 1974 and covers an area of 2585 sq. kms, of which the core area covers 1330 sq. kms and is a national forest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to the largest concentration of wild tigers in the world, the Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal received National Park status on May 4, 1984. The park comprises a network of estuaries, tidal rivers, and creeks intersected by many channels, with flat, marshy islands covered with thick forests in between. The littoral forest at the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve is the only ecological habitat of the tiger of its kind not only in India, but also worldwide except in Bangladesh.
Sunderbans -- the place that derives its name from Sundari trees has a wide variety of trees that typically thrive in estuarine conditions of high salinity, minimal soil erosion and frequent inundation by high tides. The tidal rivers and mangrove forests provide habitats suitable for animals inhabiting tidal swamp areas. Numerous aquatic and semi-aquatic animals inhabit these forests, with their life systems being interlinked with the animals thriving in the land areas.
Sunderbans is home to an amazing variety of wild animals including spotted deer, monkeys, wild pigs, herons, white bellied eagles, kingfishers and about 270 Royal Bengal tigers. Occasionally, tigers of Sunderbans have been known to be man-eaters. It is believed that the uniqueness of the habitat and the lack of suitable prey have resulted in such unique behavioral trends of Sunderbans tiger.
Besides the tiger, the reserve is home to diverse aquatic and reptile life forms including the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle, Green Turtle, Hawk's Bill Turtle, hard-shelled Batgur Terrapin, King cobra, Pythons, Chequered killback, Estuarine Crocodile, Monitor and lizards like the Salvator lizard to name a few. A number of Trans-Himalayan migratory birds can also be spotted at Sunderbans.
The best time to visit the Sunderbans Sanctuary and its surrounding region is from September to March.
Sunderban can only be accessed by waterways. There are several entry points to the Sunderbans, but the most popular and nearest railhead is at Port Canning, which is connected to Kolkata by suburban railway. Organized group trips start from Port Canning to reach Sunderbans.
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