The Sundarbans National Park is a national park, tiger reserve, and biosphere reserve in West Bengal, India. Park is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger, a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile.
The present Sundarbans National Park was declared as the core area of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in 1973 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1977. On 4 May 1984 it was declared a national park. It is one of the last preserves of the Royal Bengal tiger and the site of a tiger conservation project, is home to the largest number of wild tigers in the world.
The core area of 1,330 sq km has been declared a Wildlife Sanctuary and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Flora and Fauna:
The mangrove vegetation of Sundarbansconsists of 64 plant species with the capacity to withstand estuarine conditions and saline showering on account of tidal effects. In the month of April and May the flaming red leaves of the Genwa (Excoecariaagallocha) the crab-like red flowers of the Kankra (Bruguieragymnorrhiza) and the yellow flowers of Khalsi (Aegicerascorniculatum) can be seen. Some of the other commonly found plants and trees in the park are Dhundal (or cannonball mangrove, Xylocarpusgranatum), Passur (Xylocarpusmekongensis), Garjan (Rhizophora spp.), Sundari (Heritierafomes) and Goran (Ceriopsdecandra).
Sunderbans is the largest estuarine delta in the world and the land is split by numerous rivers and water channels all emptying into the Bay of Bengal. Sundarbans National Park is the biggest home to tigers, and tiger here has adapted well to its habitat. As per the local saying goes, `here the tiger is always watching you’.
Reptiles: The Sunderbans offers important habitat for a variety of reptiles including river terrapin (Batagur baska E), Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea E), estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus E), monitor lizard (Varanus flavescens), water monitor (Varanus salvator) and Indian python (Python molurus V).
The only species of turtle known to nest in the Sunderbans is the Olive Ridley but hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) has also been caught in fishermen’s nets. The creeks are spawning grounds for some 90 species of fish, 48 species of crabs and a large variety of molluscs.
Birds: Birds include osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Pallas’s fish eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), grey-headed fishing eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), Oriential hobby (Falco severus), northern eagle owl (Bubo bubo) and brown fish owl (Ketupa zeylonensis).
Other attractions: Other interesting places in the area include Netidhopan, which has the ruins of a 400-year-old temple, Holiday Island, which is a retreat of the barking deer and Kanak, which is the nesting place of Olive Ridley Turtles. Piyali is 72 km from Calcutta and is a gateway to the Sunderbans. It is being developed as a tourist complex.
Best time to Visit:
The region has a tropical climate with hot summers and cold winters. Maximum and minimum temperatures during the summer are 42°C and 37°C respectively. In winters, the maximum and minimum temperatures are 29°C and 9.2°C respectively.
How To Reach:
Air: Dum Dum (166kms), is the nearest airport at Calcutta.
Rail: The nearest railhead is at Canning, 48 km away. The nearest town is Gosaba, 50 km away.
Sunderbans is accessible only by riverine waterways. From Calcutta there are suburban trains to Canning and buses to Namkhana, Raidighi, Sonakhali and Najat from where motor launch services are available for Sunderbans.
Road: Means of road transport are available from Calcutta for the places like Namkhana (105 km), Sonakhali (100 km), Raidighi (76 km), Canning (64 km), and Najat (92 km), which are all near the Sunderbans and have access to the riverine waterways leading to it.
West Bangal, India
Tiger, Crocodile, Olive Ridley Turtle