From March 12-16, I went on a tour of Sundarban with Guide Tours. It was a fantastic experience, a lifelong memory.
March 12, 8am: Leave Narayanganj for Mongla on MV Aboshor, Guide's largest boat.
March 13, 10am: Arrive Mongla and transfer to ML Bonbibi, a smaller Guide boat.
March 13, noonish: Arrive Chandpai (Bagerhat dist.)
March 13, lunch: Group meets with Adam Barlow of Tiger Project who lives in Chandpai
March 13, afternoon: Explore Chandpai village
March 13, 4:30pm: Leave Chandpai to enter Sundarban, down the Poshur (aka Rupsha) river
March 13, 8pm(?): anchor for the night.
March 14, 6:30am: get on a small boat and explore a side canal, up and down
March 14, 9 am: head deeper into Sundarban
March 14, afternoon: stop and explore Harbaria Eco Tourism Center
March 14, night: anchor in Mongla
March 15, 6am: board the paddleboat ship PS Mahsud (Rocket) for Sadarghat
March 16, 5:30am: arrive Sadarghat.
Sundarban is 6047 square kms (Bd part). It was first protected by the British in the nineteenth century. It is composed of Reserve Forests (ie, places from which people can extract products with Forest Department supervision) and also Sanctuaries (where people cannot extract anything.) Bangladesh Sundarban was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Five million people live in areas bordering Sundarban, and most of them make their living from the forest.
The only practical way to get into Sundarban is by boat.
Sundarban contains between 350-500 Royal Bengal Tigers, one of three largest concentrations in the world. It contains 20 of the 50 known mangrove species. Hundreds of other types of trees, animals, birds, fishes and insects make their home here.
It is a truly magical place.
During this trip I saw chital horin (deer), shushuk (Gangetic dolphin), iraboti (Irawaddy dolphin), monkeys (rhesus macaque), mudskippers (a fish which climbs trees), the rare Masked Finfoot bird, several varieties of kingfisher, Shikra (a bird of prey), boro bok (great egret) and several types of crabs. I must have seen another two or three dozen types of birds but I don't have their names.
I saw tiger prints (pugmarks) in several places, including the backyard of a home where a dog had been taken away recently.
Among many trees, I saw Golpata (nypa palm), Keora, Baen, Gamar, Kakra, Poshur and of course the Sundari. If you are into trees, you will immediately notice the different greenery than other parts of Bangladesh, as well as the mangrove roots.
The trees were really beautiful. But I was surprised that the canopy was not so high - maybe 75-100 feet(?) At the banks the trees were shorter, and behind, inland, you could see taller trees, particularly Sundari.
Our group met with Adam Barlow, working on the Sundarban Tiger Project, and heard about his experiences of collaring and tracking two tigers, as well as his thoughts on man-tiger conflict.
The two Rockets are the only working paddle steamers in the world. We had cabins in the first class, where a spacious deck gives you beautiful views of the river and surrounds. Lots of dolphins on the Meghna. Food was good.
Many thanks to Mikey Leung for arranging the trip. Very special thanks to Elisabeth Monsur, our guide, whose encyclopaedic Sundarban knowledge made this trip so meaningful. Thanks also to the captains and crew of all three boats who were always helpful and cooperative.
Next time you come to Bangladesh, don't miss Sundarban. If you cannot afford five days, I understand that Guide offers a 3-day version if you fly in and out of Jessore.
Guide Tours Contact Info: 880-2-9862205; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.guidetours.com