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The swamp tiger, the man eaters, world's largest mangrove delta... there are numerous tags which point to just one name, 'the Sunderbans'. A huge protected area spanning more than 10,000 sq. km. of untamed swampy wilderness forming the delta of the River Ganges. It is spread in both Bangladesh and India. The Ganges before it meets the sea, forms numerous channels of murky water ways and islands covered in mangroves, tiger palm and is inhabited by plethora of wildlife. Some islands have human population as well. There are said to be more than 400 tigers living in the jungles here, more than half of which are known man eaters. Sunderbans is one of the most exciting destinations that we covered on the Prayaan India Overland's 61 days Delhi to Gangtok trip. Finishing up with the beaches in southern West Bengal we reached Kolkata. It is one of the busiest and craziest cities in India and reaching late in the afternoon, we were extremely tired and hence retired to our rooms. The next morning Sunderban adventure was to begin. Everyone woke up early. We met our guide who was to be with us the whole time in Sunderbans and left the maddening Kolkata behind. But the traffic madness was not going to end soon. It took us another 2 long hours to reach our jetty at Godkhali, negotiating on the way things like, cars, buses, trucks, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, bicycles, bikes, people, kids, cows, goats, sheep, vegetables(yes), chicken, fish (yes we don't lie), speed bumps... ohh god knows what else!! But we made it to the houseboat. This houseboat named Flotel Banzara was to be our home for the next 3 days. Although not a 5 star luxury, it had pretty much everything that one needs to be comfortable in the middle of Sunderbans. It featured a clean western toilet(with toilet paper), a shower, beds, a top viewing deck, a kitchen with good cooks, 2 skippers and guides. The boat guys had already stocked the boat with all the supplies, and as soon as we settled down, the boat left the jetty. We had to get our permits for the entry in the Sunderbans tiger reserve. This was all sorted out quickly. On the way we saw several boats loaded with people ferrying them from one side to the other. As we were leaving the villages and entering the jungle, we came across our first wildlife, a Bengal monitor and some mud skippers. The very first encounter with this wilderness was very appealing. We began our search for the ever elusive swamp tigers. We all knew that for seeing a tiger here we will need all our luck. Keeping a lookout for the big cat, we enjoyed everything that came our way. Sunderbans has amazing bird life. We had an amazing sunset that evening and then moved towards Bali island where the boat was to be anchored for the night. The skipper told us that we will be anchoring in the middle of a wide water channel so that we stay away from the mosquitoes. The place where we were anchored was just outside of the tiger reserve and was a busy water way. Whole night we were passed by cargo ships from Bangladesh ferrying fly ash. The next morning we all woke up determined to track the big cat. The kitchen guys had to replenish fresh water and some other supplies, after which we set off again to explore the creeks and channels. It was quite a pleasant morning and birds were very active. We recorded several species which were new for us. Some glimpses of the life on the houseboat: We also got to spend some time watching these amazing creatures called mud skippers. On the very last day after we all had thought that tiger sighting is just not going to happen, we were slowly cruising out of Sunderbans. On one of the bends someone spotted a lesser adjutant stork. With some time in our hand we decided to pull the boat to the bank and get some good shots. As we turned the first word that most of us heard was TIGER!! TIGER!! ..Where ?? Where??? There??? where?? Under the tree?? which tree??? That tree... small one... There it was... A swamp tiger .. sitting and watching us in all its glory... First few secs was all a mess... then some of us managed to frame a few shots before it was lost!! This pic was take by our trip leader for sunderbans - Saumyajit Nandy We had an amazing experience at Sunderbans! We loved it so much that we are already looking forward to visit again as part of the http://www.prayaanindiaoverland.com/61days_camping_tour.html trip in the coming Nov.
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