Sundarbans National Park Kolkata Entry Fee
- 60 per person for Indians
- 200 per person for International Tourists
Sundarbans National Park Kolkata Phone
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Sundarbans National Park Address: Dayapur, Gosaba, West Bengal, 743370, India
Declared as a UNESCO heritage site in 1987, the Sundarbans National Park is World’s largest mangrove belt and largest delta which is home to the famous Royal Bengal Tigers. It makes up the largest population of Bengal tigers and thus Sundarbans National Park is the most famous tiger zone in the world.
The Sundarbans delta is formed by two largest rivers, The Ganges and The Brahmaputra which later converge into the Bengal basin. The delta is spread across an area of 10,000 square kilometres approximately, between both India and Bangladesh, out of which, 4624 square kilometres (40% of the total area) lies in India with 102 islands. Only 54 out of the 102 islands are inhabited and rest covered with forest.
Apart from being home to the Royal Bengal Tigers, the Sundarbans National Park is also home to numerous species of birds, reptiles, and saltwater crocodiles. The national park got its name from the mangrove plants called Sundari (Heritiera Minor) which grow in abundance here. The name Sundarban literally translates to ‘beautiful forest’ and is 10 times the size of the city of Venice.
Being home to the largest reserve of tigers, the national park is also famous for Monitor Lizard, Estuarine Crocodile and the Olive Ridley Turtle. The Indian park holds a conservation programme for the Olive Ridley Turtles. The forest is also home to other mammalian species like Leopard, Indian Rhinoceros, Javan Rhinoceros, Swamp Deer, Hog Deer and Water Buffalo etc.
The Sundarbans National Park has also been listed in the final list of New 7 Wonders of Nature.
History of Sundarbans National Park
As one digs up the history of Sundarbans, facts come to the fore that can be traced back to 200- 300 AD. This mangrove delta and swamp is the result of three large rivers merging at one point – the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna thereby making it the world’s largest estuarine sanctuary.
What today is considered as the world’s largest mangrove forest and has been declared to be the UNESCO World Heritage site, was once a shelter for refugees during the 13th Century. Later, Shah Shuja, the second son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, who was also the governor of Bengal and Odisha, started treating the mangrove forest as a source of revenue in 1658. This was done by leasing out the lands to residents who later settled in communities. These settlements were attacked by salt smugglers and Portuguese invaders and all that remains today of the settlements are ruins, mostly concentrated at Netidhopani.
As the presence of the East India Company started overpowering the Mughals in East India, the mangrove forest of Sundarban along with the lands of 24 Parganas was taken over by Lord Clive and made his jagir (property) in 1737.
For the first time, the Sundarbans had been declared as a protected forest during December 1878 and was leased out by the East India Company to carry out cultivation although the boundaries of the remaining forest area were fixed. The remaining part of the forest was declared as protected forest in 1928 and Reserved forest in 1943. The headquarters of the Sundarbans Forest Division was in Khulna, Bangladesh before India’s independence. Post-independence, the headquarters was shifted to Alipore, Kolkata.
Sundarbans National Park was declared as a Tiger Reserve in 1973 and was declared as a WildLife Sanctuary in 1977. The wildlife sanctuary was then declared to be a National Park in 1984, followed by being declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
Topography and Landscape of Sundarbans National Park
The mudflats of Sundarbans are located at estuaries on the deltaic islands with low velocity of tidal currents. Being exposed during low tides and being submerged during high tides, the morphology of the mudflats keeps changing due to the action of the tides and erosion.
The estuarine delta of the Sundarbans is formed by a network of seven major rivers and numerous smaller water bodies. All water bodies eventually run southwards into the Bay of Bengal. Today, about half of the Sundarbans land is underwater and the remaining landscape is low lying mud banks and alluvial soil islands. The coasts are made of sandy beaches and dunes. The soil of Sundarbans is alkaline due to excess sodium chloride.
Places to visit within Sundarbans National Park
1. Sajnekhali Watch Tower: Due to its location close to most of the tourist resorts of Sundarbans, the Sajnekhali Watch Tower is quite famous among the travelers. Apart from offering spectacular views of the forest itself, this watch tower is also famous for lending sightings of the most exotic birds. This is quite famous among bird lovers, bird watchers and photographers.
Some of the exotic birds that can be viewed from here are pelicans, sandpipers, kingfishers, curfews and many more. The capacity of the watch tower is 20. The timings are between 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM with a minimal entry fee.
2. Marichjhanpi: Among the few islands situated inside the vicinity of the mangroves, Marichjhanpi is known as the island of atrocities due to the infamous 1979 Marichjhanpi massacre. It is the setup of the famous Amitav Ghosh novel, ‘The Hungry Tide’.
3. Burirdabri Cage Trail and Mud Walk: It is famous for a walk on the muddy forest floor of the mudflats of Sundarbans where tourists encounter several small species of fauna that dwell in the muddy ecosystem. There is a watchtower that overlooks Bangladesh and the border is lined by Raimongal river, separating the two countries and is one of the many rivers in the Sundarbans National Park.
This place is easily accessible from the Dhamakhali Sandeshkhali entry points and the boat ride is pretty amazing as the route passes through Arbesi and jhila Beats of Bagna and Bashirhat range.
4. Hiron Point: If you are a person who is in love with dotted deer, and nothing else excites you as much as a sighting of dotted deer, then a visit to Hiron Point within the Sundarbans National Park becomes a must. As the name itself suggests, ‘Hiron’ means ‘Deer’ in Bengali and Hiron point is a place to walk alongside a flock of deer.
The place is also recommended for frequent sightings of the Royal Bengal Tiger. The entry timings to the sanctuary are between 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM with a small amount as an entry fee.
5. Ghoramara Island: The Ghoramara island is one of the many islands bearing the brunt of climate change. The continuous erosion of the land area and rise in sea levels has left the size of the island to remain roughly five square kilometres in area and a total population of 3000.
6. Kanak Sanctuary: Kanak Sanctuary is famous for its clear shallow coastal waters and that is something that the tourists visiting Sundarbans come here for. However, there is one another thing that people from far away places come here for – the famous Olive Ridley Turtles. The Kanak Sanctuary is majorly a sanctuary for these species to breed.
Anyone interested in wildlife and conservation would love visiting Kanak Sanctuary during the turtle hatching season which is usually between March and April. The sanctuary visiting hours are between 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM and also requires a minimal amount of entry fee.
7. Netidhopani: The watch tower of Netidhopani offers spectacular views of the Sundarbans forest with occasional sightings of the Royal Bengal Tigers. Visit to the ancient Shiva temple is most recommended. There is no additional entry fee here and can be visited between 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
8. Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuary: The sanctuary is famous for its wildlife that includes rhesus macaques, olive ridley turtles, estuarine crocodiles, spotted deer, jungle cats and many more.
9. Tin Kona Island: As its name suggests, the Tin Kona Island is triangular in shape and hence the name. The shape of the island is attributed by its location of being situated near the estuary rivers, ‘Pashur’ and ‘Mora Pashur’. The island is a great place for regular sightings of the famous Royal Bengal Tiger, especially by the shore of ‘Mora Pashur’ river.
10. Sudhanyakhali Watch Tower: With a capacity of 25 people at one go, the Sudhanyakhali Watchtower is the best place to get sightings of crocodiles, spotted deer, wild boars and most water animals. The entry to the watch tower includes a reasonable fee and is open to tourists between 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
11. Haliday Island WildLife Sanctuary: Situated close to the Matla River, the Haliday Island WildLife Sanctuary is spread across an area of 6 square kilometer which is a part of the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve. The sanctuary is rich in animal diversity like rhesus macaque, barking deer, wild boars and many others, not to mention the variety of fishes in the Matla river. The visiting hours are between 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM and there is a minimal entry fee.
12. Bhagabatpur Crocodile Sanctuary: Being the only crocodile project of the state of West Bengal, the Bhagabatpur Crocodile Sanctuary marks to be an important tourist destination. This place is the only place where the Batagur Baska species of tortoise and estuarine crocodiles hatch. The hatchery attracts many tourists and travelers to the sanctuary every year, mostly being wild life lovers and photography enthusiasts. The visiting hours are between 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM with a minimal fee.
13. Piyali River Island: The Piyali River Island is surrounded by the Piyali River and the Matla River. In fact, the Piyali river passes straight through the island before getting flown into the Matla river. There is a bridge over the Piyali River for smooth commuting to the island. The main attractions on the island are paddy fields, mangrove jungles, and the village. The travelers are encouraged to go for a boat ride on the tranquil Piyali river, or engage in bird watching or nature walk.
If anyone wishes to stay on the island, there is a tourist lodge that supports most of the basic infrastructure needs of any tourist or traveler and is best suited for overnight stay.
14. Kalashdweep: Kalashdweep literally translates to Kalash Island and is located in the South 24 Parganas part of the Sundarbans National Park by the estuary of Matla river. This island also serves as the nesting and breeding ground of Olive Ridley turtles during summers. For bird watchers and bird lovers, this island would be an apt place to get sightings of uncommon waders and great stone curlews in abundance. The entry to Kalashdweep is from Kalash camp of the forest department.
15. Henry’s Island: Named after the man who had surveyed the land of Sundarbans during the late 19th Century, Henry’s Island is a quiet place and can be covered on foot through a stretch of mangrove forest and small bamboo bridges. Apart from the Sundari trees, there are gora, kankru, palm and hetal trees on this island.
16. Bakkhali: Located on one of the many deltaic islands of the Sundarbans, Bakkhali island is famous for its crescent shaped beach which offers excellent views of both sunrise and sunset. Visitors can cycle their way across the length of the beach apart from beach walks.
17. Frasergunj: At a distance of two kilometres north of Bakkhali island lies the Frasergunj island and both are called twin towns. The island is named after Andrew Fraser, who had once tried to build a resort on the beach of Frasergunj but failed as the waves kept crashing and ruining his construction. The ruins still stand on the island.
Location of Sundarbans National Park
The Sundarbans National Park is spread across two districts of North and South 24 Parganas of the Eastern State of West Bengal in India.
Flora and Fauna at Sundarbans National Park
The ecosystem of the Sundarbans mangrove is home to over 1586 species of fauna that includes mammals, reptiles and birds. The earlier mammalian fauna family also included animals like barking deer, buffalo, barasingha, Javan Rhino, leopards and many more as per the old records of the mangrove forest. However, these were locally extinct due to habitat changes as humans started invading the forest lands.
Mammals: The major crowd puller to the Sundarbans is the famous Royal Bengal Tiger, which happens to be the largest clan of mammals, the top most predator of the mangrove forest ecosystem. The Sundarban mangroves are the only mangrove ecosystem in the world that is home to tigers apart from the Bangladesh part of the mangrove forest.
The Sundarban tigers are known for being excellent swimmers, have adapted well to the saline water of the national park and are known to be man eaters.
In addition to tigers, the other mammalian fauna includes leopards, fishing cats, small Indian civet, rhesus macaque, cheetal, black finless porpoise, wild boar, and many more.
Apart from the above mentioned, the interesting members of the Sundarban fauna are dolphins. They include both Gangetic and Irrawaddy.
Reptiles: The Estuarine Crocodile is one of the most famous reptile species present in the mangrove ecosystem of Sundarbans National Park. It is to be noted that the Estuarine Crocodile is an endangered species found in the rivers and waterways here. The crocodiles come out to bask under the sun on the mudflats, especially during the winters. As they are endangered, there has been a crocodile conservation project which is conducted in Bhagabatpur crocodile sanctuary.
Apart from crocodiles, the other reptile species that dwell in the mangrove ecosystem are snakes, turtles, river terrapin and water monitor lizard. The snakes are the second largest in population after crocodiles in Sundarbans and they include – King cobra, common cobra, Russel’s viper, Indian Python, Rat Snake, Common Krait, Green Whip Snake, Chequered keelback, etc.
The turtles include both freshwater turtles and sea turtles. The fresh water turtles include flapshell turtle, spotted pond turtle and soft- shelled turtle. The sea turtles include olive ridley, hawksbill and green sea turtles.
Avi Fauna: With a total of around 210 species of birds, Sundarbans claims to be rich in avi fauna which also include migrant birds that flock here during the winter months. The major species of avi fauna in this mangrove ecosystem are sandpipers, spoonbills, whimbrels, stilts, thick knees, curlew, green shanks, etc.
Among the raptors around Sundarbans, the population includes crested serpent eagle, brahminy kite, White bellied sea eagle, Osprey, short toed eagle, oriental honey buzzard, etc. Among the herons, there are grey herons, purple herons, pond herons, night herons and goliath herons which are very rare to sight. Other species of birds found here are egrets, cuckoos, cormorants, seagulls, green pigeons, sunbirds, a variety of ducks, geese and storks. The majority population of storks include the Lesser Adjutant stork.
Also known to be Kingfisher’s paradise, there are 10 different species of Kingfishers out of the total number of 12 species of kingfishers found in the country.
The other variety of avian species found here include peregrine falcons, woodpeckers, Eurasian whimbrels, black-tailed godwits, little stints, rose ringed parakeets, paradise-flycatchers, eastern knots, curlews, golden plovers, northern pintails, white-eyed pochards and whistling teals.
Fishes and crustaceans: The several rivers, small water bodies and creeks of the Sundarbans are rich in fish, crabs, molluscs, sea anemones, horseshoe crabs and small octopus. The variety of fish species in the water bodies of Sundarbans include both regular as well as endangered ones like Shark and Rays like the Ganges shark, White spotted shovel nosed guitar fish, Pondicherry shark, etc.
The more common species of Sharks and Rays include Bull Shark, Indian dog Shark, Black tip Shark, Hammer headed Shark, Black edged Sting Ray, Pale edged Sting Ray, etc. There are amphibious mud skipper fish like the Peripthalmus, and Boleopthalmus, which are seen near jetties and mud banks quite frequently.
Apart from the above, the commonly known fish species found at Sundarbans also include topshey, bhetki, hilsa, parshey, pomfret and gurjali.
The crustacean family includes prawns and crabs. The prawns are a good source of revenue as they make good commodities in the export market, especially the King prawns. Among the crabs, ghost crabs and fiddler crabs are found commonly in the Sundarbans mangrove forest ecosystem and among horseshoe crabs (trilobites) family, there are only two species which are the most primitive ones found here. These are - Tachepleursgygus and Carcinoscropius rotundicauda. They are highly endangered species and are considered to be living fossils.
Having gotten its name from the Sundari tree which is found in abundance, the Sundarbans are home to this exquisite variety of mangrove tree.
Being home to an estuarine ecosystem, the vegetation in Sundarbans is mostly that of floodplains mangrove, growing in the loose muddy alluvial soil swamped twice by the tidal waters. The anatomy of the trees and plants in mangrove vegetation have modified and have adapted to the highly changing environmental conditions.
The roots of these plants are stilt like, specialized to support. They also have specialized breathing roots which bear lenticles for gaseous exchange and are called pneumatophores. The high salt content in the soil makes the leaves succulent. The mangrove ecosystem is highly suitable for the dwellings of both fin and shell fishes.
Activities to do at Sundarbans National Park
Due to the unique landscape, Sundarbans National Park only offers boat safaris and no jeep safaris. The safari timings are usually between 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. The safari and cruise packages range from budget to luxury to be affordable for people from all walks.
Boat Safari: The boat safaris are arranged and operated by the government in boats both small and large in sizes. The small boats for a smaller time and the large boats used in boat safaris are for a longer duration. Visitors can select from both AC and non-AC boats. These boat safaris can be booked a day earlier.
Cruise: There are one- night and two- night cruises arranged by the government and can accommodate a group of 50 people at one time.
The two- night cruise covers Sudhanyakhali, Sajnekhali, Jhingakhali, and Dobanki watchtowers. The one- night cruise is a little cheaper as compared to the two- night cruise and it covers Sudhanyakhali, Sajnekhali, and Dobanki watchtowers. Jhingakhali is excluded from the one- night cruise.
These cruises are usually carried out in two boats namely- Chitralekha and Sarbajaya. Sarbajaya is famous between the two. The cruises start from Kolkata and the end point is Kolkata.
The cruises can be booked online on the West Bengal Tourism website and the cost depends on whether one books a berth in lower deck (INR 4,840) or AC (INR 7,700) or non-AC (INR 6,050) or cabin (INR 6,600) or cabin (INR 14,850) for couples.
Private Boat Safari: A one- day private boat safari starts at 8:00 AM and is completed by 5:00 or 5:30 PM. This costs INR 950 per person with an additional cost of INR 600 for an overnight stay. The charges are all inclusive which includes stay and food along with the safari. There are extra charges for video camera, forest entry fee and motorboat expenses which are to be paid by visitors directly to the forest department.
Private Cruise: There are two types of private cruise packages which include 2N/3D budget tours and 6N/7D luxury tours. The cruise options can be selected from Sundarbans Chalo, Vivada Sundarbans, Sundarbans Houseboat, Help Tourism Sundarbans Jungle Camp, and Tour De Sundarbans.
The cruises start at 8:00 AM and charges vary from INR 2,000 per person to INR 50,000 per person depending on the package one selects.
Local Food in Sundarbans National Park
Due to its location, there aren’t too many options for cuisine and the food options here are very modest; however, one can savour fresh catches from the water bodies and are cooked on the spot. It is a gastronomic haven for people who love fish.
Indigenous Cultural Heritage of Sundarbans
The residents of the Sundarbans National Park weather through difficult situations and also had to, many times in the past, face fury of mother nature. Their lives are about the hardships and how, even between these, they continue to live by being staunch believers of religion, Gods, Goddesses, Supernatural Powers. The residents believe they can invoke the powers before they venture deep into the forests for their own safety and the safe living of their families.
Both Hindus and Muslims residing in the Sundarbans worship the same set of Gods and deities thereby forming one of the strongest knit communities of people. Their collective belief and rituals allow them to remain strong through difficult situations like tidal waves washing away their homes, predators or man eaters loitering in the forest and prancing on humans who venture deep in the forest in search of food and woods.
The residents consider Bonobibi (the forest goddess) as their protector and invoke her, offer their prayers to her and seek her blessings for protection before starting their day when they have to go into the forests.
The other deities that are worshiped unanimously by the local residents are Maa Monosa, Dakshini Rai and Gazi Peer.
Best Time to visit Sundarbans National Park
The best time to visit the Sundarbans National Park is between the months of October and February when the weather is a bit pleasant. The hotter months of summer and the monsoon when the water way is flooded makes commuting and transfer within the national park difficult.
Where to stay in Sundarbans National Park
Sajnekhali, Bakkhali and Piyali have great options of forest lodges and forest rest- houses in terms of accommodation. Sundarbans Tiger Camp on the Dayapur Island is a beautiful resort that overlooks the national park and is one of the finest lodging facilities.
Additionally, the Sundarbans Jungle Camp on Bali Island has been set up by Help Tourism group in collaboration with Bali Nature and Wildlife Conservation Society and the local communities.
Sundarbans National Park Safari Timings, Entry Fees and Permits
Timings: The National Park is open between 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM from Monday to Friday and 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturdays. The forest area is closed on Sundays.
Permits: Entry to Sundarbans National Park requires permits which can be easily obtained from the Office of the Field Director, Sundarban Tiger Reserve, Canning, Sonakhali, Bagna, and Sajnekhali. International tourists are required to get special permits from the Joint Secretary of Forest Department, Writers Building in Kolkata. The permit is valid for 5 days and can be extended by the forest officer if requested.
Entry Fees: The entry fee to visit Sundarbans National Park is INR 60 for Indians and INR 200 for International Tourists.
How to Reach Sundarbans National Park
Accessibility to the seaside delta of the Sundarbans National Park is quite easy from all cities by all modes of transport. The Godkhali port is the nearest port to reach Sundarbans via waterway.
By Air: The nearest airport to Sundarbans National Park is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, which is around 120 kilometres from Godkhali port. One may hire a taxi or rent a cab from the airport to reach Godkhali port.
By Train: The nearest local railway station to Sundarbans National Park is Canning. One can reach Canning from Sealdah Railway Station which is a prime junction connected to all major cities in India. Canning is a one and half hour train ride from Sealdah. One needs to hire a private cab to reach Godkhali port. There are shared cabs available too from Canning railway station one can hop on to Godkhali port to reach Sundarbans via boat.
By Road: If anyone wishes to travel by road to the Sundarbans National Park from Kolkata can take a public transport to Canning and further from Canning to Godkhali port, further to the national park via boat from Godkhali. One can also rent a cab from top car rental companies in Kolkata to reach Godkhali from Kolkata, which is around 120 kilometres.
There are few other entry points to the Sundarbans other than Godkhali if one is travelling via road from Kolkata.
The other routes are - Kolkata to Namkahan which is around 105 kilometres of distance to be covered, Kolkata to Sonakhali which is a distance of 100 kilometres, Kolkata to Najat which covers a distance of 92 kilometres, Kolkata to Raidighi which is around 76 kilometres of drive. All these points have ports or ferry points to reach the national park via boat.
Travel Tips to keep in mind when planning a trip to Sundarbans National Park
- The Sundarbans National Park is a no plastic zone due to its vulnerable ecology hence, carrying plastic or polyethene bags are strictly prohibited.
- There are no ATMS in or around the national park hence, carrying cash is highly recommended.
- Book permits beforehand to avoid any last-minute hassles. International visitors are required to provide their passport details at the time of getting permits.
- It is advisable to carry drinking water as the tap water inside the national park may not suit everyone.
- Carrying light snacks is also recommended along with some fruits and dry fruits since there aren’t any stalls inside the park.
- It is highly recommended to book a guided tour since visitors may get lost inside the forest and be overwhelmed due to the huge size of the forest itself. The local guides know the place in and out and also give authentic information about the national park.
- One should carry torches with spare batteries.
- Carrying day to day medicines in a medical kit along is strictly advisable. Also one must carry hats, sunglasses and sun tan lotions to protect from the heat when out in the forest.
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