Sundarban tour is located about 115 kilometres from Kolkata. It is placed on the delta comprising of three main rivers- Brahmaputra, Meghna and Ganga and unevenly divided amid two neighbouring countries-Bangladesh and India. The Sundarbans consist of the world’s largest number of mangrove forests as well as one of the most biologically conserved natural ecosystems. This place possesses its own charm for mesmerizing the sight of photographers while they travel the jungles of Sundarbans. An incredible sight that the photographers die in capturing is the glance of the Royal Bengal Tigers. The economy here is dependent fully on agriculture, fishery and gathering resources from forests like honey and wood. The forests as well as the waterways help in supporting a wide range of fauna which includes a number of other species that are threatened for extinction. Lets learn about these wonderful island with its unique eco system.
Mangrove – The mangroves in the Sundarbans ecoregion is considered to be the most extensive mangrove ecosystem. It is named after the species which is named after dominant mangrove species which is present in this entire ecoregion. Locally known as sundry, the Heritiera Fomes, is the single mangrove ecosystem that nurtures the Indo-Pacific region’s largest predator, the Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera Tigris).
This ecoregion is situated in the extensive delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Meghna Rivers and the Brahmaputra. The maze made of mangrove channels reaches across Southern Bangladesh and the state of West Bengal in India.
Climate-Climate is denoted by monsoons from June to September which regularly brings heavy rains as well as devastating cyclones that are frequent thus causing widespread destruction. The annual rainfall in the region can reach up to 3500 millimetres (mm) as well as daytime temperatures during the monsoon months can reach up to a stifling 48 degree Celsius.
Mangroves are not supposed to be diverse biologically in comparison to other ecosystems that are terrestrial. Those forests are undisturbed and at the same time has unstratified, undergrowth as well as a dense canopy which is made up of seedlings and sapling of the canopy trees.
The mangrove forest in the Sundarbans are very much characterized by the Heritiera fomes (as mentioned above) which is a species of very much valued for its timer. Other species that are found in the collection of flora in the forest Aegiceras corniculatum, Avicennia spp., X. granatum, Nipa Palm (Nypa fruticans), Sonneratia apetala, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Rhizophora mucronata, Xylocarpus mekongensis and the Cereops decandra.
Birds – There are around 248 species of birds found in the Sundarbans National Park which also includes a considerable number of migratory birds that visits the park from higher latitudes during the winter months. These include the Pegions, Darters, Egrets, Partridges, Herons, a great variety of Wild Geese as well as Ducks, Sand pipers, large and small Spoonbills, Seagulls, Green Pigeons, Teals, cormorants, Storks, et. al.
Fauna – The Sundarbans has a rich diversity in terms of the fauna found in there. As mentioned above the most important animal found here is the Royal Bengal Tiger which is considered to be the national animal of India. This vast array of land is the single largest home to this majestic animal and is also the icon species of the same. Presently, there are about 255-300 tigers available in there.
The Bengal Tiger is the nominate species of the eight sub-species of tigers that are found all over the world. They are considered to be the apex predators of this mangrove system. The tigers are right at the top of the food chain and are known to be extraordinary beasts. They seem to be at home both on land and in water. Bengal tigers are known to cross more than one river in the search of food as well as shelter.
Unlike others, the Sundarbans tiger have a well marked territory or not is still a debatable issue but at the same time, this wild cat is ready to explore new territory so as to find food and shelter. However, this very act often brings them into conflict with humans as tigers are known to enter villages and prey on livestock which is chiefly due to lack of food.
At the same time, people are less susceptible to tiger attacks in inhabited areas in comparison to those who enter tiger territory in the forest. This makes this top predator full of mysteries. The Bengal Tiger chiefly prays on wild boars, livestock, cheetal or the spotted deer as well as goats. It mainly appears at night thus these nocturnal visits help it to ambush its prey but rarely seen even by the experts.
This is due to the fact that, the tiger’s fur acts as the right camouflage and the dense mangrove swamps also acts a formidable fortress looming large and where the tiger is the king. In a nutshell, it can be said that the Bengal tiger differs from tigers found in other parts of the world in many ways than one thus making it one of the most studied beasts. Other animals that are found here are the Jungle Cat (Felis Chaus), Fishing Cat (Prionailurus Viverrina), Leopard (Felis Bengalensis), Cheetal or Spotted Deer (Axis Axis), Wild Boar (Sus Scrofa), common Otter (Lutra Lutra) et al.
Rivers – The Sundarbans are situated in the disjunctive deltaic islands in the west of the main outflow of the Brahmaputra, Ganges and the Meghna rivers that lie close to the territory of India. These are intersected with the help of a complex network of tidal waterways, small islands of salt rick mangrove forests and mud flats. This particular area is flooded with brackish water especially during high tides that helps in to mix with fresh water from the inland rivers.
There are other channels, often a kilometre or two wider and generally run in the north-south direction. Rivers have this tendency to be long and straight and the result is that there are strong tidal forces that easily erode clay as well as silt deposits.
However, the waterways carry little freshwater as they are cut off from the Ganges apart from the Baleswar River. The outflow of the Ganges has shifted from the Hooghly-Bhagirathi channels in India and increasingly eastwards since the 17th century and is open largely due to the diurnal tidal flow.