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Old 15th February 2015, 18:09   #1
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Default In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

Motivation behind planning a trip

Sundarbans, where the land meets the sea, where the legendary swamp tiger flies, swims against the current, climbs trees and eats fish. People worship the tiger and, at the same time, hate it too. It has been earned an undeserved fame for being a man-eater. Also, some say that the world’s largest mangrove forest is surviving only because of the presence of these swamp tigers. Tigers are being compared with evil spirits/demons. May be the fear of the omnipresence of the man-eating tigers has saved the forest so far.

Sundarbans, where fish climb trees during high tide and go back to the mud during low tide. All possible kinds of superstitions, misconceptions and truths exist here. Despite the fear of a tiger attack, honey collectors go inside the forest to collect honey, fisherman go fishing as they have no other option.

Whether all these theories about man-eating tigers, behavior of other flora and fauna is correct (certainly, some true) are yet to be answered. Though, within a few days of my visit, i wouldn’t be able to find answers to all my queries, I hoped to find some answers at least. The name Sundarbans comes for either the tree called Sundari or the beautiful forest.

Prologue

Sunderbans was in my mind, since i started following wildlife in August 2010. However, the place is something different - not like other tiger reserves / national parks, where you can book your jungle entry online, book a resort over phone and start your expedition. From Mumbai, it needs co-ordination between three modes of transportation viz air, land and water.

The tiger season got over in June 2014 and the jungle itching started and forced me to plan for the new season (2014-15), which began from October 2014.

As the calendar for the October 2014-June 2015 was almost finalised, our first expedition started with Sundarbans. I have come across a permanent jungle friend and partner in crime, with whom I do all my expeditions. He also agreed. So, the itinerary as follows:

October 22, 2014: Mumbai to Kolkata by air. Reach Kolkata by 8.35 am and proceed to Gadkhali by road. Then the expedition starts by a house boat. For next three days, in the boat.

October 23-24, 2014: Inside Sundarbans - scanning through narrow creeks, various watch towers, etc. Village visit to experience the island lifestyle and meet people.

October 25, 2014: Morning jungle visit and tour ends. Back to Gadkhali, proceed to Kolkata Airport and back to the concrete jungle i.e., Mumbai.

Day 1: October 22, 2014 - The Journey Began

I Planned for the October 2014 to June 2015 season. So, where to start? Which place will it be for the first trip? I was hell bent on doing a few new places this season. I asked my partner in crime and he also agreed for Sundarbans. As Sundabans was a bit costly for the two of us, we decided to rope in some other friends. Also, his friends had been complaining of not taking them for trips. Finally, three more agreed. A team of five was ready to go in search of the legendary swamp tiger at Sundarbans Tiger Reserve. The planning started in July 2014 and air tickets booked immediately. I called my friend Niladri Sarkar to make all the arrangements and he obliged. An exclusive boat was booked for us with a guide, a boatman, a cook and a guy to help.

Finally, the day arrived i.e. October 22, 2014. Four of us from Mumbai boarded the flight to Kolkata at 6.05 a.m. One of our friends joined us from Bengaluru. A high energy team headed for Sundarbans. We all reached on time (at 8.40 am). An Innova was ready at Kolkatta to drop us till the boarding point at Gadkhali, which is about 120 km – a three hour drive. We left the airport at around 9.15 am. Niladri wanted to meet all of us on the way and was waiting with some dry breakfast. Finally, around 10.30 am, we were on the road to Sundarbans.

We could not resist stopping at a rosogulla shop - a small sweet shop, but we tried all varieties. Me being an Oriya guy and my food habits being almost similar, I was gorging on everything. Finally, we reached the jetty around 12.30 and Mrityunjay our guide was waiting for us.

The luggage was loaded onto the boat and we were given a grand welcome by Mritunjay da and his team with tender coconut water. We began our most awaited journey to Sundarbans.

About the boat

The boat had two decks. Lower deck had five beds and a western commode. The other partition of the lower deck has a small kitchen. The upper deck is generally used as a lounge. After settling down, we moved to the upper deck. Lunch was ready. The menu was excellent and consisted of fish fry, Bengali style brinjal fry, dal, roti, salad, two other curries and rice.

Sundarbans is famous for a variety of kingfishers. We were welcomed by the Pied Kingfisher at her nesting point. After lunch, we headed for our first stop at Sajnekhali Watch Tower. On the way, our guide explained to us about the flora and fauna of Sundarbans.

The photo journey starts now.

Our boat waiting for us

In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve-bcmt_43a3969.jpg

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Boatmen praying before entering the sea

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Collared kingfisher

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On the way to Sajnekhali

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Inside the Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary

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Back to our boat after sunset

In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve-bcm_43a4038.jpg

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In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve-bcmt_43a4036.jpg

Day 1 ended. We had planned to stay on the boat on the first night. After sunset, it was pitch dark and we anchored our boat at a deserted place.

Last edited by Aditya : 20th February 2015 at 17:07.
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Old 15th February 2015, 19:27   #2
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Default re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

The colours on the kingfisher, just brilliant!

Please continue
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Old 15th February 2015, 21:37   #3
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Default re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

I have never come across a travelogue featuring Sundarbans! I'm hooked to your photos! Is the area where you have docked your boat is a spot frequented by Tigers? If so is it safe enough? I have seen numerous documentaries on Sundarbans and it's Tigers which are notorious for the obvious reasons of being a man-eater.

Looking for more photos and write up on your journey!
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Old 16th February 2015, 11:31   #4
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Default re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

Eagerly waiting for your report on the face-to-face with the big cat. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pics and looking forward for more Coincidentally, a man-eater is on the prowl at the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala, where it has taken 2 persons over last 3 days.
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Old 16th February 2015, 15:54   #5
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Subrat - amazing teaser. The pics, the Boat, the kingfisher - just one word Fantabulous. Eagerly waiting for more. Can you also share a bit on the cost aspect of it like the boat charges and other charges incurred in making these arrangement.

Did you actually spend the night on the boat - Did you hear anything it must have been amazing being in the middle of the world famous Sunderbans and in a boat.

On the fun side - I can guess you had no Tiger bite but did the Mosquitoes leave their bite marks - have heard the region is known for its Mosquito Menace...

Subrat - amazing post, I don't think there are many posts on Sunderbans, eagerly waiting for more. The place, the boat, the overnight stay in the boat - in the middle of no where - Gosh there is only one word to describe it - Fantabulous!

Can you also share the Cost incurred on this trip to make such arrangements possible - The boat charges, guide, Cook and another person.

You actually spent the night on that boat ?? wow! ! did you hear the elusive cat during the night?

On the fun Side - Its easy to guess that you had no close encounter with a Tiger, but did the Mosquitoes in the region leave their bite marks - have heard this area is famous for its mosquito menace.

Last edited by moralfibre : 17th February 2015 at 09:50. Reason: Back to back posts.
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Old 17th February 2015, 07:33   #6
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Default Re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

Bucket list grows. That is problem with TBHP travelogues !

Interesting to see water line marks on the shore line. That must be easily fifteen feet?

Waiting for next.
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Old 17th February 2015, 09:44   #7
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Default Re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

Excellent start to this travelogue, superb pictures to boot, thanks for sharing
Hooked to this travelogue, waiting eagerly for the rest of the experiences to unfold
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Old 17th February 2015, 13:41   #8
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Default Re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

Awesome write up with great pics. I had read a book "Spell of the tiger:The maneaters of sunderbans" by Sy Montgomery a couple of years back which inspired me a lot about knowing more about the sufi culture of swamp land. I am sure you must be aware about Bonbibi and Dokhin Rai. I suggest you to go through the book if you haven't read it.
I will also visit sunderbans some day but till i go let me satisfy myself with your travelogue.
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Old 17th February 2015, 17:38   #9
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Default Re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

Quote:
Originally Posted by batterylow View Post
The colours on the kingfisher, just brilliant!

Please continue
Thank you so much. I will continue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joe1980 View Post
I have never come across a travelogue featuring Sundarbans! I'm hooked to your photos! Is the area where you have docked your boat is a spot frequented by Tigers? If so is it safe enough? I have seen numerous documentaries on Sundarbans and it's Tigers which are notorious for the obvious reasons of being a man-eater.

Looking for more photos and write up on your journey!
Thank you for your comments. You are absolutely right that there are few travelogue on Sundarbans. Tiger sightings are very rare there but people have the fear of his presence everywhere.

There are reasons for tiger become man-eater.
1) Shortage of prey base and on top of that flood victims are easy food for them.
2) Man animal conflicts are on the rise as people get into channels for fishing, honey collection etc.

It was pitch dark and we had settled down for a cup of tea on the upper deck. Suddenly, i saw some movement on the water and to our utter surprise, two ladies were fishing in the dark. They can fall victim to crocodile and tigers. But they too do not have other options for existence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mysticeyes View Post
Eagerly waiting for your report on the face-to-face with the big cat. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pics and looking forward for more Coincidentally, a man-eater is on the prowl at the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala, where it has taken 2 persons over last 3 days.
Thanks for liking my pictures.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RomelK View Post
Subrat - amazing teaser. The pics, the Boat, the kingfisher - just one word Fantabulous. Eagerly waiting for more. Can you also share a bit on the cost aspect of it like the boat charges and other charges incurred in making these arrangement.

Did you actually spend the night on the boat - Did you hear anything it must have been amazing being in the middle of the world famous Sunderbans and in a boat.

On the fun side - I can guess you had no Tiger bite but did the Mosquitoes leave their bite marks - have heard the region is known for its Mosquito Menace...

Subrat - amazing post, I don't think there are many posts on Sunderbans, eagerly waiting for more. The place, the boat, the overnight stay in the boat - in the middle of no where - Gosh there is only one word to describe it - Fantabulous!

Can you also share the Cost incurred on this trip to make such arrangements possible - The boat charges, guide, Cook and another person.

You actually spent the night on that boat ?? wow! ! did you hear the elusive cat during the night?

On the fun Side - Its easy to guess that you had no close encounter with a Tiger, but did the Mosquitoes in the region leave their bite marks - have heard this area is famous for its mosquito menace.
Thank you for liking it.
First night, we stayed in the boat. It was an experience in itself. Yes, lots of mosquitos were there.
Second night onwards we shifted to a small resort. Boat has excellent wash room facilities but bathing is an issue.

We were five people and stayed there for three nights and four days. Gadkhali (Jetty point) to Gadkhali - all inclusive we paid 45000. Exclusive boat, food, safari charges. Full day non-stop sailing and scanning the forest.



Quote:
Originally Posted by sudev View Post
Bucket list grows. That is problem with TBHP travelogues !

Interesting to see water line marks on the shore line. That must be easily fifteen feet?

Waiting for next.
Thank you so much. It is deep and twice a day the tide changes. It's a dramatic place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NPV View Post
Excellent start to this travelogue, superb pictures to boot, thanks for sharing
Hooked to this travelogue, waiting eagerly for the rest of the experiences to unfold
Thank you so much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arkesh View Post
Awesome write up with great pics. I had read a book "Spell of the tiger:The maneaters of sunderbans" by Sy Montgomery a couple of years back which inspired me a lot about knowing more about the sufi culture of swamp land. I am sure you must be aware about Bonbibi and Dokhin Rai. I suggest you to go through the book if you haven't read it.
I will also visit sunderbans some day but till i go let me satisfy myself with your travelogue.
Thank you so much. I started wildlife in August 2010 and was planning for Sundarbans since then. Three years back, i read the same book and i was restless. Finally, i could make it.
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Old 17th February 2015, 17:42   #10
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Default Re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

Very well done. Can actually feel the excitement. Some lovely shots as well. What's the gear?
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Old 17th February 2015, 17:49   #11
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Default Re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

Options of travelling to Sundarbans

1) There are various tour operators who organise group tours. West Bengal Tourism also arranges them. They are cheap as the exclusive boat cost per day is high.

2) One can have his exclusive boat. Stay can be on the boat or night stay can be at the resort.

3) Kolkata airport to Gadkhali jettty (the stating point for Sundarbans) is about 120 km.

4) I have a friend at Kolkata who arranged everything for me as he is regular there.

Few more pictures from the first day.

In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve-boat_str_43a3985.jpg

In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve-macaq_str_43a4005.jpg

In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve-market_43a3970.jpg

In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve-village_43a3971.jpg

From the Interpretation Centre's poster.

In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve-bcmt_43a4022.jpg


Day 2 - Early morning

In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve-bcmt_43a4045.jpg

In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve-morningstr_43a4050.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 20th February 2015 at 15:18. Reason: Typos
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Old 18th February 2015, 03:51   #12
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Default Re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

Fabulous way to start a journey to your dream destination, flying through clouds - cursing the roads and lastly sailing the destination on a boat. Awesome photos and detailed information.

Quote:
From the Interpretation Centre's poster
This picture shows how in bad condition the Tigers are there, due to lack of prey.
Due to frequent tides in this region it might be getting difficult for them to get prey, so this might be the reason for attack on humans.

Last edited by Aditya : 20th February 2015 at 15:20. Reason: Typo
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Old 20th February 2015, 21:59   #13
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Default Re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

I had been to Sunderbans for a 2 Days/3 Nights trip during this Dec of 2014. This was my first trip to Sunderbans and the experience has been truly exemplary! The narrow river beds coupled with thick mangrove plantation admidst nature is in one word - magnificent. What I have heard from the locals and the ones who frequent Sunderbans every year or two is that the recent government is making good efforts to preserve and to promote tourism in this sector. The recently opened Jharkhali WT is one such example.

Tip: For the first timers (like me), please don't expect to see a tiger. I know people who have visited Sunderbands for like 10-12 times but did not have the luck to see a tiger.
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Old 23rd February 2015, 12:15   #14
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Default Re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

Hi Subrat - Not sure if its the lull before the storm, or its just us who are so eager to know more about this unexplored patch of Tiger country.

Its like a suspense thriller but only a promo is out yet and you are stuck with it. Please continue your post, the wait is killing most of us
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Old 24th February 2015, 12:05   #15
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Default Re: In search of the Legendary Swamp Tiger - Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

What a Co-incidence, I was there in sunderbans as well from Oct'18 to Oct'20. But alas much to my disappointment I wasn't lucky enough to spot any Royal Bengal Tiger. All I could see were hordes of deer and a few crocodiles.

After much coaxing, the Guide and the other boat personnel admitted that it is very unlikely to spot any tigers in the areas open for tourists. Most of the tigers are present in the core area which is not accessible to tourists and also a good percentage of the tigers of sunderbans (read more than 60%) are in Bangladesh part of sunderbans.

The Boatman has so far in his lifespan and entire duration of taking so many tourists on numerous sunderban trips has been able to spot the Royal Bengal tiger hardly once or twice. This was as per our boatman's version.

However the overall experience of the boat journey, cooking and eating on the boat itself and spending the night on the water is an experience in itself.

PS : I never posted any travelogue of my trip as I didn't have even a single pic of any Tiger Spotting
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