Edited By – Akash Goel & Sristy Changkakoti
Travel can be blase when everything related to it falls in place. It indeed was a one of a kind experience for me. Having said that, let me list down the adventures that were shouldered. The very first experience being catching a local train. At 7:42 am, we caught the local train from Sealdah to Canning station costing Rs.10 per person. The time taken to cover the distance was 1 hour and 15 minutes with 16 halts and a distance of 45 km. Then we headed to Godkhali Ferry Ghat on a shuttle costing Rs.25 per person and reached the destination in about an hour covering a distance of 30kms approximately. From here I embarked on the real journey towards the mangroves. After a lot of bargains, we booked a houseboat at Rs.9000 for 7 persons for one night and two days including all the meals. Now this brings me to a bit of nostalgia, taking me back to the centuries-old notion of how ‘Jugaad’ innovation is the backbone of Indian ethos.
As the boat started sailing we headed towards Gosaba village which is the last town with a market before the deep forests of the Sundarbans start. The village itself starts off with a vibrant market. With ponds opposite each house, temples and mosques abiding quietly, vast fields of wheat and rice and an avid collection of sheep, goats, dogs and parrots, the place is idyllic, with a few hippies and little tourist exposure. The Sunderbans lie just past the next island, a journey of hours that will have you in extremely enjoying the mangroves around.
And then with the approach of the evening, we headed towards Pakhiralay which promises you an even better array of hues painting the horizon with its feathery friends; a true treat for bird watchers. We halted there for about an hour or two to enjoy the birds’ sight and also the sunset amidst the mangroves.
In the evening, the houseboats anchored at their designated spots and we found many other boats parked together. There was no movement of houseboats in the night as there is some kind of unwritten understanding between the fauna and houseboat owners. The scintillating view of the stars amidst the water was a treat to the eyes. There was no need for a morning alarm for the birds started singing at the crack of the dawn and some of them were found staking a claim on the very chair that was mine last evening. We headed towards the museum at Pakhiralay where we were accompanied by a guide who narrated anecdotes of the tigers and other wild lives of the place along with some interesting reads on the Sundarban fact files. There I got to know Sundarban has achieved its name from the Sundari Trees. It is the most exquisite variety of tree that is found in this area, a special kind of Mangrove tree. The main feature of this tree is that it produces spikes that grow above from the ground and help in the respiration of the tree. During the rainy season when the entire forest is waterlogged, the spikes rising from the ground have their peak in the air and helps in the respiration process.
Thereafter we headed towards the Sajnekhali Eco Tourism Complex where we spotted some monitor lizard, some river terrapin, some monkeys and some colorful crabs on the shore.
After that, we headed to the Dobanki Watch Tower. From watching the paws of the Royal Bengal Tiger to cruising through the thrilling mangrove forests of the Sunderbans, we enjoyed nature and wildlife hand in hand with a magnificent view of the forests and the amazing view from the Dobanki Watchtower. Spotting deer from here added to the entire experience.
From there we returned back to the Godkhali Ferry Ghat from where it all started and then headed back to Canning Station to catch a train back to the City of Joy.
Known for being the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world and flaunting a multifariousness of flora and fauna, Sundarbans is a right destination for all who long for a budget mini vacation on a weekend.
<<Photography Credits: Bishakha Jain>>