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Sunderban

Designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO, the Sunderban National Park lies to the south-east of Calcutta in the 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. Sunderban, the world’s largest delta formed by the Ganga and Brahmaputra, is also known for its unique mangrove forest ecosystem. The national park, also a biosphere reserve and home to the Royal Bengal tiger, is spread over an area of 1,330 sq. km. The core area of the park is bound by Matla River on the West, Haribhanga on the east and Netidhopani and Gosaba on the north. The buffer zone, which extends over an area of 885 sq. km, also includes Sajnakhali Wildlife Sanctuary. Halliday Island and Lothian Island wildlife sanctuaries lie to the south of Sunderban but do not form a part of the tiger reserve.

The climate of Sunderban is very humid due to its proximity to the Bay of Bengal. During monsoon, which last from mid-June to mid-September, the region experiences a heavy rainfall. After monsoons, the weather is quite pleasant making it a right time to visit Sunderban.

Sightseeing:

Sanctuary Visit:

The reserve comprises a core zone, afforestation zone and restoration zone and an agri-operation zone. The core zone of 1,300 sq. km represents the National Park and the rest of the area is used for the forestry operations. The variety of the forests that exist in Sunderban include mangrove scrub, littoral forest, saltwater mixed forest, brackish water mixed forest and swamp forest.

The flora includes genwa, dhundal, passur, garjan and kankra. The goran trees, whose average height varies between 1.8 metres and 3.6 metres, cover almost the entire region. The tigers form the major source of attraction in the reserve here. The 1980 census put the population of tiger in this reserve close to 400. Besides the tiger, you can have a look at the Gangetic dolphin, little porpoise, fishing cat, Indian fox, jungle cat, small Indian civet, common grey mongoose, spotted deer, wild pig, Indian flying fox, rhesus monkey and pangolin.

Sunderban is also the breeding ground of a large variety of birds. Out here, you get to see heron, egret, cormorant, fishing eagle, white-bellied sea eagle, seagull, tern and kingfisher. The migratory birds like whimprel, black-tailed godwit, little stint, eastern knot, curlew, sandpiper, golden plover, pintail, white-eyed pochard and whistling teal also flock this place. The place is also home to the wide variety of aquatic and reptile life forms that include Olive Ridley sea turtle, hardshelled batgur terrapin, pythons, king cobra, chequered killback, monitor and lizards.

Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project:

The Bhagabatpur Crocodile Project besides being a hatchery and a sanctuary is the home to the biggest estuarine crocodiles. You can access this place through Namkhana.

Excursions From Sunderban:

Halliday Island:
The Halliday Island Wildlife Sanctuary along with Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuary lies to the south of Sunderban. The sanctuaries are not the part of the tiger reserve. Halliday is the last retreat of the Barking Deer. Kanak:
Kanak is one of the nesting beaches of Olive Ridley Turtles in Sunderban. The turtles migrate to the shallow coastal waters from a long distance to breed. The turtles are believed to travel upriver as far as 100 km from the sea mouth into the Sunderban.

Netidhopani:
The beauty of the mangrove forests and the presence of a large variety of wildlife in this region seem to have attracted even the Gods to this place. At Netidhopani you can have a look at the ruins of a 400-year-old temple. The legends that prevail here lend a mysterious touch to the atmosphere.

Piyali:
A beautiful resting place, Piyali is a gateway to the Sunderban situated at a distance of 72 km from Calcutta.

Sajnekhali Bird Sanctuary:
The Sajnekhali Bird Sanctuary is situated on the confluence of Matla and Gumdi within the buffer zone that extends over an area of 885 sq km. Here you can have a look at the wide variety of birds, the most popular among them being the spotted billed pelican, cotton teal, herring gull, Caspian tern, grey heron, large egret, night heron, open-billed stork, white ibis, common kingfisher, brahmini kite and paradise flycatcher. A rare winter migrant, Asian dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus), can also be found here.

Among the birds of prey are osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Pallas’s fish eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), grey-headed fishing eagle (Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), Oriental hobby (Falco severus), northern eagle owl (Bubo bubo) and brown fish owl (Ketupa zeylonensis).

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