Saturday, February 13, 2010

My trip to Sunderbans, West Bengal, Jan 16, 2010

I had a fantastic trip to Sunderbans recently. Sharing my experience and some snaps of the beautiful Sunderbans and its wild life. This place deserves a one-time visit definitely!

We, my cousin Soma, me, my husband Anirban and Roshmi a common friend , set off by car at around 7 am on a cold winter morning on Jan 16th from Kolkata. Kolkata is usually not cold at all.. but this winter, it did get cold, really.

Our aim was to reach Gadhkhali (around 100kms) by 10-10.30 am. We would park our car there and then get on to our launch which would we waiting for us there. We reached a little later than planned cause we stopped at many places and found some very lovely birds. Soma, who is an avid bird watcher and also our chauffeur:) got some really nice pictures.

We parked our car and set off on the launch. I had never been to Sunderbans before. And I simply loved it. The vast expanse of rivers, mangroves...was breathtakingly beautiful. The launch that we had hired was very well equipped. There was room for at least eight people, with an equipped kitchen and a very modern bathroom. Wow! for the next two days we would be on the launch...other than a few occasional visits to the tiger camps.

From Gadhkhali, we went to Gosaba, which is on the other bank. From Gosaba, we set off towards Amlamethi chor, we saw huge flocks of migratory birds...northern pintails, gadwalls, tufted ducks, Eurasian Vigeons... It was a lovely sight.

The day was almost over, the sun set was a exhilarating sight too....
We spent the night in the launch. We had a lot of good meals in the meantime. The cook in the launch was very efficient and he kept up well fed:)

I was eager to view the sunrise...I set up the alarm and went off to sleep.
The morning started off on a very depressing note...It was was bad ...and the spectacular sunrise that I wanted to photograph was absolutely not possible:(

Nothing could keep our spirits down for long though...after a hot cup of tea and a sinful breakfast of puris and chana, we set off for Sajnekhali tiger camp. We would get our permits for Sudhanyakhali and Dobanki tiger camps at Sajnekhali. Since it was overcast, there wasn't too much of bird activity either. After getting the permits at Sajnekhali, we set off for Sudhanyakhali tiger camp. The weather started to clear up a bit, we saw the sun peeping out a couple of times and that was enough to give us hope...

And soon enough we saw colourful minivets, collared Kingfishers, little herons...

At the Sudhyanakhali watch tower, if one is lucky, one can spot a tiger. We were not
that lucky...we did see quite a few spotted deers from the tower. The bushes in and around the tower were full of Warblers but so very difficult to photograph. From Sudhanyakhali to Dobanki was another hours journey...the overcast sky had given way to the sun and things started hotting up:)

On our way we saw a Wild Boar, Crocodile and a lot of birds. There was a lot of bird activity at the camp as well... lesser Adjutant, red throated flycatcher, wagtails, collared kingfisher, fan tails.....Oh! we were feeling great.

We left Dobanki at around 2 pm. After an hours ride, we spotted another huge crocodile, and soon after we saw pug-marks ...further ahead there were more pug-marks...we were so close to the tiger and yet so far...

We were photographing another crocodile, when the boatman shouted with is the word that one yearns to hear in Sunderbans, Tiger!!! It was just a silhouette to begin with, and then we got closer and we saw this handsome creature, up close and personal:)

The tiger was trying to cross the river to go across to the other bank...but for some reason the tiger did not cross over and returned... his indecision gave us the opportunity to see and photograph the tiger for well over 30 mins! I can't forget the feeling. I still have to pinch myself to believe it.

They say that spotting a tiger in Sunderbans is very rare and I guess we were a lucky lot. I am sharing some snaps taken by us, mostly by Soma, and some by me and Anirban.