Sundarban, a mangrove forest near Kolkata.

Sundarban is a reserve mangrove forest in Ganga-Padma delta, at the coast of Bay of Bengal. The name Sundarban means beautiful forest though the word Sundar here is derived from the name of a particular species of mangrove tree called Sundari ( Heritiera Fomes) . It is also declared as UNESCO World Heritage site.

Whenever I thought of planning a trip, I never thought to plan short or weekend trips. This also was not a planned one. One of my students was a native of a village of Sundarban, near Jharkhali. Her father was a Christian and they would celebrate Christmas in their village and a fair was also held there on that day. She invited me to visit their place. I was ready to go there. One day before that occasion she informed me with regret that her mother was ill, so they were not going to their native village that year. I was very disappointed. I had made up my mind, so I tried to contact tour operators to go there, None was ready, mostly seats were full, and some rejected for being a single woman, but only one agreed, they said I have to accommodate with an Army major. I reluctantly agreed saying bed should be separate. It was a 2 days 1 night package. I paid for that package.

I reached at the Travel agent’s office at 5 -30 in the morning as per their instruction. Our sandwich breakfast was distributed. We all boarded in two traveler bus. The bus reached at Gadkhali at almost 11 AM, we were taken to Votvoti ( diesel motor boat of rural area ) and transferred to an Island. From there we reached a ghat where the tour operators boat were waiting for us to take us to another island among the mangroves. There I was introduced with that Army Major, to my surprise, she was a young, very energetic, fun loving woman. We had our lunch there. In the afternoon we were taken for boating in the river. There were many small rivers that meet with each other making a labyrinth of water ways in the place. We all enjoyed the boat ride in the afternoon. After evening tea there was a performance of local folk singers. We all enjoyed, specially few foreigners who had been staying there for a long period and danced with their music.

After dinner I was feeling tired and about to go to sleep, but the lady army officer was very enthusiastic and persuaded me to go for the night safari. Mostly people were enjoying Christmas eve with wine and other merriment. Only few people went for that adventure. Probably it was a new moon day. The whole environment was eerie. It was the time of low tide. So many mangrove plants came out, our boatman was going through the narrow canals and mangrove bushes. The sky was so starry that it was difficult to find empty places in the sky. Meteors were falling from time to time. It was an uncanny feelings we were all having. We saw the under water fluorescent plants. Till today I feel grateful to my room mate for forcing me to join that adventure. It was a unique and memorable experience.

Next day in the early morning we started in three boats to visit the Sundarban National Park ( Wild life sanctuary). Permission from the forest department was taken in the beginning of the journey. We saw many wild animals and birds. Huge crocodiles were having sunbath. They showed their annoyance as we got closer to them to take snaps. We were not so lucky to witness Royal Bengal Tiger. Animals are always skeptic about humans even the mightiest tigers. We had lunch on the boat. After lunch the boat returned towards Godkhali to drop us to return to kolkata. In the evening we reached Godkhali. Bus was waiting for us, we were delayed for a while because the bus broke down on the way, later it was repaired. I reached Kolkata at 10 o’clock at night when Kolkata was enjoying its Christmas. I went to my student’s village next year but that was another story.