I can still feel the gentle breeze of the river – Baleshwar, fragrance coming from the wild flora all around me , standing against the railing of our voyage – ship “The Mermaid” while experiencing the thrilling excitement of seeing the eye-catching greenery of the Sundarbans. It’s not only a “beautiful forest” ,which it name means literally , but also the largest mangrove one in the world , lying in the vast delta on the Bay of Bengal. Of the estimated 4,110 km square occupied by the total forest area, about 1700 is covered with waterbodies in the forms of rivers, canals and creeks of width varying from a few meters to several kilometers.
So it’s best to travel on local boats, steamers or ships to peep into the woods. Sailing into the green through the zigzagged rivers , one could easily find the vast history ,fascinating treasure and enchanting local culture scattered all over there. But it found its place in the maps only in 1764 although there are enough evidences that indicate it had been used and sometimes misused by Mughol Emperors and the Portuguese pirates. Nevertheless it is distinct to be the first mangrove forest in the world that was brought under scientific management which revealed some intriguing facts about the forest.
Although it’s mostly submerged with salty sea water , there are freshwater swamp forests behind the brackish mangroves . But one doesn’t have to go that deep to visit the world famous heritage site , Hiron Point. It’s close to the mouth of Sibsa river where it empties into the sea. Having a BBQ party on the deck at night here, has become a tradition for the tourists although they have to sacrifice the connection with modern world as there is no network coverage. But where they will find a more beautiful sunrise than at Hiron Point?
As the forest bathes in daylight the biodiversity of the forest can easily be noticed with expert’s eyes. Sundari, Gewa, Goran and Keura ,all of which are mangrove trees , occur prominently throughout the area. Although the characteristic tree of the forest is the Sundari , from which the name of the forest had probably been derived. Among other planetary species : Dhundul, Passur, Kankra and Golpata (English semantic : “Round leaves” , although it’s like any other normal leaves) are worth mentioning.
A little deeper into the forest, lies the real beauty. A watch tower stands there only to observe the spotted deer walking and running on the vast grazing field ahead of it. The domain of world famous Royal Bengal Tiger is also around. But one has to be really lucky to catch the sight of it although the footsteps of “His Highness” can easily be noticed on the soft mud of the river banks. Be warned though, this is also the resting place of crocodiles!! If someone thrives for bird watching, Katka is the ideal place.
Looking up, not only the clear blue sky is visible, the sight of colorful kingfishers, hungry eagles, beautiful doves and coo-ing mynahs will enchant anyone’s eyes. The sea beach here is unique, because this is the place where nature’s two most beautiful creations meet – the forest and the sea. Apart from the mainland beauties , there are various small islands like Dublar Char which have become famous tourist spots for their breathtaking scenic beauty. Besides fish lovers can quench their thirst as much they can , as the place is abundant in fish fauna.
Here one can also get acquainted with local people who comprise most of the 4 million populations of the Sundarbans and their lifestyle. But they are very poor and live entirely at the mercy of nature. Sea fishes and wild fruits are all they get to eat. But their hospitality is exemplary. Watching such numerous life forms no one would guess it is the aftermath of the devastating cyclone “Sidr” that hit the coastal areas of Bangladesh on the November 15th , 2007.
It destroyed about a quarter of the forest. Researchers said that the forest would take at least 40 years to recover itself from the catastrophe. But it couldn’t cease her to be one of the finalists of the new 7 Wonders of nature. Undoubtedly her charming scenic beauty , fascinating biodiversity and unique ecosystem are unparalleled , consummate and matchless. It’ll continue to stand out only if we succeed to protect her from the clutches of climate change induced by us , the humans.