2 Nights in Mysterious Creeks of Sunderban

#1 Aug 29th, 2012, 20:44
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It was the last weekend of 2011. In the month of December I had already visited Delhi and Mumbai but I could not resist myself from going to Howrah, my native place and from there to Sunderban. I bought a ticket and was off to Kolkata. The opportunity of spending 3 days in my home and spend the other 3 days in Sunderban, the world’s biggest Mangrove Bio-sphere, was just irresistible.

30th October, Early morning : Kolkata didn’t even wake up properly. The shutters were down, morning walkers were just out, and the fog was still spending a lazy time along with a cosy, sleepy Kolkata. We had hired a Jeep and started our journey. We picked up everybody on the way and started towards Godkhali. After a wrong direction and a little traffic jam we reached the place within 3 hours. Godkhali is just around 95 KM from Kolkata. We were 7 in the Jeep and our second group which consisted of 2 members joined us there. We had some nice breakfast with typical Bengali cuisine. We collected some cold drinks, sweets etc for the next three days. The boat which we had hired had the sleeping accommodation. There were chairs on the deck and below that was the accommodation for sleeping. There were accommodations for almost 10 people. It charged us around 3K per day and 200 Rupees for food per head per day.

Immediately we started our cruise. Within few moments after leaving Godkhali you will feel a change in the surroundings. Probably you will miss the Concrete Jungle if you are not a true nature lover! You will see some small villages on both sides of the river. You will see the people, their livelihood, occupation and the struggle.








The forest will start almost 45 minutes later. You wouldn’t even know when you had entered the forest. Generally we are habituated to drive inside the forest with shrubs, long trees on both the sides. Our ears were expecting to be treated with chirping of birds, sound of crickets and the usual sounds of the jungle. But, in Sunderban you will teach yourself to hear the SILENCE! It is quiet, silent. On both banks you will see trees, not longer than 5-6 feet but so dense that you can't even see through the first wall of trees. The banks are muddy with lots of marks, stilt roots of mangroves. These stilt roots look like the sharpened edge of knife which defines the nature of Sunderban. An uncountable number of small creeks have criss-crossed the region. They are, mostly inaccessible because of low depth of water. Even if it is accessible, there will be someone with yellow and black coat waiting for you once you reach their land



I have written so far just to describe how it feels to be in Sunderban. Seriously, it is not possible as I don't have so many words to describe the beauty and regarding the information you will trust Wikipedia more than me!

We directly went to Sajnekhali tiger camp and as expected were really disappointed to see enormous amount of crowd there. They had already made it a picnic spot (though not loitering). In Sunderban the watch towers have particular pattern. You will get down from the boat and then you will walk some distance where you will see high fencing on either side of yours. Then you will reach a place where there are some forest office or guesthouse and an Adjacent Watch tower. In front of the watch tower there will be 2 or 3 stretches of clearance which gives you a chance to any wildlife if it crosses. The first watch tower disappointed us and we realized that we have already travelled almost 5-6 hours (We had stopped for lunch and also for getting the permission). By 6 you have to come out of the jungle and we started to cruise back. Our night halt was near a village.

Some pics:









We anchored our launch in front of Jamespur Village. The opposite side of the river is Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve. We came to know a strange story about the village. There was a point of time when most (If not all) of the males were killed by tiger as their main occupations were honey and wood collecting, fishing etc which required daily intrusion into jungle. We stepped into the village and realized something was not right. The absence of electricity was really hurting our eyes. We were managing somehow with handful of torches. We found a tea shop which was closed and some villagers were having some serious discussion. We were told not to roam around in the village and especially not to go to the jungle side. It was dark and the automatic question came out "Why?"

Have you ever asked a station master about the next train? Have you ever seen the expression? A very careless and ignorant, isn't it? The guy whom we had asked had almost the same type of expression and his replied "KAL GRAME BAGH ESECHILO" (A tiger came into the village yesterday). We got to know the tiger walked the same path that we were walking and had jumped over an 8 feet high wall to enter the cow shed and killed one of the calves.



The tiger held it's prize in his mouth and jumped out of the cow shed (8 feet wall!!!!!) and then had swam across the river to reach Sajnekhali Tiger Reserve. Whoa!!!!!!!We made the tea shop opened and had some tea. There was a temple of Goddess Radha and a prayer was going on. We clicked some pics. It was a cold evening with no electricity, no mobile network, a village which is frequently visited by Man Eater Tigers, some rhythmic chanting and prayers, the fragrance of incense, believe, faith, the touch of fear, a starry night and the urge to get back to safety. These were the feelings and thoughts in our minds. It was all mixed up, like the way I have written. We, the so called urban, educated, technologically advanced people were really helpless. We had a feeling of being seen all the time and that is by a hunter. Later on, I had asked others. They had the same feeling. Don't know why? We kept on throwing our torch light every now and then, almost everywhere, LUCKILY didn’t see a tiger!!!!!





We went back to our steamer and saw two forest boats on either side. We heard that a goat has been tied with the cage inside the jungle and they are trying to catch the tiger. It was really thrilling. We were spending the night in the middle of that creek. The water was dead still. The sky was crystal clear. I hadn’t seen so many stars together before that. It was like a fairy-tale. We could see the reflection of the stars in the water and as a result we were seeing stars all around us. It was a 270 degree view of stars. The water was so clear and still that we could recognize the stars by name by looking at the water. I could not take any picture because the boat was not still enough for a long exposure shot. Well, just when we were about to forget the Tiger story the goat started to shout. It was clear evidence that the tiger had come but unfortunately it just increased our adrenalin for some time and nothing happened. We slept off, partly because we were tired and mainly could not dare to spend some more time in the open deck.
I didn’t even know when the fear of tiger had been translated into a dream of tiger and I woke up with a scream "TIGER"!!!!!!!
#2 Aug 29th, 2012, 20:53
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#2
Let me know how are you liking this post .....I am waiting to hear from all of you..I will upload the next part soon
#3 Aug 29th, 2012, 20:58
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You can post the next part even if you do not get any comments. It would make sense to read the entire report without comments in between.
#4 Aug 29th, 2012, 21:18
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2 Nights in Mysterious Creeks of Sunderban - last part

Quote:
Originally Posted by aarosh View Post You can post the next part even if you do not get any comments. It would make sense to read the entire report without comments in between.
Well, right you are..
I was just sorting the pics a bit....Here you go....

Well, it was by one of our group member and it was the easiest way to wake all of us up together at one go. Mother Nature was waiting with all its beauty. It was the moments before sun rise. I don't have words and hence I am using these pics to describe:





We saw the first fisher boat, the first ripple of the water, the first ray of light, first bird, the first colour after a prolonged darkness. It was a morning that assured us about our safety and that too with such amazing colours. We were stunned for some time.




We started our day 2 very early. We directly went to see Netidhopani and Dobanki. It was a day when we went to almost a corner of the forest. We could see the land of the other side at a very distance. It looked like a black line and then we saw a gap in that line, through which the sea waves come in. We were in a small boat, in the middle of the confluence of creeks, distributaries. We took one of the other creeks to get into more familiar Sunderban. When we reached Dobanki it was 10:30 and luckily we were the first group to reach there. It took almost 4.5 hours of continuous boat journey to reach there and we understood the importance of being the first group. We were told that a tiger visited the water hole 20 mins back and is resting under a tree nearby. We went up to the top of watch tower and was mainly looking for birds as I had faced this situation quite a few times and was not really hopeful to see the tiger or the tigress who might visit the place. Suddenly I heard the growl. A very suppressed sound, twice. It was coming from bushes around the watch tower. We tried a lot but did not see anything. We decided to wait for some time for the tigress but other tourists started pouring in and the place became a picnic spot. Their attitude was like they had come to see tiger in zoo and the tiger was not coming out of the hide. It is really important to filter out the picnic lover from the tiger reserve. As a result all the birds flew away, probably being insulted (No body was ready to give them importance of worth a penny). We, being disappointed came back to the boat and started off. Cyclone Aila has destroyed most of the bio-diversity of Sunderban. Some time back they brought 52 deers to restore the balance and all of them, 52 deers, got killed and eaten by tiger in 3 weeks!









We kept on exploring the new creeks, the undisturbed nature.



We came back to our village by the end of the day. We were tired yet satisfied. We had arranged a street theatre "Bonbibi r Pala" . It was a nice experience to enjoy the theatre in an open field along with all the villagers. The play started after 8 and it went on for more than hour.

Bonbibi is considered to be the deity who saves the human being from Tiger attack. Dakshin Ray is the demon king who comes in disguise of tiger and attacks the human being. It is the story about how Dakshin Ray spreads his fear among the human being and then how Bonbibi saves them from Dakhshin Ray by defeating him


For more information :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonbibi








It was 2nd day after the tiger attack and usually if a tiger attacks a village it keeps coming back after 2 / 3 days. It was a high time and the moon had already taken cover behind the clouds. We had to come back to our boat for the dinner and for that we had to walk around 300-400 mtrs or so. There was a continuous barrage made of mud on our right side and the left side was full of bushes, trees and some huts. We were counting for our lives every second. I don't know whether I will be able to explain but have ever felt that you are being watched by some body? If you have then imagine that feeling in a village environment without electricity and with a possibility of a tiger attack. Well, the time passed by and somehow we reached the boat. Our boat was anchored directly in front of the jetty. Due to the presence of Mangrove and knee-deep mud, even tigers prefer to use the jetty, made of cement and wood, to enter the village. We were right in the line of fire.

There was a medical camp going on in that particular village and all the doctors came to our boat because there was a generator and hence light. We were in the middle of our dinner and the time was over 10. I heard some voices coming from the jetty. In a torch light we saw that a lady had come with her father-in-law because her daughter-in-law is bleeding due to some problem and they were almost in tears. All the doctors told them to do what was necessary for that night and then they went back. We were really shocked that the road on which we, almost 20 of us (including the doctors), were afraid of covering a small distance, this lady came with an old man just because of medical emergency. I was told that they are afraid of tigers but you cannot stop the live for the fear. This is their daily lives. We go to our neighbouring tea shop to discuss what is happening in politics or cricket or in Iraq and they discuss all these along with the incidence of tiger attacks. They don't have any permanent medical facility. It is being organized now. I have never seen people fighting for their lives more than these men do every day.

The second night was almost the similar in terms of thrills. The only difference was that night was not starry. We sat on the deck for some time and then half of us went to the cabin. Our boat was anchored inside a creek and if that creek is located parallel to the sea then the water remains absolutely still in the night until and unless it is disturbed. There was a dead silence prevailing. Suddenly few of us, who were still there on the deck, heard a sound. As if some ripples were being created somewhere in the water and they were hitting the boat to create that sound. They were not sure about the source of that. One side of the boat was very close to the jungle. It was a kind of uncanny feeling when you heard something or see something and then you can't explain on the spot. Then came down inside the cabin immediately and shut the door. We waited for some time and went off to sleep ultimately. Nobody had a very sound sleep.


We hired a boat of this kind.




Next morning was again an wonderful morning. With all the colors and freshness the morning erased the fear from our mind.





We had already decided to go to Sadak Khali - Pir Khali - Dobanki route.
When we enter the creek named, Sadak Khali, we saw hundreads of Great Egret sitting on either bank of the river. Some of them were flying and some were dancing (It looked like )



















We saw a Shikra. different types of Kingfisher and a crocodile.


We covered Sadak Khali and then went to Dobanki once again via Pir Khali. In Dobanki we heard that a tiger is hiding on the opposite bank. The tiger wanted to swim across but all the boats were crowding in front of that place only to see tiger. They forgot the difference between a Circus and Sunderban. We started to our journey towards Godkhali. It was time to come back home. It was a trip of only 3 days but it gave us some experiences..some moments which we will be preserving for the whole life.






If you love nature and have not explored the beauty and the fear of Sunderban yet then it is a must go place for you.
Last edited by JuliaF; Aug 31st, 2012 at 04:48..
#5 Aug 30th, 2012, 12:48
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#5
Absolutely loved your report. Darkness, no lights, fear and possibility of man-eating tiger. Brilliant stuff.

That raptor in your last picture looks like a peregrine falcon to me.

Cheers,
Kartik
My Trip Reports: Ranthambhore LRK-GRK Corbett
My Website: WildWildIndia
#6 Aug 30th, 2012, 15:53
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#6
lovely report...and an awesome experience..always wanted to visit sunderbans...hope it happens soon
is that shot (big boat) of the steamer you travelled in?

will connect with you for more details
cheers!
aRUN
#7 Aug 30th, 2012, 16:22
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#7
Amazing pictures and great narrative!
Link to my trip report on Gir at http://www.indiamike.com/india/india...eview-t153275/
Link to my blog http://lovethewild.wordpress.com
Want to know where to find Tigers in India? Go to http://indiasendangered.com/best-pla...-india-part-1/[url]
Read about my census participation experience at http://indiasendangered.com/counting-animals-at-sanjay-gandhi-national-park/
#8 Aug 30th, 2012, 16:44
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#8
Just the pictures of the sunrise above can make somebody go there
To know the road ahead, ask those coming back
#9 Sep 3rd, 2012, 14:43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by traveler1 View Post lovely report...and an awesome experience..always wanted to visit sunderbans...hope it happens soon
is that shot (big boat) of the steamer you travelled in?

will connect with you for more details
cheers!
aRUN
Hey thanks a lot....Do visit Sunderban and instead of staying in a resort stay in a boat. You will not get the luxary of a resort but you will get some experience.
Yeah....That is the kind of boat which we had hired. It has 4 double beds and 1 or 2 single bed. Two toilets (even the western style). It will charge you around 3 to 4K per day (depending upon your itenary)
#10 Sep 3rd, 2012, 15:07
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#10
hey... those are some nice captures... your trip report seems like a guide for aspiring travelers... reading it in hurry won't do justice to your effort... so i'll get back to the thread soon when i squeeze out some hours... cheers
#11 Sep 17th, 2012, 09:13
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#11
Awesome narrative and pictures. Need to do Sundarbans sometime.

dds000258 -
Can you share the contact details of the boatman?
#12 Sep 20th, 2012, 00:49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drgrudge View Post Awesome narrative and pictures. Need to do Sundarbans sometime.

dds000258 -
Can you share the contact details of the boatman?
I am not sure if I can share the details in IM.. :P
#13 Sep 20th, 2012, 01:08
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#13
Excellent trip report and photos.
#14 Sep 20th, 2012, 01:23
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#14
Great stuff! Your images are very nice. What camera/lens were you using? How is the mosquito situation onboard the boat? Was your boat powered by diesel? If so was this at all hindering for listening/identifying bird song and other sounds of nature?
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~
T. S. Eliot

http://www.derekgrantdigital.com
#15 Sep 20th, 2012, 01:38
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#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by dds000258 View Post I am not sure if I can share the details in IM.. :P
You are welcome to share the contact details here, provided you have no personal link with the business.

We do not allow NEW members to make recommendations but as an established member you are allowed to do so

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