Bordering the Bay of Bengal and located at the opening of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers, Sundarban is a UNESCO world heritage site situated in the territory of West Bengal. “Beautiful Forests” being the literal translation of the name, Sunderbans is host to thousands of tourists every year thanks to its pristine natural beauty and breathtaking landscapes. Home to the famous Royal Bengal Tiger and several other endangered species, Sundarban is the ideal escape from the constant hustle and bustle of the Calcutta metropolis.
Arching over 10,000 km, Sundarbans is home to the largest Mangrove forest in the world, with half of its jurisdiction lying within Bangladesh and the rest in India. The Indian side comprises 102 islands, half of which is inhabited by locals as per a 2018 census.
If you have been planning to escape to the wilderness for sometime now, Sundarban can prove to be the ideal place for you, and thus in today’s article, we will share with you a handy travel guide to the Pride of West Bengal.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
The only way to reach Sundarbans, as you might have guessed, is via boats. At some 100 kms to the southeast, the closest railway station to Sundarbans is in Canning, and by road, you can travel upto Godkhali, popularly called the Gateway to Sunderban. Among the largest inhabited land in the Sundarban Archipelago, Godkhali has over the years been converted into a modern town complete with its own state general hospital and higher educational institutions.
Further down the road from Godkhali is Sajnekhali, where you will need to pay the entrance fees to the Sundarbans National Park. Unlike Godkhali, Sajnekhali is yet to witness a transformation and continues to be a small town with some of the main attractions being a watchtower, a museum complex, and a mangrove interpretation center which has been designed to make it easier for tourists to absorb the workings of the largest mangrove inhabitations in the world and its subsequent significance.
How to Visit Sunderbans?
If you are planning to escape into the wilderness and get away from the constant hustle-bustle of the metropolis, Sunderbans can be the perfect destination choice. In order to travel to the Sunderban Delta, you will need to begin your journey at the capital of West Bengal and make your way from there via either of three transportation modes.
- By Car
The first option, and albeit the most expensive in this list, is either driving down on your own or hiring the services of a private chauffeur. You can take a private vehicle from Kolkata to Godkhali (a journey of 3 hours by road), and from there, go across to Gosaba via ferry. From Gosaba, you can head to Pakhiralay village by the charming cycle rickshaw and from there continue the journey via another boat ride to Sajnekhali. Although there have been ongoing talks about building a road connecting Godkhali to Sajnekhali, plans are yet to be formulated by the state authorities, and until then, this is the best route to take.
- By Bus
The second option available to you is to travel via bus (WBSTC), and this is easily the most comfortable and yet an affordable mode of transportation to reach the pristine shores of Sundarban. Buses ply every hour from Kolkata and travel all the way to Sonakhali, comprising a journey of 3 hours by road. Until now, buses used to depart from the BabuGhat Bus Terminus located on Strand Road at Kolkata; however, the shift to Santragachi Bus Terminus near the Kona Highway is underway. Once you reach Sonakhali, you can take an autorickshaw to Godkhali and proceed the same way as shared earlier.
One of the best aspects of availing the bus service to travel to Sundarbans is the convenience of booking them online from the comfort of your home, via the redBus app. redBus not only offers you a portal to book the services of multiple bus service providers at the same place but also has consistent offers to increase the affordability of your trip.
- By Train
Last but not least, you have the option of traveling via train to Canning from the Sealdah station. Once you reach canning, you can avail the services of a shared auto to reach Godkhali, and from there, you can take the route shared earlier to reach the Sundarbans National Park. Alternatively, you also have the option of hiring a boat which will take you directly from Canning to Sajnekhali, although it can be a long journey of almost 5 hours.
Staying at Sunderbans
Most people prefer to stay at Sunderbans over the weekend to experience the pristine environment of this national park, and thus it is easy to estimate that there are plenty of lodging facilities present across the archipelagos. However, one of the most important aspects you need to focus on is that a majority of the accommodations encompass a simple village lifestyle over the traditionally expected luxurious one. Most of the hotels and homestays have limited power as they are mostly powered by solar panels, and a majority of them are located in the islands of Pakhiralay and Gosaba, which is incidentally the last island to the entrance of the national park.
When to Go
As with most holiday destinations, there is a particular time to visit the Sundarbans, and it happens to be the stretch from November to February when the weather is dry and cool. As the Sunderbans share a tropical climate, although the weather remains cool at this time, don’t forget to carry an umbrella, raincoats, and some additional summer clothing as the weather here can change at any time.
Since its grand inauguration for public visits, the Sundberbans has continued to be a favorite destination for thousands of tourists every year from around India and the world. With easy access to the archipelago and its pristine weather, the Sundarbans is a must-visit destination if you are traveling to West Bengal.
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