Everything you will happen to see or come across in the wild mangrove forests of the Sundarbans will irresistibly draw you towards them. The dazzling expanse of green, the blue heaven overhead meeting the horizon, the playful high tide and the ebb, the very smell of life in the air and the pristine sea beach-- you name it.
As if these won`t be enough-- there`s the naive lifestyle of the fishermen and demanding way of works of the forest rangers. Or you could catch yourself a fun ride by a small boat, if you are inclined to having more adventure.
The starlit sky pierced by speeding meteors leaving dazzling light in its trail, that very celestial sight of the milky way in clear sky, the roaming of satellites or even the fireflies moving close by-- all adds up to the adventure of a lifetime.
The eerie still of the forest shattered often by the chirping birds, deer and monkeys or roaring Royal Bengal Tigers can only be found in this part of the world close somewhat to civilization.
Just being there in a moonlit night can make you have the fascinating experience of being reborn-- all over again. But it is impossible to travel in this dense, wild forest without organized assistance. A well- equipped vessel is what you need to get first to be able to swan around in this barren land ran through by rivers and rivulets. Better if you have a skilled tour operator to fall back on, who can guide you through the splendour of the Sundarbans.
The Sundarbans forest, the largest mangrove forest in the world is situated in the south-west corner of Bangladesh. The total area of the Sundarbans reserved forest including the West Bengal portion, comprises of 10,000 sq. km., of which Bangladesh portion is approximately 6000 sq.km., inclusive of new emerging islands. The area is divided into 55 administrative forest compartments by the Department of forest and environment , each with a land area of 40 to 160 sq.km and divided into several islands. There are three wildlife sanctuary areas 'Kotka-Kachikhali Tiger point', 'Hironpoint' and 'Manderbaria', number of unexplored natural beaches, innumerable rivers, canals and creeks in the Sundarbans forest, one third of which is water body making the waterways as the only means to enter the forest. It is famous as the habitat for its semi-aquatic tigers, popularly known as the Royal Bengal Tiger. It has a fair amount of spotted deer, wild boar, rhesus monkey, salt-water crocodile, water monitor lizard, pythons, etc. The forest treasures 330 plant species, 35 species of reptiles, 400 types of fishes, 270 species of birds and 42 species of mammals. The Bengal tiger, biggest of the cat family, plays a very important role in the forest ecology as well as in the rich mythology and legend.
The forest dwellers gradually developed a culture of their own, having an isolated life from the main stream, which expressed itself in many ways, peculiarly suited to the local forest ecosystem. There are some rituals and religious festivals observed in the Sundarbans. Annual fair in the Dubla island on the day of Raash Purnima is observed in the month of November. Borderline Hindu community , devotees from different parts of the country including India gather in the Dubla island to bathe and make offerings against a wish. And the forest product collectors engaged in various profession, before entering the forest had been paying homage to certain gods and deities whom they thought to be their saviours and protectors. Banabibi is very widely worshipped as their saviour.
The Sundarbans over the years attracts adventurous forest product collectors, hunters, nature and wildlife lovers, researchers, and tourists. To extract different forest products each group has a professional name, like the 'Baolis' ( timber, fuelwood, and thatching materials collectors), the 'Jalias' ( fishermen of both inland and offshore), 'Moualis' (the honey collectors), and 'Jongrakhuta' ( gastropod collectors), etc. Professions like fishing with the help of tame Otter, honey collection, etc., are unique of the area. Gathering wild honey in the wildness of the Sundarbans is among the oldest professions practiced by the dwellers of the area and still practiced in the traditional ways. Honey hunter's community lives along the borderline of the western forests are mostly destitute day labourer, although they are descendents of their professional ancestors. Honey Hunting season continues for 3-months starting at the end March or beginning of the April every year.
The Sundarbans play an important role in the economy of the southwestern region of Bangladesh as well as in the national economy. It is the single largest source of forest produce in the country. The forest has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1999.