Everytime I discussed my tiger tales from Tadoba or Pench or Corbett with someone from Kolkata, I was always confronted with one question- “Are there any chances of tiger sighting at Sunderbans? I have heard it is almost impossible!!” I would highlight recent tiger sighting posts by GoingWild team at Sunderbans but deep within would always nurture the desire of blurting out – “ Yes , I have seen a tiger at Sunderbans !” This desire coupled with a resolve finally landed me one day at Godkhali jetty from where we started our journey towards the the Pirkhali islands in Sunderbans after getting our permit at Sajnekhali .

Day 1

Located in the vast delta of Bay of Bengal, Sunderbans is a dense, swamp forest intersected by complex waterways , creeks and canals .Here sighting of tigers is predominantly driven by the tidal timings -there are two high and two low tides everyday and it changes daily. Soumyajit, our tour mentor from GoingWild and tour guide Ashok da looked for the fresh tiger pugmarks along the mudflats on the islands as the water gradually receded during low tides. Though we could not spot any tiger on the first afternoon, we did come across variegated species of kingfisher (black capped, brown winged, white breasted ) , enjoyed the beautiful flight of brahminy kite and were excited by multiple sightings of some of the  largest salt-water crocodiles that bathed in the sun  (Those exposed set of teeth would even frighten the tiger away!!!)

Brown Winged Kingfisher

Picture Credit: Sanjay Bhattacharya

Crocodile

Picture Credit: Niladri Kundu

We spent the night on the boat that was anchored on the water outside the forest area. Soumyajit narrated his tiger sighting tales at Sunderbans over the last 3 years fuelling our expectations further.I gradually fell asleep amidst the hope of getting a glimpse of the majestic swamp tiger that has reigned in this part of the country for centuries.

Day 2

Early next morning , awakened by the starting of the engine I woke up from my sleep and went to the deck. Sanjay da (Dr Sanjay Bhattacharya,my friend and co-traveller ) who was already there with his multiple Nikkon  cameras and lenses , greeted me with a smile  “I think we will see the tiger today -with so much fog around the  tiger won’t be able to see us and may come close to the boat”. It was indeed a dense fog that had engulfed the entire forest reducing visibility to the minimum as the boat gradually made its way into Pirkhali islands again.

As Soumyajit and Ashok da started exploring both banks with their binoculars, Gopal (our boatman) suddenly shouted –“Bagh Bagh” (“Tiger , tiger!!”). The deck came back to life as everyone turned their attention to where Gopal was pointing-inside the forests amidst the criss-cross network of trees on the ground there was indeed a tiger! It was the moment that everyone probably dreams of during his visit to Sunderbans- a large tiger sitting against the backdrop of greenery on mud dunes in the fog. This was a majestic sight to the eyes and even the poor light conditions couldn’t deter our spirits as the cameras swung into action. The tiger disappeared after a couple of minutes only to come back after sometime. It had spotted us too and thus began the hour -long game of hide and seek amidst the dense forests that made visibility very difficult. Soumyajit and Ashok da started predicting the movement of the tiger as our boat gradually moved keeping the islands on our right.  Tiger peeked through the hetal bon (Tiger Palm tree forests), swam across a narrow creek (as we had anticipated), gingerly walked on the mud banks, glanced at us and disappeared again but not before  giving us some of the beautiful and clear shots as the sunlight gradually dispersed the fog.

IMG-20171212-WA0038

Picture Credit: Sanjay Bhattacharya

This was a tigress on the move but as it disappeared , we exchanged anxious glances at one another  – we definitely wanted to see the beauty again!!  As the boat started to take a turn and go around the island , the tigress re-appeared on the edge of the bank . It sat amidst the trees -the entire green landscape provided a picturesque background that is unique to Sunderbans only. Tigress sat there for 15 minutes scanning the banks time and again and never took her eyes off our boat as she had become used to our presence. It was a sighting that was beyond any description – no possible attempt at elocution is adequate enough to epitomise the hitherto unequalled moment experienced at Sunderbans. I clicked images to my heart’s content -after all I needed all the proof that my dream of swamp tiger sighting at Sunderbans has indeed turned into reality !! The tigress did not cross the river channel and went back into the forests for one last time.

DSC_0428

Picture Credit: Niladri Kundu

The one and half hour of vivacious drama came to an end with the main protagonist leaving the stage as we put down our cameras.

As we settled down , Ashok da and Soumyajit got information about another sighting that had taken place at a different location. The boat made a u-turn as we moved towards the location with high expectations of a second sighting. We came across the couple of boats that had sighted the tiger and positioned ourselves on the river opposite the bank from where the tiger may emerge. It was a long wait for the tiger as the inmates of the boats (including us) looked at the tiger pictures -not everyday at Sunderbans people get to see tigers at different locations at the same time.  To our disappointment, the second sighing did not materialize as the boats gradually moved away from the spot. Well like any other forest, tigers are not easy to spot and they remain elusive as ever.

As the day came to an end it was time to leave the forests but we did not miss the opportunity  to marvel at the colour of the sky at sunset. It was a change that was evident from blue to orange to tangerine as the sun gradually started sinking behind the forest islands. Silhouettes of birds flew home across the sky that was now magenta and the boatmen gradually rowed away from forest towards the locality. Night was descending on the Sunderbans as the men moved away and somewhere behind us in those deep forests , the tiger was waking up ready for its night patrol and hunting.

Day 3

Day 3 began on the usual note with the quest for the tiger and marvelling at the curlew, lapwing that frequently flew over the waters. Ashok da spotted the elusive leopard cat (though we couldn’t click any proper image) -we waited long for the animal to re-emerge but cat remained inside. The crocs didn’t disappoint though as they reappeared again at different places providing us some beautiful images of sliding back into the waters.  The trip drew to a close-not before the falcon , osprey and collared kingfisher duo gave us some more  shots. All of us were in a cheerful mood as the boat reached Godkhali- mine was no different either. Now I can confidently say- “Yes, I have seen a TIGER at Sunderbans”.

Kingfisher Duo

Picture Credit: Sanjay Bhattacharya

Featured Image clicked by Sanjay Bhattacharya

If You Go

To get into Sunderbans, you have to travel to Godhkhali (preferably) which is around 2.5 to 3 hour journey from Kolkata. From Godhkhali, you need to avail a boat to take you to Sajnekhali to avail the forest permits. Permits can be obtained for 3 days ( one needs to come back and renew the permit after 3 days if duration of stay is more). From Sajnekhali, the boat gradually leaves the locality and moves towards the forests.

About GoingWild

When it comes to tiger sighting at Sunderbans, Goingwild is the name that emerges at the top of your mind.  They have been the pioneers and with their invaluable experience and expertise, they  have made Sunderbans a place worth visiting to catch glimpse of the elusive swamp tiger. Apart from usual tiger sighting experience ,  Goingwild provides you with an opportunity to know the forests, the animal habitats and a chance to savour the beauty of Sunderbans through their day long voyaging!! Needless to say, I eagerly look forward to explore the hidden magic of Sunderbans with Goingwild team in near future.  For more details,  please visit the url:  www.goingwild.in

 

30 thoughts on “Dakhin Rai (Tiger God) from Sunderbans

  1. I have never been to forest , after reading this feeling an earnest urge to visit sundarban to have a glance of the beautiful “Bagh”.
    Please keep writing and keep awaring us how beautiful and enriched our land is ..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Please do share the pictures or account of their sighting . I must say you are lucky to have witnessed one of the famous Tigress mother in Indian forests-Collarwali

        Like

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