On the very first day of 2021 we went for a long-awaited family trip to the Sundarbans.
Besides getting an opportunity to enjoy with family members it was a very different from any other trips we had been to as we spent long hours on the water, cruising through the rivers. Though we could not meet the royal citizen of Bengal, The Royal Bengal Tiger yet the trip was very refreshing and fulfilling. The tour operator was feeling very proud of the fact that Corona did not touch the delta. But the authority did nothing to keep it safe for the future. Neither did they check the temperatures of the visitors nor did they enquire about their recent health condition.
On the early morning of 1st Jan we all gathered at the Science City crossing to board a winger which took us to Godkhali jetty.
They say that the Sundarbans is one of the best places to visit on the earth , but sadly enough West Bengal tourism is doing nothing to uphold this fact. The mangrove bound tourists are allotted a farm land to park their vehicles before sailing on the boat, whereas farmer protest is still on over the disputed farm bill. The journey was around 2- 2.30 hours from Godkhali to Jamespur, our destination. We sailed from one river to the other, & went from wide to wider. At one point you could determine the change of color in water. It looked as if the Great Artist had fallen short of the chosen color meant for the vast span of H2O which eventually meets the Bay of Bengal.
As the boat sailed by the mangroves, the plastic litters planted by the so-called educated humans were calling us from the mangrove forest. I can bet those who had littered there are unaware of the ecological role played by it besides being a plain picturesque beauty.
There were more than fifty people on our boat and I managed to befriend with only two little travelers. Jokingly, I had introduced myself as the royal Bengal tiger to one of them. In return she called me by the name “Montu – the tiger”. A character she had read in a fable. I was humbled. Soon our boat stopped at the designated jetty which is just outside the resort. The resort is not an exotic sprawling property but a sweet little homely place. It has several types of accommodations. We had booked 4 Deluxe rooms and thus got a block just to ourselves. This is the best option for small groups.
After lunch we took a stroll through a village adjacent to our resort. A small pond, a couple of muddy houses, a boat and big playing field. Doesn't it compromise of all the elements that we used to draw in our school days? So rusty yet perfect. There were some kids playing in the field, definitely the scenario was not so perfect for them. How could that be? If someone needs medical attention they have two options, one is boat which is dependent on tides and the other one is by road which is not feasible. The modern medical development hasn't yet reached these people and they succumb to their ailment before accessing any medical help.
The next day, post breakfast we left in a boat for cruising through the narrow creeks with a lot of expectation of sighting the royal citizen. In order to enter the forest area, we had to take the permit from the Sundarban forest authority at Shajnekhali .Then we headed to the Dobanki camp watch tower. We were very reluctant to go to the watch tower due to heavy crowd but we had to give in due to the insistence of the tour operator.
It’s a narrow netted path through the jungle. How can you expect the sighting of any wildlife when the humans are marching through it? There was a board which says “silence please” but we humans have a knack to overlook any pertinent instruction. We visited a forest but failed to experience the beauty of the place since what prevailed was noise. It’s a one storied house with windows and a big balcony that is demarcated as a watch tower for the forest dept. We could spot three spotted deer and a wild boar in spite of the roar of humans over the wild. The view of the netted path through the forest was really beautiful.
After the lunch on board we headed to the narrow creeks which became narrower with the receding water level due to the low tide. Every movement of leaves had a knack of attracting our attention. A couple of monkey and some birds were all that we could spot. From a distance every tree trunk looked like an animal but disappeared once it came near. We were hypnotized by the view of the sea green water emerging with multiple shades of green trees and deep blue sky. None of us experienced the dissatisfaction of not sighting any of the prominent wildlife. Most of us go to Maldives and Thailand in search of things we can find here after shelling out much less cash. We don’t value inexpensive things. By the time we reached the resort it was dark, pitch dark. Only the light of the distant boats were visible, that was another grade of beauty we witnessed.
A group of local artists performed Bonbibi Pala or Jatra (dance drama), a local folk theatre to create awareness about their culture. Which was followed by some musical performance by tourists at the resort.
The next morning, I woke up early to quench the thirst of my lenses .I visited the nearby village, covered with a thin layer of fog at dawn. After breakfast we sailed back to Godkhali to put an end to our memorable trip.
It took 44yrs to take a trip as close to 100kms from my place. Within a few thousands of rupees, you get all that and more than what you get with dollars in an international trip. The host was good and the food was even better. They treated us to fixed buffet menus for all three meals, from Bhetki paturi (a Bengali fish preparation), to chingri malaikari (prawn preparation) to Chili chicken...yeh dil maange more.
This UNESCO heritage center is a beautiful tourist place by itself, which could get even better with the help of the government. They just need to facilitate few boat rides through the core areas for the tourists to encourage tourism. With the growth of tourism, the locals will get empowered and the right to a better life. After all progress in pockets can never ensure advancement, isn't it?
Photo and Text : ARIJIT SEN
Edited by : RAJASHREE SEN