The Sundarbans claim the world’s largest coastal mangrove, stretching around the Bay of Bengal in the Ganges Delta and some 80 km inland, across India and Bangladesh.
They have listed World Heritage sites with three wildlife sanctuaries and over 60% of the mangrove forest in southwest Bangladesh.
Beyond the fertile agricultural lands, Bangladesh Sundarbans National Park is a maze of rivers and streams, creeks, estuaries, mudflats and islands dotted through mangrove or freshwater forest swamps.
The only way to explore is by boat, gliding through the damp primeval jungle in a world without end.
Visitors must obtain a permit from the Forest Office in Khulna and accommodation in the rest-houses should be booked in advance.
Package tours are available from Dhaka, October to March.
Sundarbans National Park, Royal Bengal Tigers, Sundarbans Tiger Project
The Sundarbans National Park is home to around 400 Royal Bengal tigers, dreaded man-eaters said to claim over 100 lives a year.
Some believe high salinity has led them to develop a taste for human flesh.
Yet sightings are rare even in the most likely spots such as Hiron Point, Katka or Tin Kona Island.
The Bengal tiger can live up to 16 years and reach three meters in length.
The Sundarbans Tiger Project is currently gathering data for conservation purposes.
The greatest danger is the loss of habitat, poaching or hunting by fearful locals but the Sundarbans retain the highest tiger density on earth.
World Heritage Site, Bangladesh Coastal Mangrove
Besides tigers, the Bangladesh coastal mangrove is rich in wildlife from boars and theses monkeys to jungle fowl, 50 species of reptiles, including the Indian python, and 30 000 spotted deer.
Saltwater crocodiles, monitors, and Gangetic river dolphins can also be spotted.
Over 120 species of fish have been recorded and 260 of birds from snipes and golden eagles to blue-eared kingfishers or migrating Siberian ducks.
Different degrees of salinity ensure a variety of plants and trees, most impressive the 25 meters high Sundari trees which give the Sundarbans their name of beautiful forest.
Life in the Bangladesh Sundarbans
There are few permanent dwellings in the Sundarbans but neighboring populations still seek a living from land and water.
Loggers build temporary homes high above the ground while sea gypsies roaming in thatched boats train otters to catch fish.
In the winter months, fishermen from Chittagong sail to Dublar Island in search of shrimps, fish, and sharks.
Among those brave enough to step ashore are the honey gatherers who climb up vertiginous trees to collect the sweetest nectar.
Their work is fraught with danger, height, bees, and not least prowling tigers ready to pounce at the first lapse of concentration.