Jetty at Sonakhali
Most trips to the Indian Sunderbans begin at the
Sonakhali jetty. Sonakhali (on the River Hogol) is 90 kms from Kolkata ( 21/2 hour drive) and is the start of the chain of waterways that are a feature of the land of a hundred islands. Opposite Sonakhali is the town of Basanti. From Sonakhali, a slow and comfortable Motor Launch carries you down the Durgaduani Channel past densely inhabited islands ~ former forests tamed by man with the blessings of "Bonobibi", the resident deity. Durgaduani connects Sonakhali to Gosaba and continues to meet the River Gumdi - the start of the 'Land of the tigers'.
A bend on the Durgaduani channel
In tide country birders are never far from their binoculars and photographers from their cameras ~ even on a family holiday! The 4,000 sq. km of mangrove forests in the Indian Sunderbans is host to eight of the twelve species of kingfishers found in India. The Pied was the first of the six species we saw on this trip.
The stunning Collared Kingfisher is a mangrove resident, and rare in India. Widespread over the entire area in summer, in winter the larger and more aggressive Black-capped Kingfisher invades the area in great numbers pushing out the Collared to the forest fringes. This one seemed a trifle out of its depth to be hunting on the Durgaduani.
Pied Kingfisher Collared Kingfisher
The battered hoarding at the junction of the Durgaduani and the mighty River Gumdi welcomes you to "Tiger Land".
The 'Sunderban Tiger Reserve' starts on the opposite bank of the Gumdi
and stretches south till land meets the Bay of Bengal. We have now entered wild Nature's domain.
Here both land and the water are controlled by 'Dakshin Roy', the Tiger God and enemy of Bonobibi, the protector. You step on Dakshin Roy's territory at your own peril!