The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis travels Bangladesh’s Sundarbans National Park, the world’s largest tiger-infested mangrove forest

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jan• 08•13

Fog creates ghost-like images in the early morning in the Sundarbans area

The world’s largest mangrove forest, actually. It’s amazing to many Westerners that people still get eaten by lions and tigers. We here at WoWasis remember when we were at Namibia’s Etosha National Park when it happened. A German visitor had slept on a bench outside a watering hole, protected by a barbed-wire fence. An old female lion managed to conquer the fence, and ate the visitor from the top down. What remained of his lower torso sat on the back end of a flatbed truck for a few hours until it was removed. When he was attacked, he let out a piercing scream, causing a woman to open the door of her rondavel to see what the commotion was all about. Seeing that he was being attacked by a lion and remembering that she’d heard lions were frightened by camera flashes, she grabbed her camera and started flashing away, to no avail. Her comment the next day was “what a terrible time to run out of film.” 

A friendly river family hangs out the wash and enjoys watching the boats pass by on the Pusur River in Bangladesh

Which brings us to the Sundarbans National Park in Bangladesh, the largest mangrove forest in the world. Here, three to four people get eaten by tigers every week. A good way to be eaten is to be a fisherman working in a small boat next to the waterline. Big cats watch for habits, and a tiger is good at waiting for prey that it knows will eventually be coming. Visitors can take boat tours of the Sundarbans lasting from one to three days, and its immediately noticeable how scared the guides are of tigers. On the ground at the Harbaria station, tiger footprints are everywhere. The visitor on a walk is always accompanied by a guard with a rifle, and will notice a bamboo grove every now and then that has been painted with red and white stripes. That’s a no-go area where tigers are known to be active at any and all hours. 

Huge tiger paw-prints show that this animal means business

The beauty of a Sundarbans visit lies mainly in enjoying watching the riverine life on the Pusur River. Your boat will pass by tiny fishing villages, friendly families and stevedores will wave at you. You’ll see mangroves as well as a number of other tree varieties, including the Sundri, which the forest is named after (Sundarbans literally means “beautiful sundri forest”). You’ll see a few birds, maybe some monkeys, but not a lot of wildlife variety. And you’ll pass by the entertainment town of Banisanta, where sex is sold by extremely young ladies for a few taka, and your tour boat probably won’t take you for a shore visit. 

This Sundri tree is surrunded by tiny mangrove shoots

You can tour the Sundarbans by boat for one or three days. We took the one day tour, as we just couldn’t see the value of staying 3 days in a mangrove forest when one would obviously do (tour companies couldn’t sell us on it, either). And remember, alcohol is illegal in Bangladesh, so forget about enjoying a mangrove forest sunset on deck while sipping a beer. 

A one-day boat tour will cost you roughly $120 USD for one person, with the price dropping per person if more people are involved. Book the tour from your hotel in the cities of Khulna or Mongla, from where your boat leaves.

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