A trip to the Mangroves

Mangrove River Sunderban Tiger Reserve Swaroop Singha Roy

The Sunderban National Park, spreading over an area of 1,330.12 km² is densely covered by Mangrove forests and is the largest of its kind in the world. The forest is also one of the largest reserves of the Bengal Tiger, and here the Tigers are famous  for their man-eating tendencies and their unique characteristic of swimming in the saline waters. But, it’s not just the Tigers that make Sunderban famous, the forest is also home to a variety of birds, rare mammals such as the Fishing Cat, Leopard Cat and also the Saltwater Crocodile which is the largest of all the reptiles in the world! In 1987, UNESCO declared the Sunderbans National Park a World Heritage site and in 2001, the entire Indian Sunderbans was declared a Global Biosphere Reserve.

My first trip to the Sunderbans was in 2012. It was just a one day trip and not a very successful one. Since then it had been my long time wish to visit Sunderban once more and explore the place better, and finally this september I went for my second trip to the mangroves. This time it was a full fledged Wildlife trip  and it was organised by GoingWild, a Kolkata based tour company that conducts Wildlife Photography tours to various forests in India.

Godhkhali Jetty
The cabin inside our boat
The cabin inside our boat

We set out from Kolkata  at around 6 am and after a 3 hours drive, reached Godhkhali from where we got on to our motorized boat and began our 3 days trip to the mangroves.  Our first day safari was till 6:30pm after which our boat went to a place called “Bali Island” and anchored near the jetty over there. The stay was inside the boat itself. Many people wonder whether the cabins inside the boats are comfortable enough or not, even I did. But, after this trip, all I can say is that if it’s your first time then you’re surely going to have an out of the world experience, nothing can be as comfortable and thrilling as this!
Our second and third day safari started very early in the morning, at around 5 am and continued till 6-6:30 pm.

For this trip, I used a Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD on my Canon 60D. A couple of shots have been taken with that lens while the rest of them are taken with my Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM. The longer reach and versatility of the Tamron 150-600mm proved to be quite helpful. Thanks to Anirban Da and Dipankar da (Tamron India)  for letting me use this lens 🙂


Water Monitor- This was one of the first species that we came across (Shot with Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD)
A group of Rhesus Macaques at the bank of the river Shot with Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD
A group of Rhesus Macaques at the bank of the river
Shot with Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD
Blue Tailed Bee-eater
Blue Tailed Bee-eater
The forests of Sunderban is home to 8 different varieties of Kingfishers and here's a photograph of one of them, the Brown Winged Kingfisher! This beautiful bird falls in the
The forests of Sunderban is home to 8 different varieties of Kingfishers and here’s a photograph of one of them, the Brown Winged Kingfisher!
This beautiful bird falls in the “Near Threatened” category of the IUCN Red List.
Brown Winged Kingfisher, showing its nictitating membrane
Brown Winged Kingfisher, showing its nictitating membrane
Collared Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
A Common Redshank just after taking off !
A Common Redshank just after taking off !

Blue Tailed Bee eater 2 Sunderban Tiger Reserve Swaroop Singha Roy

Lesser Adjutant Stork near the bank of the river Shot with Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD
Lesser Adjutant Stork at the bank of the river. This bird falls under the “Vulnerable” category of the IUCN Red List
Shot with Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD
Mudskippers are one of the most commonly seen fishes in Sunderban. They are completely amphibious fish that can use their pectoral fins to walk on land!
Mudskippers are one of the most commonly seen fishes in Sunderban.
They are completely amphibious fish that can use their pectoral fins to walk on land!

One of the key species of Sunderbans that we came across during the first day of our safari was the Buffy Fish Owl. This species of Owl is among the most rarely seen birds of Sunderban.

One of the key species of Sunderbans that we came across during the first day of our safari - The Buffy Fish Owl. This species of Owl is one of the most rarely seen birds of Sunderban.
Buffy Fish Owl
Shot with Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD
A
A “head turned” pose of the Buffy Fish Owl !
An Indian Spotted Deer staring from the Mangroves
An Indian Spotted Deer staring from the Mangroves
White Bellied Sea-Eagle
White Bellied Sea-Eagle

White Bellied Sea Eagle 2 Sunderban Tiger Reserve Swaroop Singha Roy

White Bellied Sea Eagle 3 Sunderban Tiger Reserve Swaroop Singha Roy

Almost every animal in Sunderban need to cross the rivers to move from one island to another in search of food or shelter and thus, it’s very important for them to be good swimmers! Adaptation is the key to survival in this extremely hostile environment.
Here’s a series of photos showing a Wild Boar swimming across one of the creeks and running towards the forest soon after getting up.

Wild Boar Swimming Crossing River Sunderban Tiger Reserve Swaroop Singha Roy Wild Boar Swimming Crossing River 2 Sunderban Tiger Reserve Swaroop Singha RoyWild Boar Swimming Crossing River 3 Sunderban Tiger Reserve Swaroop Singha Roy Wild Boar Crossing River 4Sunderban Tiger Reserve Swaroop Singha Roy

Eurasian Curlew
Eurasian Curlew
Record shot of a Brahminy Kite. This bird is my favorite among all raptors :D
Record shot of a Brahminy Kite. This bird is my favorite among all raptors 😀
Red Tailed Bamboo Pit Viper
Here’s another beautiful species that we came across – The Red-Tailed Bamboo Pit Viper ! This is a venomous pit viper species endemic to India, Bangladesh and Burma. The venom is hematoxic, which means that their venom effects the blood and organs, causing a breakdown or inflammation in the body.
Wood Sandpiper Sunderban Tiger Reserve Swaroop Singha Roy
Common Sandpiper
Pug Marks of a tiger! We probably missed the sighting of this tiger by a couple of minutes. There were fresh pugmarks on both the sides of the creek, from which it was clear that a tiger had crossed and moved to the other island very recently.
Foot prints of the king!
We probably missed the sighting of this tiger by a couple of minutes. There were fresh pugmarks on both the sides of the creek, from which it was clear that the tiger had crossed and moved to the other island very recently.

Life in Sunderbans is tough for both humans and animals. Many people living here fall under the “Below Poverty” line. Due to lack of employment opportunities, they resort to jobs which most of the time pose great threat to their lives.
A lot of people go for fishing inside the swamps and other restricted areas, and they even enter the forests for collecting honey, firewood and other items. These are the times when they are extremely vulnerable to predators such as Tigers and Salt-water Crocodiles.

A group of fishermen out for their day's catch, early in the morning.
A group of fishermen out for their day’s catch, early in the morning.
When someone dies in a Tiger attack, a piece of cloth from the victim's body or a one that belongs to him/her is tied to a tree located at or near the spot of the accident. This is done so that when other fishermen are in that area, they'll be aware that an accident had happened previously in that spot.
When someone dies in a Tiger attack, a piece of cloth from the victim’s body or a one that belongs to him/her is tied to a tree located at or near the spot of the accident. This is done so that when other fishermen are in that area, they’ll be aware that an accident had happened previously in that spot.
Lesser Adjutant Stork Shot with Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD
Lesser Adjutant Stork
Shot with Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD
Salt Water Crocodile
Salt Water Crocodile
This species is the largest of all living reptiles in the world. The males can reach sizes up to 20 feet and weigh up to 1300 kg !
A water monitor chilling off on a tree by the side of the river
A water monitor chilling off on a tree by the side of the river
Oriental White-Eye
Oriental White-Eye

The entire trip was very successful. Never imagined of getting so many species in just one short trip, and that too from a place where wildlife sightings are very uncertain! I am looking forward to come here once again during the winter.

Here’s a list of birds that we found during our 3 days trip !

  1. Indian Cormorant
  2. Great Egret
  3. Little Egret
  4. Little Heron
  5. Indian Pond Heron
  6. Black-crowned Night Heron (heard)
  7. Lesser Adjutant
  8. Lesser Whistling-duck
  9. Cotton Pygmy Goose
  10. Oriental Honey Buzzard
  11. Brahminy Kite
  12. Shikra
  13. White-bellied Sea Eagle
  14. Crested Serpent Eagle
  15. Red Jungle Fowl
  16. White-breasted Waterhen
  17. Lesser Sand Plover
  18. Little Ringed Plover
  19. Pacific Golden Plover
  20. Eurasian Curlew
  21. Whimbrel
  22. Common Redshank
  23. Wood Sandpiper
  24. Terek Sandpiper
  25. Common Sandpiper
  26. Little Gull
  27. River Tern
  28. Eurasian Collared Dove
  29. Spotted Dove
  30. Yellow-footed Green Pigeon
  31. Rock Pigeon
  32. Rose-ringed Parakeet
  33. Eurasian Cuckoo
  34. Buffy Fish Owl
  35. Spotted Owlet (heard)
  36. Pied Kingfisher
  37. Brown-winged Kingfisher
  38. White-throated Kingfisher
  39. Collared Kingfisher
  40. Common Kingfisher
  41. Blue-tailed Bee-eater
  42. Green Bee-eater
  43. Black-rumped Flameback
  44. Greater Flameback
  45. Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker
  46. Common Iora
  47. Black-hooded Oriole
  48. Mangrove Pitta (heard)
  49. Ashy Woodswallow
  50. Black Drongo
  51. Bronzed Drongo
  52. Asian Pied Starling
  53. Common Myna
  54. Jungle Myna
  55. House Crow
  56. Large-billed Crow
  57. Large Cuckooshrike
  58. Small Minivet
  59. Red-vented Bulbul
  60. Red-whiskered Bulbul
  61. White-browed Scimitar Babbler
  62. Yellow-bellied Prinia
  63. Common Tailorbird (heard)
  64. Oriental Magpie Robin
  65. Great Tit (heard)
  66. Grey Wagtail
  67. Oriental White-eye
  68. Purple-rumped Sunbird
  69. Loten’s Sunbird
  70. Purple Sunbird
  71. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker

Thanks a lot to GoingWild, Soumyajit da (tour mentor) and our guide Nityananda da (this guy has hawk eyes) for such a wonderful trip 🙂

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13 thoughts on “A trip to the Mangroves

  1. You made my urge to visit Sunderban stronger. Now I just have to. It’s a pretty post with fabulous picture. I hoped for more human photographs and maybe one or two words about their own experiences. Maybe it wasn’t possible.
    Lovely photographs. Keep up the good work.
    Cheers.

    Like

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