The last weekend before Micha left we planned one last foray out of the city to visit the Sundarbans National Park, a tiger reserve on the world’s largest river delta.
Due to lack of time, we booked the trip through a tour agency found in the lonely planet, and were far from disappointed! The organisation was run by a group of young locals, who’d begun taking guests to Sundarbarns over 10 years ago. 5 years ago they split off from the main tourist area and choose a further afield finger of the delta on which, with the help of the inhabitants of a village there, built an eco resort, where they now take their guests. The “resort” was spotless, quiet and peaceful, built from natural materials, the buildings consisted of mud huts with straw roofs, and provided us with the most comfortable night’s sleep we’d had in the country. There was no electricity in this area, thus all power came from renewable sources, and the food was sourced and cooked by locals who helped maintain the place. It was truly a great project.
Locals showing us how to shake the rice out of the rice plants.
The making of the trip however was down to the guides, who were so enthusiastic, you could hear the coach driver smiling through his words as he sped us towards our destination, drawing our attention to places of interest along the way… The first of these as we left the vicinity of the city was “garbage mountain”; a huge expanse of terrain composed of rubbish, on which 15-20 thousand people work every day. They collect the rubbish to take home, clean and cut into tiny pieces to take to recycling places which pay for their loot. There are obvious economical and environmental benefits to such jobs which help to take care of the environment, however it also breeds serious health and safety concerns for the workers, and ideally the government would help to provide certain measures to protect them.
During the weekend we were treated to long boat rides on colourful wooden vessels covered in plastic sequins. We chugged through the alleyways of the delta, eyes peeled for the evasive royal bengal tiger, finding instead spotted deer, endangered otters, gangs of monkeys rifling through rubbish on the beach, many different types of kingfishers flashing blue, red, orange and green and a lone crocodile basking in the heat.
In the evenings, locals came to play music at the eco village, to which our guides danced fervently. One evening they worked themselves into such a frenzy that they bounced over to us with the proposal of an impromptu night safari, and an hour later we were being silently rowed through the mangrove maze under a starry sky.
The only thing missing from the trip was the sight of a tiger, which was left to our mind’s eye, where we saw him in the early morning mist wading through the murky water between the mangrove forests, head down, eyes peeled for fishes, pawing at their struggle beneath the waters surface, or later lounging lazily on low lying twisted mangrove branches to avoid the midday heat. For now though, the tigers will have to stay confined to my imagination.