Sundarban sojorn - October 13 - 14, 2006

Taking advantage of a workshop in Khulna, a city near the Sundarban World Heritage Park, I arranged to be taken by boat down the ??? River to a resort on the edge of the park operated by a charming man named Faruk. One of my colleagues, Debashish, came with me. "sundar" + "ban" mean "beautiful" + "forest". It's locally famous as the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the world, inhabited by Bengal tigers, river pirates, adorable deer and people who venture in to fish and gather honey. The latter two are frequent prey of the former.

Dhaka is that smudge just below the "h" in "Bangladesh". The dark green at the bottom is park. If it weren't reserved it would be light green like everywhere else, and even so there are people sneaking logs out of it. Left of the white line is West Bengal, India.

You are here, somewhere. I'm getting a GPS at the next opportunity.

river travel

Our vessel was formerly a 18' lifeboat from a ship that ended its days on the wrecking beach at Chittagong. It was apparently designed to survive any weather; before being modified for its present use, it had seat belts for 25 people, an oxygen supply and tiny portholes. You could have confidently gone over Niagra Falls in it. The roof is a foot thick of flotation space, armoured outside with steel railings for people unfortunately not inside. The hull has lots of flotation too, and probably ballast as well since it presents a big profile to get blown over. It's powered by a quite a large diesl motor and the skipper sits in a cupola with an impressive array of instruments: compass, barometer and engine gauges as well as the usual gear lever, throttle and steering wheel. Faruk said he bought it for about CND$7500.

You can't be in a hurry in this vessel, though. It goes at a brisk walking pace.

But we passed this one, powered by galley slaves.

Lots to see on the river.

Peeping Sid

Scraping up dinner.

Finally, after voyaging five hours, we arrive at Nishkuri, Faruk's resort. (Photo by Faruk.)

Faruk showed me his prawn pond.

The tide washes in and out, twice a day each way. On its way out it passes through a trap that filters the prawns. That's the box by my right foot.

Local ladies. The community is Hindu, except for Faruk, although he lives in Khulna mostly.

Low tide, in the morning.

Except for special ponds maintained to capture rain water, there is very little fresh water anywhere. Even well water would be brackish. Coconuts have good drinking water.

My buddy Debashish. We're in a canoe creeping along channels hoping to sneak up on something interesting, like a crocodile or ... a tiger! Faruk saw two tigers once, at dawn from a watch tower erected for that purpose. But we saw just a few birds, a monkey and a huge bee hive. We heard some deer.

Mangrove tree. I'll learn how the roots work and report back here later. (Photo by Faruk.)


This flier is the same guy as in the next picture.