Sunderbans is the single largest mangrove ecosystem in the world and spreads over 26,000 km. It forms part of the lower part of the Ganges Delta extending about 260km along the Bay of Bengal from Hooghly river in India to the Meghna river in Bangladesh. Approx 9,630km of the ecosystem is in India out of which 4,263 km is reserve forest. It is 112 km from Kolkata and 24 km from Basanti. The Sunderbans tiger reserve was created in 1973. The area comprising present tiger reserve was made reserve forest in 1978 including 2,585 sq km of the mangrove swamp which extended for about 260 km from the Bay of Bengal to the Meghna River estuary in Bangladesh. The Sajnekhali wildlife sanctuary was created in 1976 covering an area of 363.3 sq km.
In 1985 the national park area of the reserve was included in the list of World heritage sites and entire Sunderbans area was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1989. The name Sunderbans is said to be originated from the sundari trees. There are 64 plant species which survive in the estuarine conditions and tidal effects. The Sunderbans is one of the world's largest and most unique wetlands. In 2004 there were 274 tigers in the area which stretches almost up to 1500 km. The rich diversity of flora and fauna is wildlife lovers' paradise.
Core Area: 1330 sq.km
The tiger reserve is divided into two sectors-core and non-core, the former comprise of 1,330 sq km and the latter 1225 sq km.An area of 124.4 sq km within the core area is preserved as a gene pool.
The nearest airport is Dum Dum which is 112 km from the Sunderbans.
The nearest station is at Port Canning which is 44 km on the Matla River. Trains run from Kolkata's Sealdah station to Canning. For sanctuary take boat from Basanti or Sonakhali on the Gombdi River. There is a direct bus from Kolkatta to Basanti/Sonakhali and from there a motorboats to sanctuary.
One can drive to Sonakhali via the Basanti main road from Kolkata. There are also daily bus services from the Kolkata bus stand at Dharamtolla and Babughat to Namkhana, Raidighi, Sonakhali and Najatare.
The park is open all the year round but the best time to visit is from Sep to March. The animals can be sighted from October to February. For visiting estuarine delta area including Sajnekhali wildlife sanctuary and Project Tiger Reserve areas permit is required from the office of the Field Director, Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. For foreign tourists permit is required from Forest Dept of Kolkatta.
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