The Sundurbans are the largest mangrove forest in the world stretching over Bangladesh and India. Home to the Bengal Tiger it was definitely a place I wanted to visit during my travels in Bangladesh. Through a new found friendship with Mahmud, I found myself on a three day Sundurban boat cruise with Mahmud, his family and 35 of his Bangladesh friends. Though international tourism is almost non-existent in this country, domestic tourism is popular and I was to find mostly Bangladesh tourists roaming the Sundurbans on these organised boat trips.
Mahmud and his wife
It was a privilege to be asked by Mahmud to join this trip he had organised with his friends. I was excited to not only see the Sundurbans but to spend time with Bangladeshi people! As I hopped onto the boat that was to take us out to our home for the next few days I could tell straight away I was in for an adventure. The Bangladeshis were excited; laughing, snapping photos of each other and joking around. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.
We picked up our armed guards (seeing as the Sundurbans is tiger territory every boat must have armed guards) and we set off down the river. There was nothing to do but sit on the roof and idly watch the scenery float by.
I was obviously with a higher class of Bangladesh people than I’d been passing on the streets and in the slums. These people had SLR cameras and iPads. About half of them spoke English and spoke it well. It was fun to finally have people to talk to! I’d spent so much of my travels so far silent as not many people do speak English on the streets of Bangladesh. Spending time with these locals was a highlight. At night we all released lit lanterns into the black sky whilst standing on the roof of our boat. I was in the middle of the Sundurbans a long way from home but with all my new friends I felt blessed, content and grateful.
The trip wasn’t all about lazing about the boat though. We stepped off the boat a few times for some ventures into the Sundurban jungle. The Bangladeshi people were excited to visit the Bay of Bengal. For most of them it was their first visit to the ocean. They all ran into the sea, fully clothed, splashing around and having a wonderful time.
We also went on the hunt for the infamous Bengal Tiger. We didn’t see a tiger in the flesh but we did spot paw prints which was a huge highlight for me.
I think one of the highlights for the Bangladeshi would have to be playing in the mud. The first guy jumped off the boat onto the shore and sunk waist deep into the mud…the laughing didn’t stop for a long long time.
A trip to Bangladesh must be complimented with a three day journey in the Sundurbans. It was beautiful – the fireflies sparkled at night, the birds soared during the day and the boat chugged along immersing one deep into the jungle. If you love nature then the Sundurbans is well worth it and if you can manage to find 40 Bangladesh locals to do the trip with, even better.