Part 1

In fact, it’s not like I’ve spent days and nights in the woods. Rather, it is the story of a day and night spent on a ship running along the branches of a river running through the forest. Yes, I have wandered in the forest from time to time, otherwise, it is not possible to see the forest, right? However, I will say at the beginning, but did not see the tiger! Sad but true. But the Sundarbans is not only the habitat of tigers, but also a wonderful playground of nature! This is why the pain of not being able to see the tiger mama behind the whole experience does not seem too heavy.

On the one hand, the intense pressure of work, and on the other hand, only temporary release from lockdown. Just when I was thinking about a big vacation, a friend suggested that a group from Khulna be going to the Sundarbans to join them. Immediately after making the necessary discussions with the Dhaka representative of that party, I made the booking. My friend joined directly from Khulna. And my journey started on November 5, 2020, at 9 pm by bus. Arriving in Khulna shortly after 6 am on the 8th, I called another representative of the group to find out the exact time of departure of the ship (MV or Medium Vessel – actually a very large launch, but known as a ship in this region).

Having more than an hour on hand, I relaxed at the restaurant in front and had breakfast. The bus drops off at the Royal intersection early in the morning. As I knew from acquaintances, good tea is available in this area. And if I don’t have a cup of tea in the morning, the journey doesn’t start for me. So after having breakfast with roasted beef, parota and semolina pudding, I had a cup of tea and then a cup of tea and left for the jail ghat. From there, our ship will leave at 9 am. On the way, he failed to find the famous sweet shop ‘Indramohan Suites’, but on the way back, he had a chance to visit it once. But that story is not here.

On the short journey from the wharf to the ship, I was accompanied by several other people from Dhaka and other places who joined the same tour. The most intriguing of these was a group of 23 people – relatives, co-workers, landlords, and friends – a group of people of all ages full of excitement, who kept us mesmerized throughout the journey. My friend and I packed our cabins for the next two nights with a cabin. At exactly 9 o’clock the ship started sailing for the Sundarbans. The mercury of the growing excitement in the mind reaches its climax at this stage.

Ever since learning about the Sundarbans in textbooks as a child, I have always been interested in visiting the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Royal Bengal Tiger, at least once. After so many years of life, when that opportunity finally came, it took a bit of speed to believe the whole thing. Along with that was pandemic and lockdown – which completely changed the normal way of life. In the midst of all this, the journey that would be possible again seemed incredible enough. Needless to say, the organizers and authorities of this journey and every passenger were always aware of proper hygiene.

This was the first human journey in the Sundarbans on this day after tourism resumed after a lockdown of about eight months. And this is why the hope of seeing a tiger was very strong among all of us. We had the idea that since the anagona of tourists had been closed for quite some time, the animals might also have become a bit reckless. But even though everyone was reckless, Bagh Mama was always aware. Although we saw an abundance of crocodiles and deer, we did not see the footprints of tigers. Let me tell you, it is rare to see tigers on these commercially-run trips, but some organizers arrange hikes about 18 miles long, where tigers are more likely to be seen, or at least footprints.

One of the most interesting aspects of a trip to the Sundarbans is food. Heavy meals are provided almost every time during this journey. Where there are various fruits, small and big fish caught from the river, local vegetables, chicken curry, and also rice, polao, khichuri. There is even Chinese food with local flavors at one time, bar-b-que at one time, and lunch on the last day with wedding jumpsuits, along with yogurt-sweets. Breakfast is served twice a day from dawn to noon. There is also breakfast in the evening.

When our ship entered the Sundarbans on November 7 at half-past one, all the passengers were overjoyed. The excitement of entering this forest among all, young and old, easily surpassed the age difference. After lunch at half-past two in the afternoon, we reached Harbaria Eco-Tourism Center at around three o’clock. Ships travel here by boat. It is to be noted that there is always a boat barrier with all these ships for navigating such a narrow river. The boatman was with us all the time as a guide. His experience as a boatman in the Sundarbans is more than 10 years. I learned from the story that he had never seen a tiger in such a long time. However, he had some strange experiences that the story is not everywhere.


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