The world’s largest mangrove swamp forests

Sunderbans National Park

Ranging over 10,000 km2 spread over India and Bangladesh, the Sunderbans is a warren of mangrove-covered islands set within the largest active delta in the world formed by the rivers Meghna, Ganga and Brahmaputra. Its Indian section covers around 2500 km2 of which nearly 1,000 km2 is made up of creeks and waterways.

The world’s largest mangrove swamp forests

These ancient mystical tidal forests derive their names from the Sundari (Heritiera fomes) mangroves, and it’s not just the Sundari mangroves that thrive here, but 78 species of mangroves – the highest diversity in the world. The Sunderbans is also amazingly rich in all forms of wildlife, including land and aquatic mammals, birds and reptiles.

While the Tiger is of course the most famous and sought after resident, it isn’t the only cat here. It is joined by the Jungle Cat, Leopard-cat and Fishing Cat, which are among the almost 50 mammalian species which to varying extents have adapted to a rather amphibious lifestyle.

While tiger sightings on the boat can be rare, there is a wealth of other wildlife to spot, such as the Gangetic and Irrawaddy Dolphins, Water Monitor Lizard, Smooth-coated Otters, estuarine Crocodiles and several kinds of turtles including the endangered Olive Ridley turtles and the River Terrapin, porpoises and sharks, crabs, King Cobra and other snakes and mudskippers on the shorelines.

Birds (over 350 recorded species) are in plenty with a good range of woodland and waterside birds. A host of waders such as whimbrels, sandpipers and plovers are found in the shallows searching for invertebrates. Migratory birds arrive in winter from the north.

Thriving in the varying salinity levels are 400 fish species, and nearly 30 species of reptiles.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site


Tigers have adapted to the high salinity of the Sunderbans waters, and live an almost amphibious life, moving between islands or plodding along the edge of a creek at low tide, coats covered in glistening primordial mud.

It is only apt that those who seek the tiger in these most unlikely of tiger habitats modify their wildlife watching methods. Instead of sitting in a jeep safari, the only way to explore this maze of tidal creeks and mangroves is to board a motorboat.

It is the most magical and surreal experience to have your boat spend the night anchored at the edge of a tidal creek, as you sit silent and alert, eyes accustomed to the dark, listening to the sounds of invisible yet omnipresent life around you, closely watching the dense mangroves all around for the ghostly silhouette of the tiger to appear. You may have seen any number of Tigers anywhere in the world, but spotting one of Sunderbans’ 250 elusive Tigers at night is as rare and magical as it gets.

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