Sundarbans
Bangladesh & India

The Sundarbans is the largest area of mangroves on the planet...

I spotted these Spotted Deer.

personal experience

I explored this area on an expedition ship (Silver Discoverer) twice in early 2019.

the area

The Sundarbans refers to a huge area of mangroves spread across north-west India and southern Bangladesh. It is the largest delta in the world, the end result of the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, emptying into the Bay of Bengal.

At some 10,000 square kilometres, it is thought to be the largest expanse of mangroves on the planet. It is not pristine or uninhabited, as India and Bangladesh are heavily populated countries, and the latter country is one of the most densely populated countries on Earth. However, there are large protected zones within the area, and it is possible to enter long rivers with few signs of other humans.   

wildlife

The Sundarbans is infamous for it's tiger population. Your chance of seeing one is very remote (you are better off at Kanha National Park). But last time we saw tiger tracks.

Tiger paw track in mangrove mud

There are some 50 plus species of other mammal recorded in the area. On our expedition we glimpsed both species of dolphins, the Ganges subspecies of the 'South Asian River Dolphin' and the snub-nosed 'Irrawaddy Dolphin', although I did not get any great photos of either. Other mammals I photographed included:

Spotted Deer crossing mangrove creek (image by Damon Ramsey)
Rhesus Macaque
wild 'Small-clawed Otter'
'Smooth-coated Otter' used for fishing (image by Damon Ramsey)
the Otter fisherman

Birds

There are many birds to be seen along the mud banks and in the mangrove trees, especially if cruising early in the morning, including...

Indian Pond Heron
Great Egret
Little Egret
Lesser Adjutant Stork
Redshank
Shakra

This place is Kingfisher heaven! Species include...

Collared Kingfisher
Common Kingfisher
Black-capped Kingfisher
Brown-winged Kingfisher

There are also a variety of passerines that take a little bit more careful looking, with some easier to see on the boardwalks.

Oriental Magpie Robin
Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
Bronze Drongo

There are also the usual mud-dwelling critters that one would expect, such as fiddler crabs and mudskippers.

plants

This low lying areas are dominated by saltwater-tolerant mangroves.

The most abundant tree species is Heritiera fomes (known as Sundri and providing the name to the region). Also common is Excoecaria agallocha, known locally as 'Gewa', (and in many parts of Asia and Australasia as 'Blind-your-eye Mangrove' because of the toxic latex). Also found here are several species of Sonneratia, including the very tall Sonneratia apetala  which dominates some of the boardwalks, and Sonneratia caseolaris. 

Sonneratia caseolaris

access

This is a remote area and difficult to access. You have to get to towns such as Sonakhali or Bagna, and then there are no more roads and it is exploring the waterways by boat. There are also some boardwalks deeper into the mangroves. If exploring on a boat from a town, the better wildlife is further away from the settlements and going down river. There are very large coal and cement ships in the main rivers. When I visited with an expedition ship with Silver Sea, I had the advantage of being able to drive small boats (zodiacs) into remote areas. However, not many expedition companies do this itinerary as it is quite logistically challenging.  

boardwalk through the mangroves