Sundarbans boating

The Sundarbans are mangrove forest with a significant tide difference. The trees have aerial roots that poke up from the ground as spikes, mostly half a meter tall but some are as big as phone booths. The spikes can filter salt from the water.

Our big boat followed the main arms of the delta, and we got into our rowboat several times a day to follow the small side channels and look closer at wildlife. There’s less than I expected: many birds, mostly kingfishers; deer, some otters, but no snakes or tigers. There are too few Bengal tigers left to make a sighting likely, about one per 60 square kilometers. Even the cicadas were quiet and discreet.

We had with us a big guy with a fearsome beard and a big ancient rifle to protect us if something goes wrong. What that might be was never adequately explained.

At one point we entered a small channel, passed some bigger boats with motors that scared away all wildlife, to reach the deeper parts of the forest. On the way back the tide was so low that the boat got stuck in the mud. Two of the crew jumped out, up to their waists in the mud, to push us out for the last 500m. They made it look like that’s easy.

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