The mystical mangroves of Sundarbans is arguably one of the most fascinating wilderness to witness the Tiger.
As the boat meanders through the intricate waterways of the mystic mangrove forests, everyone scrutinises the surrounding creeks and islands for any trace of the fierce, majestic and coveted big cat – even pugmarks. Suddenly, a chital alarm call is heard and the Skipper and the guide quickly exchange a curt look. Every pumping heart feels the adrenaline rush, every mind wonders if the moment they have all waited for has finally arrived on the Sundarbans wildlife tour. The boat pivots and drifts towards the direction of the call.
The engine is turned off. After a pregnant pause, the elusive Royal Bengal tiger emerges out of the creek and parades on the shoreline. Then, like an olympic diver, it enters the water hardly making a splash. It swims across the channel and comes onto the other coast. It strolls for a while. Then, it glances at the boat one final prolonged time and disappears into the mangroves again. The patronus charm of the Sundarbans National Park is seen no more and the mystic mangroves are engulfed in silence once again!
An alluring UNESCO World Heritage Site, located about 120 km from Kolkata in the Indian state of West Bengal, the Sundarbans are a part of the world’s largest delta formed by the mighty rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna. 1330 square km in area, this prime kingdom of the Royal Bengal Tiger holds the status of being the largest halophytic mangrove forest in the world.
The Sundarbans are not just the world’s largest mangrove swamp forests, but an enthralling biosphere hosting a plethora of stunning wildlife, including land and aquatic mammals, birds, and reptiles. Over here, the tiger is not just an enigmatic ghost, but a living symbol and incarnation of power, grace and supremacy that everyone on a Sundarbans tiger safari wishes to see.
These ancient mystical forests, cradled by the rhythm of the tides, embraced by long eerie silences, and populated by Sundari trees, from where their name ‘Sundarbans’ derives, are truly irreplaceable wild havens supporting an equally invaluable ecosystem!
Best time to Visit:
Recommended min. duration:
3 nights/4 days
Tigers, Leopard Cats, Jungle Cats,
Fishing Cats, Dolphins,
8 species of Kingfishers
Giant Saltwater Crocodiles
Wildlife Boat Safari
There are three different ways to explore Sundarbans. Depending on the kind of traveller you are, we welcome you to choose your preferred Sundarbans wildlife tour package.
An intricate network of tidal streams and channels connecting mangrove forests – the primeval home of the Royal Bengal Tiger.
The Sundarbans National Park is home to over 450 wildlife species, including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians! This world dances to the beat and tunes of the tides and on a Sundarbans safari, animal sightings depend on these cyclical changes.
During the low tides, many of the river banks are exposed, resulting in a lot of crustaceans, mudskippers and insects coming out which attract their predators such as the shore birds, the rhesus macaques, the crocodiles etc.
The low tide period also boosts the chances of spotting a tiger march or swim between islands or creeks. The tigers move during the high tides as well, but it is much harder to spot them as they are moving internally and not by the shoreline.
The most coveted animal on a Sundarbans safari is undoubtedly the majestic big cat and the apex predator – the Royal Bengal Tiger. Spotting this enigmatic cat parading the shore of these coastal forests or swimming across its intricate network of channels is a wondrous, awe-inspiring experience!
But, the mystic mangroves are also home to some other iconic species such as the Gangetic river dolphin, the snubfin dolphin and the estuarine crocodile. While scanning the region for a tiger, you may also chance upon other elusive small cat species such as the fishing cat, the jungle cat and the leopard cat.
Some other prized sightings at the Sundarbans are green sea turtles, monitor lizards and king cobras. And last, but not the least, Sundarbans is a birder’s paradise too, hosting almost 250 bird species, including lesser adjutant storks, spoonbills, darters, seagulls, lesser whistling teals, partridges, wimbrails, curlews, ruddy shelducks, mangrove whistlers, buffy fish-owls, brown-fish owls, spotted owlets and more!
And to top this incredible gamut, the main avian highlights of the Sundarbans are the eight kingfishers varieties!
The common kingfisher, also known as the Eurasian kingfisher or the river kingfisher is a sparrow-sized bird, characterised by its blue upper-parts, orange underparts and a long bill. The stork-billed kingfisher is larger than a common kingfisher and is a tree kingfisher. It has a long, bright-red bill, green back, blue wings and red legs. The ruddy kingfisher has a rust-coloured body and a red beak. It is a winter immigrant in the Sundarbans.
The pied kingfisher is a species of water kingfisher and is easily identified thanks to its black and white plumage and crest. The white-throated kingfisher, also known as the white-breasted kingfisher is arguably the most common kingfisher species, featuring a brown head, blue wings and white chest.
The collared kingfisher or mangrove kingfisher, like the name suggests, has a white collar, a black bill and blue plumage with a greenish tinge. In India, the brown-winged kingfisher has mainly been recorded in coastal regions such as the Sundarbans and the Bhitarkanika National Parks. It has a golden-brown head, dark brown body and a long, bright-red beak. The black-capped kingfisher has a black head contrasted with a white throat, purple-blue wings and is mainly found in coastal regions.
Perhaps, the most intriguing part about the Sundarbans is man’s dynamic relationship with these mangrove forests. The native fishermen community’s livelihood depends on these mangroves. They risk their lives everyday when they go out to fish, and while we wait for a tiger to emerge out of a creek, we sometimes see these fishermen fishing on the opposite side!
The other intriguing part about the Sundarbans is that tigers here perhaps perceive human beings as prey. Hence, our interaction with the tigers of Sundarbans is very different from that of the denizens of central Indian parks.
Sighting a tiger prowling Kanha’s open meadows or cooling off in Ranthambore’s Rajbagh lake, or tiger cubs gambolling in the tall grasses of Telia in Tadoba, is already an exhilarating affair. But a tryst with a Sundarbans tiger, the moments when it looks into your frame or locks eyes with you or just effortlessly paddles its way through the water, experiencing its flair is truly awesome because there is the sense of our lives at stake!
People who operate Sundarbans wildlife tours are extremely wary and vigilant about the tiger. No one is allowed to get down anywhere and the boat, when anchored, is not by the edge of the creek since there is always the imminent threat of a tiger lurking nearby.
Our Skippers and guides have years of experience in the Sundarbans. They have learned to trust their gut and know where to spend time looking for the tigers where there are a few males who wander around and a few females with cubs!
The chief focus on the Sundarbans phototour would be on the tiger, and while the majority of our time is spent searching for one, we will get to see other animals such as leopard cats, fishing cats, jungle cats, Irrawaddy dolphins and so on.
Please note: A large part of this Sundarbans wildlife tour goes in long hours of searching and waiting. For people expecting hourly action and spotting numerous tiger individuals, such as in the case of a central Indian forest expedition, we don’t recommend this tour.
This tour is for advanced nature lovers who are willing to be patient to witness something quite rare – a tiger in the Sundarbans. Most tourists consider themselves lucky even if they spot one tiger in the entire week! If you are one such person who is hungrier than the tides, then this Sundarbans photo tour is for you!
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven’t experienced themselves, Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge-sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focused.
Of course! Please talk to our capable Camera Rent team or mention what gear you’d like to hire while registering for the tour. Guess what? We offer you a 10% off on camera rent while on the tour.
Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold’s eminent Skippers. In fact if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away!
However, in order to make the most of the Tour photographically, we recommend that you be familiar with photography fundamentals. If you’re not, we suggest you join an Art and Science of Photography Workshop before the Tour.
Please note: This Group Tour will begin and end in Kolkata, on the noon of day 1 and ends at Kolkata on the evening of day 8
We recommend participants to arrive in Kolkata before 11:00AM on this day or the previous night (Day 0). Our transfers to Sundarbans from Kolkata from around the Airport area begins at 1:00PM. We stop for lunch and shopping on the way and arrive at Gadkhali by 4:00PM approximately, from where we board our boat to kick start the cruise to reach our lodge deeper in to the ecosystem.
The agenda for the day is to arrive by evening and rest before our busy week begins.
Following your arrival and a scrumptious dinner, a round of mutual introduction will ensue, after which your Skipper will brief the group on the natural history features and tourist rules of the park and set the tone for the tour.
Our day starts before sunrise as we head to our boats and resume our exploration of the mystic mangrove forests. Tigers are at their most active during the early hours of dawn and late hours of dusk, so we seek to utilise the first hour of the day to the most and optimise our tiger sighting chances.
The entire day will be spent to watch and photograph not only tigers, but all the wild inhabitants of this priceless ecosystem. Your Skipper will constantly impart a wealth of useful photography tips, tricks and techniques. Intriguing and interactive, this discussion is bound to open your eyes to many new things you can try on the days to come.
Your Skipper will also constantly monitor the situation and strategize with the guide to maximize tiger sighting opportunities all the same.
We venture into the intricate waterways of the Sundarbans for a couple of final hours to take our last chances of wildlife sightings. Upon our return, having completed a thrilling expedition, we sail to Gadkhali – the jetty where we disembark and from which we drive back to Kolkata and depart for our abodes with myriad pictures and memories.
We expect to be dropped back to Kolkata by 4:00PM. You can book a flight post 6:00PM to your destination.
Please note: Your Skipper may, at his discretion, amend the itinerary for the better, depending on prevailing circumstances.
All figures per person.
Please note: The date of written (email) communication of intent to cancel is the date considered for calculation of the cancellation fees.
Anybody with an interest in wildlife and over the age of 18 (unless accompanied by an adult) is welcome to participate.
Since participants of our Tours travel from various parts of the country by different modes (road, rail and air) as per their individual preferences, it works best to originate Tours from the destinations. We, however, provide all the assistance you need in arranging your logistics.
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven’t experienced themselves, our Group Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of an experienced naturalist. The common ingredients in all our Group Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are nature lovers, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focussed.
Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings were unsatisfactory. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings – especially of leopards – are guaranteed.
Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings and photography were unsatisfactory. However, since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings – especially of big cats – are guaranteed.
For Leopards and other mammals, a telephoto zoom lens in the range of 100 to 400mm works very well. Sometimes, when leopards and other wildlife are far, and for birds, a longer lens can come in more than handy. If opting for a fixed (‘prime’) lens, the 300mm focal length on a cropped sensor body with a 1.4x extender (‘teleconverter’) is the best compromise, although lenses of longer focal length can be used to good effect as well, especially on ‘full-frame’ bodies. A wide-angle or normal zoom to capture landscapes or creative perspectives of wildlife is recommended. And since we may do some nocturnal photography, an image-stabilized lens and a camera body that performs well at high sensitivities are boons.
If you do not have appropriate equipment, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras and lenses for hire, so you can always hire what you need. Click here to see what we offer. What’s better, you enjoy a 20% discount on all equipment hired on our Toehold Outdoors Group Tours!