Is India’s Sunderbans region ready for international tourism?

20170131_123058World Discovery’s Roy Davies recently paid a visit to the Sunderbans in the Ganges Delta.

Billed as the ‘World’s largest mangrove forest’ and recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, this huge tract of wilderness (the greater part of which is actually in Bangladesh) is also claimed to be home to the greatest number of Bengal Tigers on the planet.  It is undoubtedly a unique eco-system, covering a total area of some 4,264 square miles, but is it geared up to take international tourists?

Roy has his doubts.

POSITIVES

It’s different, it’s reasonably accessible – a 2 to 3 hour drive from Kolkata depending on traffic – and it’s certainly a bolt hole from the noise and pollution of the city.  Birdwatchers will enjoy the number and variety of species.

NEGATIVES

T20170131_110455he chances of seeing a tiger – despite the high population – are minimal.  Travel in the Sunderbans is by water, on noisy boats that announce their arrival to any creature that may be near the water’s edge well in advance.  Tigers simply disappear into the mangrove forest well before a boat gets near them.  Additionally, many of the boats are used by local Indian visitors as ‘party’ or ‘booze’ cruises, which only makes the noise problem more acute.  This also adds to the pollution in the waterways as the usual method of disposal (plastic bottles, food cartons) is to chuck things overboard.  The few landing sites that have been set up are constructed in non-eco-friendly concrete and (again) no self-respecting tiger is going to come within a 100 metres of these crude fenced-off walkways.  I suppose it’s not surprising that the ‘canopy walks’ are unimpressive when the height of the mangrove forest rarely rises above 3 or 4 metres!

Accommodation in the Sunderbans is also of a generally poor standard, well below what the majority of international passengers are looking for.

20170131_075125-e1500393532573.jpgAll in all, a disappointing destination.  For those who simply want to relax in a quiet rural environment and enjoy some village walks and bird-watching (and are prepared to accept simple accommodation), it can probably provide some pleasant relaxation and enjoyment, but the Sunderbans is not the must-see up-and-coming destination that the Indian Tourist Authorities are promoting!

The Viking Trail – Newfoundland and Labrador

Gros Morne 2The Viking Trail is the largest themed highway in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Stretching all the way from the Newfoundland’s west coast to Southern Labrador, the Viking Trail is the only route to the popular UNESCO World Heritage sites at Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site.

These northern coastline environments were once home to numerous ancient cultures that now reveal their lives in ongoing archaeological digs and at modern exhibits and interpretation centres operated by Parks Canada and others.  Today, scenic fishing communities surround this Northern Peninsula where the Long Range Mountains expose geological wonders.  This is a land where some of the planet’s rarest plants grow, where wildlife abounds in the forests and mighty salmon dominate the streams.  Visitors will be at the foot of creation, where 10,000 year-old icebergs shine on the horizons while numerous whales migrate in their wake, and Atlantic Canada’s tallest lighthouse helps with the view.

Source and more information: http://www.vikingtrail.org

See also World Discovery’s Guaranteed Small Group Departures – The Viking Trail – 8 days from £1685