In this trip, you will witness two different shades of West Bengal. On the one hand, the Sunderbans is the deltaic region where the Hooghly and many other rivers meet the Bay of Bengal. The Sunderbans is spread over 150 islands, with close to a third still uninhabited and considered a reserve forest for the royal bengal tiger and estuarine crocodile. Be a part of an experiential holiday at Sunderbans while you indulge in activities like birding tour, village visits, cultural performances, canopy walk through dense forests and country boat rides. On the other hand, Shantiniketan (the abode of peace) is a place where more than 100 years ago Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore started an experimental school, Brahmacharyashram, with five students. The genesis was his reaction to the joyless, mechanical system of education then prevailing in the country. A stay at Shantiniketan gives you insights into the lifestyle of a Bengali family, villages and the contribution of Shantiniketan to the richness of Indian art and culture.
Route: Kolkata - Sunderbans National Park - Kolkata - Shantiniketan - Kolkata
Activities: Camping, boat cruise, birding walk, forest walk, village visit, cultural performance, fishing
Duration: 6 days
Kolkata/Sunderbans National Park: You land at Kolkata and transfer by car to the Sunderbans National Park (3 hours). You then embark on a two-hour cruise on a motor boat with our local guide cum naturalist through the rivers Hogol, Gomor, Durgaduani and Gumdi. You optionally stopover at Gosaba, one of the earliest human settlements in the Sunderbans to visit the house of Sir Daniel Hamilton (Scottish banker who initiated the first co-operative movement in India). By evening you arrive arrive at Bali Island and check into Sunderbans Jungle Camp.
Sunderbans National Park: We go on a full day cruise through the mangrove jungle. We stop for birding at the Netidhopani watchtower (weather permitting) and do some crab catching and fishing. Lunch will be served on board the boat. The evening is spent with the villagers as part of the cultural experience listening to legends of the tiger lord, forest gods and goddesses, which told with lots of song and dance.
Sunderbans Jungle Camp: We go on a guided village walk in which participants are encouraged to interact with the local villagers to understand their lifestyle, agriculture practices, craft and cuisine. We take a short boat cruise in an oared country boat to the Do Banki watchtower and enjoy a canopy walk. We head back to Kolkata post lunch.
Shantiniketan: We will board the early morning Shantiniketan Express from Kolkata's Howrah Station to Bolepur,the station nearest to Shantiniketan. The train will whisk you in air-conditioned comfort to Bolepur in about 4 hours. Upon reaching we will check into a homestay run by a Bengali family at Purba Pally, a quaint little locality. In the afternoon go we for a cultural visit.
Shantiniketan: After breakfast we will step out to soak in the cultural and village experience of Shantiniketan. We will visit the picturesque Ballavpur Danga, a rural self-help group project. The visit includes a village trail, rickshaw ride, museum, arts & crafts centre and a traditional local lunch at the Ballavpur Danga tribal village. In the afternoon you will visit a local craft market and textile emporium.
Kolkata: The morning is free for shopping or you can visit Subarnarekha - a book cum music store, famous for its expansive collection of books and music. We have an early lunch and transfer to Bolepur station from where you will board the train back to Kolkata.
How your travel makes a difference to the local community & environment:
- The Sunderbans Jungle Camp on Bali island is a participatory community tourism demonstration project for the rehabilitation of the poachers-turned-conservationists, sustainable development of the local community and conservation of the wildlife and flora of this unique eco-system. Sunderbans Jungle Camp is small low-impact accommodation which is environmentally-sensitive and liked by those who have the interest to explore the infinite bio-diversity and uniqueness of the ecosystem of Sunderbans through a participatory, authentic, knowledgeable, meaningful, intimate, mutually-educative and responsible encounters with the local people, their culture and livelihood. Your visits are our support and contribute to a great extent to this small initiative to support the sustainable development of the local community and the conservation of the forest and the great cats. In order to assist the local community to have a better quality of life, a host of social development projects such as - free medical camps, a night school, tailoring training and various other initiatives are arranged on need basis. These activities are supported by our local partners, and institutional patrons and agencies such as WWF-India, WPSI, SHIS and Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. They are co-ordinated by our NGO ACT (Association for Conservation and Tourism) and Bali Nature and Wildlife Conservation Society.
- Tinchuley Village is a model village and a community tourism initiative in the Darjeeling hills. You will be hosted by one of the oldest and largest joint families in the Darjeeling hills (about 22 family members), who have put together a guest house with 04 double bedded and 04 four-bedded rooms with a private toilet cum bath in one building.
- The Neora Valley Eco Resort is run by trained local community people. They take care of all services and activities.
Classic West Bengal
This heady journey takes you from the high of the Darjeeling hills to the mud flats of the Sunderban mangroves, and from the bustling hill towns to the tranquil of Shantiniketan.
Glimpse of West Bengal
Gives you insights into the lifestyle of a Bengali family, villages and the contribution of Shantiniketan to the richness of Indian art and culture.
Shadows of the Himalaya
We head into the foothills of the Kanchenjunga range to take you on a spectacular journey where you will be spellbound by the sheer beauty of nature and the richness of the culture.
Mount Kanchenjunga, permanently snow-capped and towering at 28,156 feet, the third highest mountain in the world.