Muhammad Hossain Shobuj
Works for an US based international NGO

Sundarbans, the single largest mangrove forest in the world and home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, is always a fascinating destination for me. I forgot how many times I went there and yet to see the mighty cat in the forest. Well, you have to be extremely lucky to see this majestic nocturnal animal. Usually, tourist goes for a boat trip in the forest for a couple of days. I did the same, but this time we came up with a different plan of camping nearby the forest followed by a day trip to Sunderban. This is the best way to utilize your weekend. A few months back I moved to Khulna for my livelihood and now living in Khulna. All my other tripmates would join from Dhaka.

They took the opportunity to come to Khulna using government-owned launch called M.V Modhumoti. This launch departs from Dhaka at 6 pm and arrives Hularhat around 9 am in the morning. From there they used local transport to reach Mongla. By the lunch time, they all arrived in Mongla. I with two other friends started from Khulna in the evening. Bus for Mongla departs from Khulna in every 20 minutes and cost is 70 Taka. I faced difficulty in placing me in the tiny seats of local transport but this is how we move with the local transport. After two hours of journey by bus, we reached Mongla, an important seaport of Bangladesh. We crossed the river for 4 Taka/person including a toll of 1 taka for using the recently built landing station. Badaban Eco-Cottage, a small cottage built by local youth, was our destination. Owner Litton Jamadder sent an Easy Bike to pick us from Mongla. It was a pleasant journey of an hour to reach the cottage which was 10 km South of the sub-urban city Mongla. 

Finally, we are here in the cottage. All latecomers jumped into the pond while others were resting around the cottage. This lovely cottage has only two rooms with a dining space, surrounded by different trees. We placed our tents on an embankment of a Gher, a rice-field that was submerged in the water during rainy season and used for shrimp cultivation. While we all were busy gossiping, I saw a person crossing through the cottage. I stopped him to ask whether he was going to catch shrimp or not. My assumption was right, and I requested him to join.  He was kind of unwilling to take me with him due to muddy path and water. I assured him that I have an extra cloth with me. We started with a view to seeing shrimp harvesting from the Gher.

It was around a kilometer long walk through the embankments of the Gher. The path was muddy; I had a light with me, Milton had one with him, so we did not face any problem.

We arrived in a spot where he put the trap earlier in the morning. The water four feet deep, we got into the water, and Milton carefully opened the trap. I could see the shrimp jumping in the trap, Milton set the sack on the trap and shacked it move all the shrimp into the sack. When we came back to embankment, he sorted out all smaller shrimp and threw them back to the Gher. By the time dinner was served and I had to rush back to join the team in the dinner. Shrimp fry was served in the table with other curries and rice, and undoubtedly, the taste of shrimp fry was awesome. 

After the dinner, our team got divided into two parts and few of us went for the camping while the rest of the team stayed in the cottage. July is not a good time for camping due to rain and hot weather. However, a breeze over the few hundred acres of Gher gave us soothing relief. I fell into sleep only to wake up at 3 am when rainwater dropped on my face. I kept the flyer of the tent beside, and it took no time for me to put it in the tent. Sounds of rain on the flyer brought sleep to my eyes again. I woke just before the sunrise and went outside the tent. Rising sun poured his glory on the water to make it reddish. We passed the time seeing the beauty of nature at dawn. 

After the breakfast, we checked out from the cottage and started for Joymoni, a nearby estuary of the river Shella of Sunderban. Our boat for the day trip was waiting for us there. We boarded the boat and started for our first of the two destinations- Harbaria. It took an hour for us to reach Harbaria through the river of Sunderban. When we got down from the boat, a forester arranged our permission of day trip in Sunderban and gave us an armed guard. We paid 2,000 Taka for Govt. Revenue and started on the trail. Guard told us to be in the group and led us into the forest. Harbaria has a long wooden trail of 20 minutes. We walked slowly through the mangrove knowing that no tiger was around. High tide flooded the forest and made it highly unlikely for the tiger to be around. We saw monkeys, deer, snake and few other wild animals there. 

After completing our trail in Harbaria, we started for Koromjol, an area used for the breeding of crocodile. It took two hours for us to reach Kormjol from Harbaria. We enjoyed the rain, made our snacks, ate them on top of the boat and had a great time. In Koromjol a group monkey was waiting for us. This clever group snatches food and other belonging from the tourist. We saw crocodiles of different ages kept in the cages. These crocodiles were hatched in this center to release in nature. I was looking for the big crocodile kept in the pond, but it was not there. There was a wooden trail in the forest, and I guided everyone to the trail. Before entering the trail, I looked into the pond for one last time and saw the big crocodile floating silently in the middle of the pond. I knew I am safe here as the pond has a strong boundary, but seeing this killer from such a short distance of ten feet gave me a feeling of how dangerous it could be in the forest. Soon he vanished into the water without making any sound.

We visited trail and rush to the boat as it started raining again. Koromjol is not far from Mongla. We started again leaving Sunderban behind us. We saw few marine vessels from the boat while crossing Poshur river. After thirty minutes of the journey on the rough river, we arrived Mongla. It cost us 3,500 Taka for the whole trip. Adding Govt. revenue with it, the total cost of boat trip of was 5,500 Taka (1 USD = 84/85 Taka). From Mongla we hired a microbus to reach Khulna. Train for Dhaka leaves at 8:30 PM and every one of the team bought train ticket earlier. We reached the station just in time, and I said goodbye to the team. Well, before leaving, we discussed our next plan of Kayaking in Rupsha river sometimes soon.

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