Unlocking the most fascinating back-to-nature experiences is the special gift of India's fabulous mangrove forests. The very uniqueness of the mangrove eco-system is an evocative landscape that reshapes the holiday experience for the curious traveller. If you want to explore precious discovered travel gems, the mysterious mangrove forest safaris in India offer many valuable lessons to satisfy the inner the responsible tourist in you.
Mangrove forests represent one of the Earth’s most important natural resources. The flora, fauna and socio-cultural components that are linked to this unique mangrove eco-system unspool some fascinating narratives that hold the visitor in thrall, long after those incredible water safaris were first captured in one’s memory bank.
For the uninitiated, mangrove forests are found along coastlines, or, besides rivers which are influenced by seawater. The rich biodiversity of a mangrove forest also represents many benefits for the environment and human life. Creating economic opportunities for local communities in these areas is one of these critical aspects of the mangrove landscape. It’s why restoration and protection of these vital ecosystems are of utmost importance.
Mangrove forests are the first line of defence to protect shorelines from erosion, as they can bring down the height of waves by as much a 66 per cent. That’s really something to think about in these times of climate change when we are seeing the worldwide rise in frequency of storms as a fallout of this concerning situation. It’s interesting to note that mangrove forests are also five times more effective as carbon sinks that land forests.
Sundarban Mangrove Safari
An excellent excursion out of Kolkata is the amazing Sundarban National Park, just a couple of hours away by local train, bus and motorboat.
The mangrove forests of the Sundarban in West Bengal in India are the world’s largest. Spread over a massive expanse of 26,000sq km of which 9,630 sq km falls in India and the rest in neighbouring Bangladesh, Sunderban National Park continues to blow away visitors with its fabulous wealth of flora and fauna and how it has adapted to its primordial tidal environs. Located in West Bengal’s’ delta lands of the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers, Sunderban National Park is the world’s largest single tidal mangrove forest eco-system and a UNESCO-acclaimed Natural World Heritage Site. The Sundarban, it is believed, comprises 60 per cent of India’s total mangrove cover; about 90 percent of the country’s mangrove species can be found here.
Visitors on a dawn to dusk boat safari can look forward to not only the unique botanical features of the mangrove landscape, but its great showpiece, the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger as well. Like other aquatic and land creatures in this ecosystem, the tiger, too, has adapted its lifestyle to survive in this highly saline water habitat. Sightings are also promised on the safari of the endangered species such as the saltwater crocodile, Olive Ridley turtle and Mangrove horseshoe crab. Other denizens of this mangrove habitat are the Gangetic and Irrawaddy dolphin and countless birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Special permits allow you to also visit the Sajnekhali Bird Sanctuary and the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. Unmissable are the shrines dedicated to to Bonbibi the guardian spirit of the Sundarban mangroves who offers protection to devotees from the dangers of this dense forest.
Chorao Island Mangrove Safari in Goa
The mangrove ecosystem in a Goa’s coastal region is an intrinsic part of its topographical splendour. They serve an important role in the wellbeing, food security, and protection of the local communities and the environment. Goa’s Mandovi, Zuari Sal, Mapura, Terekhol, and Chapora rivers offer a fantastic experience of the rich biodiversity of the primeval mangrove ecosystem to visitors.
As a quick intro to the mysterious mangrove experience in Goa head for India’s second Mangrove Boardwalk in Panjim city itself, just at the back of the Goa State Central Library. Spread across 1,100 sq m over the Ourem Creek, it’s a great window to the diverse species of mangrove species and the wildlife in this unique forest habitat.
While this walk offers an excellent terra firma experience of the mangrove landscape, you can even opt for an exhilarating kayaking trip down the placid waterways lined by the mangrove forest. The Aguada Mangrove is one of the most compelling back-to-nature experiences in Goa.This Aguada River habitat is much favoured by birders.
Of the 16 different mangrove species in Goa, the mangrove forest on Chorao Island on the Mandovi River is home to most of them. Chorao Island is also one of the finest places to enjoy the mangrove experience. The 3-4 hour offering by Konkan Explorers includes the open boat cruise in the mangrove wetland expanses of the Chapora River and kayaking the mangrove areas at Eagle and Seagull islands. A special highlight of the Charao Island experience is a visit to the beautiful Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
Other excellent places on another trip in your sights for explorations of the mangrove forest space should be the likes of Kundapur in Udupi district in Kerala, as also the Kadamakudi Islands area, Kochi; Sindhudurg, the southernmost district in Maharashtra, and the Pichavaram mangrove forest in the coastal Cuddalore district, in Tamil Nadu.