It was a Mokar Sankranti day (January 15, 2017). We were hopping from one island to another island in Sundarban delta during our sightseeing tour in Sunderban. I heard from local villagers that tigers are very active during this time for catching his/her pray.
Sightseeing in Sundarban -our day long tour in Sundarban Jungle
We have traveled all the day to visit many islands in Sundarban delta like Sajnekhali, Sudhanyakhali, Do-banki camp. We have seen herd of deer grazing inside jungle, deadly crocodile taking sunbath near river bank, and distant view of Bonbibi temple near swampy river bank. We are eagerly waiting for a chance of tiger darsan. But it seemed that it is not there in our luck.
In the afternoon, our boat reached Jharkhali ghat, and this was our last spot of our day long sightseeing tour in Sundarban. We have spent here about 1 hour and have seen tiger rehabilitation center, mangroves nursery cum cultivation field. When returned boat after seeing all these, it was evening 5 pm. We boarded on boat for return journey to hotel in pakhirala, our night halt in sunderban delta. Many tourists stay at Pakhirala village before going out for sunderban sightseeing.
Spectacular sunset at Jharkhali – our boat in trouble
We have observed a spectacular sunset on the back of deep jungle in Jharkhali. Our driver informed that our launch engine has developed some problem, and they are attending the problem. It may take some time to start. We told driver to rectify the problem first. As we need to take 3-4 hours water ride through deadly forest abound with snakes, tiger and crocodile. Our boat should not stop in the middle of the jungle. It is better to stay back for complete check up of boat. Other fellow boats departed with tourists for reaching hotel destination in Jungle Island.
We are the only boat still tugged to jharkhali jetty ghat. Our cook serves the evening tea on the boat deck. Cool breeze has started blowing and brought chiller all around. We all male members sit on the deck waiting for boat to start. Local folk song on a loud speaker is coming from some unknown destination in jetty side and reminding us petha-pully’s days in our days. In Kolkata, culture of pitha-pully on mokar sankranti is almost over. We are now at jharkhali, enjoying vicarious felling of the festival and winter chill just sitting on the boat.
Our boat journey started in night through deep jungle
It is 6:30 pm. Boat driver comes from engine room and informed that they somehow managed to repair the fault. But, he also cautioned, problem may happen again. We tell them not to be in hurry. Our boat now set out for next 3-4 hours journey through deep jungle to reach our jungle cottage in pakhirala. Dkukuda, our team member, ordered some benguni chop as evening snacks. Cook also informed that chicken rice would be served in dinner.
Our boat is sailing through river, and deep jungles on sides become more mysterious now. As if they come close to us. Driver told us not to stand on front boat deck in night. All female members have taken seats inside the cabin. We all male members sit together on the top deck and waiting for benguni and chilly chops for evening adda. A small light is lit on the deck. We sit on the deck with our second driver to listen some histories of Sundarban and any interesting stories of tigers attacks and local folklore. Hot beguni chop and chilly chops added energy in our discussion.
Boat journey experience in night through deep jungle – talking to nature and sky
Our launch is sailing, twinkling stars are watching us from vast night sky on the mystic jungle. Some of us are looking into dark jungle for possible eye contact with wild beasts. Histories of local tiger attacks from driver made us glued to discussion.
Our boat stuck on river bed – deadly jungle around
But, all of a sudden, we fell a sudden jerk. Some of us managed to balance to stand on our feet. All of us become alerted. What happened? We come to the side of top deck and tried to judge the fact. Our boat engine has started giving unusual loud sounds. Then, with a big jerk our boat stopped. We light our torch, and found on our utter surprise that water on both sides of our launch become muddy. Driver looks nervous. And later he informed that our boat touched riverbed because of low tide. We need to wait for high tide for more water level.
We try to gauge where we are in dark night in deep jungle. After some glances, we have realized that we are stuck up in the middle of river. On both sides, jungles are about 800 meters away. So it is not a small river. Driver told even big river in Sunderban may have low depth during low tide. Our team member head Khokada try to see the depth of river using bamboo stick. Driver hinted possible crocodile attack, if we go close to water level. Our adda on boat, still continued. However, we are looking into deep jungle to check whether we could feel any presence of wild beast. Our female members also started asking about what happened and when we would reach safe zone. We know this place is not safe even we are in the middle of river.
Our boat started after incidence
It is about 7:45 pm, dark night rises and become more thick with cold breeze flowing over the river and jungle. After some time, we feel someone is shaking our boat. It starts undulating. Driver informs that water level is rising due to high tide ahead. We get relaxed and news is communicated to female members in cabin as they are nervous. After, 15 minutes, out boat seems that it gets untangled from the river bed. Driver has started the boat. We are all relaxed and some of us go to cabin for rest. Temperature dips further due to cool breeze. Hence, I feel difficult to spend more time on top deck, even though there is cover on the top deck.
Our boat stranded again near a narrow creek
Our boat is sailing though jungle. We thought we finally got rid of the deep jungle. From the deck, we could see moon on the horizon. Few members are sitting on the top deck to enjoy beauty of deep jungle in moonlight. All are relaxed and some members taking nap due to day long tiredness. I don’t know what time it is. Again we hear a screeching sound. And our boat is undulating due to some obstruction. This time jerking is more. We all come on the front deck. Again, our boat stopped after big jerk. Same thing is happened again. We are again stranded. River water around boat becomes thick with mud.
We are very close to jungle – beasts are roaming
To our utter surprise, we have found now that we are in relatively Narrow River. And our launch is hardly 20 meter from deep jungle in left side. Now we are very close to jungle. Driver requests us not to stand on front deck. Hence, we come onto top deck. Discussed with Driver why same thing is happened again. He narrated that he took shortcut through narrow river and hoping that water in high tide might have come here also. Explanation was not convincing as it is dangerous to stay in narrow river in this deep jungle.
However, we have no other choice than waiting on a stranded boat. Moon by that time appears above the horizon, and with dim moon light we could see riverbank and nearby treacherous narrow creeks flowing into deep jungle. Some unknown night birds are crying inside the jungle. We become cautious as we heard bird twitter may indicate the presence of tiger in jungle. Lady members have started loud discussion in the cabin. Our lady team member Bela boudi lost her temperament as she got frightened and telling other members tigers is definitely going to kill us or some local looters will loot valuables. We are pacifying them and assuring them nothing would be happened. As we are very close to Pakhirala.
In fact, all members on the top deck are also nervous. It is 9 pm night. What would happen if we would have to spend the whole night here. We already feel the presence of unknown beasts roaming and watching us from nearby jungle. Anytime during night they can swim the river and attack our boat. We are all discussing all possible outcomes and praying to god that show us path.
Something is approaching our boat from jungle side- we are nervous- what is that?
All of a sudden, we hear some sound coming from left side river bank. Something is swimming or filing water to reach our direction. For a moment, it sends chill through our back bone. We don’t have any fighting instruments. Then how could we fight with beasts. Sound becomes clearer. From top deck, we look on to river water for any eye (may be tiger’s eye) coming close to us. Drivers also become nervous. Out two cooks are wrapping cloths on small bamboo sticks for making fire torch. We are all ready with some possible darshan (visit) of wild beast. We switched off all flight to locate eye on the river. Fire torchs are ready. We are counting each second with deep breath. It seems that time is refused to move ahead. Yes, after few minutes, we could locate the source of sound. By that time it comes close to our boat
New jungle visitor near our boat !!
No it is neither tiger or other wild beast. It is a small fishing boat. Two local fishermen with minimum dress braved the freezing cold water, catching crab for livelihood. They also got surprised to see us here. Our driver communicated with them. They inform that we would get higher water level soon and can reach big rivers confluence ahead. They speed away and vanish into deep jungle. Driven tell us to keep silence and switched off light as this place is covered with dangerous animals. It is 10 pm. Moon become bright in the mid sky. In moon light, surrounding jungle looks more mystic and dangerously beautiful. After some time, our boat starts undulating and finally got enough water level to sail through. At last, out boat starts sailing and enter into Vidya river. From there, we reach Pakhirala whining 40 minutes.
We reached safely at our jungle lodge
When we reach Pakhirala jetty chat it is 11 pm. Our hotel care taker is anxiously waiting at the jetty ghat. He gets relaxed after confirming our safe arrival. We are also happy to arrive safely at our jungle lodge.