TIGER, TIGER BURNING BRIGHT

Most first-time visitors to India head for the Golden Triangle around Delhi – taking in the palaces of Jaipur and the Taj Mahal in Agra. But head east and a
whole new, undiscovered India awaits.

From Kolkata – the seat of British Government in the days of the Raj – we drove south to heritage resort, Rajbali Bawali. This former landowner’s palace has been beautifully restored and has cuisine and facilities as exquisite as the architecture.
Emerging from the cool of our room (high ceilings, 4-poster beds and handcrafted furnishings bring calm), we strolled around the verdant grounds before taking time out at the tranquil outdoor pool. The perfect place for a pre-adventure recharge.
Leaving the Rajbari, we hit the road. It takes two hours to get to the Gakhali Jetty, a buzzing hub on the edge of the Sunderban National Park. We boarded the MV Oceanus and headed off into an untouched paradise – with a gin and tonic in hand.
A festival of greenery, vibrant flora and rustling wildlife welcome us into the Sunderban Tiger Camp. It’s the world’s largest mangrove reserve, home to the magnificent Royal Bengal Tiger and staffed predominantly by local villagers.
The Camp provides plenty of home comforts, despite being so refreshingly far away from the trappings of civilisation. Relaxing on our cottage’s veranda, we sipped tea and updated our journals as the local birdlife chattered in the background.
Despite its remote location, nobody goes hungry in Sunderban. We feasted on Bengali specialities – the curried crab knocked our socks off – before taking our nightcap of choice and sitting around the fire to share tales with fellow guests.
The main attraction is, of course, the wildlife. We spent the day cruising the waterways leading down to the Bay of Bengal. Spying the majestic saltwater crocodile sunning itself on the bank, was a breath taking experience.
The Camp’s hugely knowledgeable and trained guides are also experts
in bird and animal calls, helping you spot the wildlife in the reeds –
including the world’s most beautiful beast, the Bengal Tiger.
As well as the tiger, we caught sight of egrets to wild boars. The
mangroves themselves are impressive enough, too – and it was mesmerising to watch the hard-working local fishermen go about their day.
A day on the water ends with the most reflective moment of the trip – a gentle sunset cruise on a small wooden dinghy. A local folk musician accompanied us as we floated along and gazed on Sunderban’s glorious landscape.