Project Description

WORLD HERITAGE

WILDLIFE

NATURE

WATER ACTIVITIES

Highlights: World’s largest mangrove forest & alluvial delta / Endangered tigers / Impacts of global warming / Endangered primates / Bengali culture

Bengal Tiger of Bangladesh – 8 Days

Bangladesh has been called the last country in Asia waiting to be discovered as a tourist destination.  The world’s largest alluvial delta and mangrove forest is found here along with the greatest concentration of tigers.

The Sundarban forest, declared a Unesco World Heritage Site for its treasure trove of biodiversity, is an enormous tract of wilderness bordering the Bay of Bengal.  It contains an estimated 400 Royal Bengal tigers, 80,000 spotted deer, 40,000 rhesus monkeys, 20,000 wild boar, 260 species  of birds, giant estuarine crocodiles, monitor lizards, pythons otters and Ganges River dolphins.

Students on this trip will cruise the myriad channels of the mangroves on a comfortable live aboard boat while exploring more intricate waterways by country boat.  There will be exciting excursions ashore for jungle walks with armed park rangers along forested tiger trails, savannah lands and along miles of pristine beach.

After 4 nights sleeping aboard our vessel, we will return to Dhaka on a morning flight and transfer to a completely different realm in the northeast of the country.  Here, lovely tea plantations and tropical evergreen forest offer a dramatic contrast to the coastal delta.  Students can now try their hands picking tea, riding rickshaws through the countryside, planting or harvesting rice and meeting villagers.

There will be a full day to explore Lawahhara National Park where students may spot the elusive leopard and endangered Hoolock gibbons swinging through the treetops.  Capped langurs, hanging parrots, jungle fowl, bee-eaters and other animals are found here.

Bangladesh may be a small, poor and overpopulated country in most of the world’s eyes, but students on this trip will discover a land rich in beauty with a wealth of wildlife and experience the heartfelt warmth of people they will not soon forget.

  • Arrive in Dhaka, the bustling capitol of Bangladesh, and transfer on a one-hour domestic flight to Jessore. From here it’s just a few hours drive to Khunla where we will board our boat for an adventure into the world’s largest mangrove estuary and alluvial delta.
  • Cruising south deep into the delta we will have an onboard orientation session followed by lessons on the formation of river deltas and how alluvial deposits from flooding nourish the mangrove ecosystem.
  • We set anchor near the Harbaria Forest Station for our first night aboard ship under the starstudded sky.

Overnight: Aboard ship, Harbaria – Sundarban World Heritage Site

Study Focus: Mangrove Ecology / Lowland Tropical Forest / Royal Bengal Tigers

  • No one will want to miss the magic of our first morning in the mangroves so with the first rays of the day we will board country boats for a silent paddle through a nearby channel.
  • Dawn is one of the best times to catch a glimpse of the normally nocturnal Royal Bengal tiger. While wildlife sightings are never guaranteed, there are an estimated 400 of the world’s biggest cats found here – the world’s largest remaining population – so there’s no better place to be looking.
  • After a good breakfast we will go ashore with armed Forest Guards to hike a trail that is used by tigers more than people. Tiger tracks can be found everywhere here and we will have an eerie feeling that tigers are watching us, even if we fail to spot them.
  • The Harbaria trail also provides an excellent opportunity to study the vegetation of a tropical lowland forest including the famous Sundri trees from which he Sundarban Forest takes its name.
  • From Harabaria we have a 6-8 hour cruise south through intricate back channels to Kotka. The great diversity of this mangrove forest and the rich wildlife it harbors will be unveiled to us with one wonderful discovery after another.
  • A huge crocodile sunning on a river bank, a monitor lizard hiding amongst the mangrove roots, rhesus monkeys feeding on leaves in the tees, great egrets standing motionless in search of their prey and 8 different species of kingfishers darting into the water and back to their perches with blazing colors are among the many sights we’re likely to see.
  • Following lunch on board, we will have an open forum discussion on tiger conservation and come up with action plans for students to pursue through their schools to help save them.
  • Tiger populations have fallen 95% in the past century due to poaching and habitat destruction and they are now listed as the world’s most endangered major species. With only 3,200 tigers remaining worldwide the Sundarban population represents nearly 13% of all tigers on earth.
  • Arriving in Kotka in the late afternoon, we will have another excursion ashore. This time our tiger trail will lead us through a deep forest that receives the full force of cyclones that seasonally arrive from the Bay of Bengal. Spotted deer are found in great numbers here following troops of Rhesus monkeys that drop leaves from trees overhead, which the deer feed on.
  • After returning to our vessel for a delicious dinner we will watch an excellent documentary film on the Sundarbans titled “Swamp Tigers”. A group-sharing circle by candlelight under the stars on the top deck will then end a perfect day.

Overnight: Aboard ship, Kotka – Sundarbans

Study Focus: Inter Tidal Life / Receding Shorelines / Rising Sea Levels & Climate Change Impacts on the Sundarbans

  • It should be another beautiful morning as we wake up early for a wildlife-viewing trip, poling our way inside narrow creeks with small boats. This is the very best time of day for bird watching and possibly catching a glimpse of the rare masked finfoot, the elegant racket-tailed trogon, brilliant bee-eaters and kingfishers.
  • Impacts of climate change on this region will be today’s study focus as we set off on foot, right after breakfast on a 3-4 hour hike well off the beaten path.
  • Our trek starts out hiking through savannah grassland where we can climb a watchtower to look over the landscape and contemplate impacts from climate change. The first level of the platform represents the 3-meter sea level rise that will be brought on by the 4-degree global temperature increase predicted to occur before the end of this century. The top level of the tower represents water heights when storm surge from cyclones push sea levels up another 7-meters.
  • We will see evidence of sea level rise already occurring as we reach the beach and hike along the shores of the Bay of Bengal. This shoreline is already suffering from submergence as evidenced by stumps of forest trees set far out to sea from the shoreline. By the end of the century, it is believed, the entire Sundarbans forest may be below sea level.
  • Hiking along the beach in the early morning there is a good chance of seeing spotted deer, wild boar, rhesus monkeys and possibly even tigers.
  • After 3-4 hours of hiking we will return to our vessel with big appetites. A hearty lunch will be followed by a group forum discussion on the top deck where students will discuss climate change and actions they can take, individually and collectively, to help minimize effects from it.
  • It is predicted that Bangladesh will face submergence of 20% of the country with a resulting displacement of over 20 million people within 9 decades. Along with the Maldives and some South Pacific Island nations, Bangladesh will be the most tragically affected country on earth.
  • At sunset time we will make one final trip ashore to Bird Island where a new island is being formed from alluvial deposits carried down to the Bay of Bengal from the high Himalayas. This is an inspiring place to end our day as we see the renewing powers of Nature.
  • Just a short time ago this land did not exist; today it supports throngs of migratory shore birds, burrowing crabs and millions of sand bubbling crabs. Fishing cats come here to prey on birds and the first signs of colonizing vegetation are now appearing. As students watch the sun set over the Bay of Bengal they will come to realize the powerful and eternal renewing powers nature has.
  • A wonderful barbeque dinner will be prepared this evening on the top deck as we cruise through the dark to our next anchorage deep in the mangrove channels. 

Overnight: Aboard ship, cruising north from Kochikhali – Sundarbans

Study Focus: Local Lifestyles of People in the Delta

  • Today will be our last day in the largest fluvio-alluvial delta in the world and we will shift our focus from wildlife to the 20 million Bengali people that also know this delta as home.
  • We will discuss the fishing traditions of the Sea Gypsy peoples that train wild otters to catch fish, and consider the risk honey gatherers put themselves to when they venture deep into tiger habitat in pursuit of their livelihood.
  • There will be time in the morning for another magical paddle through a quiet channel searching for wildlife before we return to our vessel for breakfast and a briefing on the lifestyles of the indigenous peoples.
  • Fishermen too are at great risk of tiger attacks when they sleep overnight aboard their small craft as tigers are good swimmers and attracted to the smell of fish. On average a Bengali falls prey to tiger every third day in the Sundarban forest.
  • As we cruise back towards Khulna, we will have a final forum on the utter devastation cyclones bring to this region, ravaging homes and livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest people. International relief efforts and the role students themselves can play in offering assistance will be discussed in depth.
  • Arriving in Khulna in the evening we will enjoy a farewell feast and a final night aboard ship.  

Overnight: Aboard ship – Khulna 

Study Focus: Lifestyles of the Central Plains People / Tea Plantations

  • Right after breakfast we will go ashore and transfer by bus (2-hrs) to Jessore where we will catch the first flight to Dhaka. From here we drive 4-hours northwest to the famous tea plantations and forests of Srimangal.
  • Srimangal was once part of Assam, a tea-producing region of India, and today it still has the largest tea estates in all of Bangladesh. Spread out like green carpets over rolling hills, the area is quite a contrast to the wild mangrove forests of the Sundarbans.
  • We check in to Tea Resort, a former British colonial lodge that is now operated as a guesthouse by the Bangladesh Tea Board. Students will immediately be drawn to the beautiful outdoor swimming pool and relish in the comfort of their own 2-bedroom houses, complete with sitting rooms and screened verandahs for sipping high tea.
  • Following a delicious lunch we will venture into the tea groves to learn from the locals how to properly pick tea. Trying to pick the requisite two fresh leaves and a bud with both hands at once will prove quite a challenge for students though the locals make it look easy.
  • Just a short stroll from our lodge is a tea house famous for brewing 5 to 10 colored teas, each layer with a distinctive flavor: ginger, green, milk lemon, etc. This technique is a carefully guarded family secret, so we can enjoy a tea party here that is unique in the world.
  • After a delicious dinner served back at our lodge, we will gather around a campfire for a group sharing session under the stars.

Overnight: Tea Resort – Srimangal

Study Focus: Tropical Forest Ecosystems / Endangered Apes / Central Plains Lifestyles

  • We rise early this morning for breakfast and immediately set off by rickshaws to cycle our way toward the forests of Lawachara National Park.
  • The Hoolock gibbon is one of the world’s most endangered apes, but 60 of these animals can still be found swinging through the trees of this beautiful forest preserve. (Later in the day our student forum will consider the fate of all the great and lesser apes in the world and discuss actions we can take to prevent their further demise.)
  • After a short cycle trip we will set off hiking along a 3-hour trail deep into this forest in search of gibbons, langurs, barking deer, hanging parrots and other wildlife not found in the mangroves. This is the best time of day to spot gibbons doing their morning territorial calls and possibly to see Bangladesh’s other big cat, the ever-elusive leopard.
  • Following a wonderful morning learning about lowland tropical forest ecosystems we will cycle our way back to our lodge for lunch and then have time to swim, sun and relax at the poolside.
  • Later in the afternoon we will set off by rickshaws once again for a journey into the countryside to experience the traditional life of the rural people. Students can try their hands planting or harvesting rice, weaving a mat, tending the animals or hauling water from the canals to get first hand impressions of the lives of the vast majority of Bangladeshi people.
  • Bangladesh has been called a nation of rickshaws, as this is the most popular mode of travel. There are literally millions of brightly colored, three-wheeler cycles in use throughout the country. With folding hoods to guard passengers against sun and monsoon rains, these quiet, non-polluting transport vehicles could become a green model for inner city transport world-wide. In this sense, Bangladesh may be so far behind the rest of the world, it is actually ahead.
  • Returning to our lodge for dinner, there will be another campfire session under the stars to discuss the experiences of the day.

Overnight: Tea Resort – Srimangal

Study Focus: Population Growth / Urban Planning

  • We can enjoy a relaxing morning strolling the hills of the tea estate and watching the pickers heading out to work after our breakfast and before returning to Dhaka aboard a train.
  • There may be no better way to gain a snap shot of this country than by traveling the rails and meeting the locals first hand.
  • After 4-6 hours of travel and enjoying a sack lunch on board the train, we will arrive in Dhaka and transfer to our hotel for our final forum discussion on population growth and urban planning.
  • With 145 million people and only 147,000 sq. km of land, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries on earth. Nowhere do you get a stronger sense of this than in frenzied Dhaka where urban planning seems impossible challenged keeping up with urban growth. Our final student forum will address this issue.
  • Following a farewell dinner, we will close out our adventure together with a candle-sharing circle on the roof top garden of our hotel.

Overnight: Laurel Hotel – Dhaka

Departure

  • Following breakfast at our hotel, we pack up and transfer a short distance to Dhaka International Airport for the return flight home.
Contact Us