Sunderbans left out of WWF tiger tour
KOLKATA, Tuesday 13th September 2011

The WWF will organize two Wild India tours - one in December this year and the other in March next year - with the catchphrase "The search for a big cat on the brink". But surprisingly, one of Bengal tigers' unique habitats - the Sunderbans - does not feature in the itinerary. Evidently, tourists would miss out on the opportunity to explore the world's largest mangrove delta or look for the striped cat within the clumps of hetal. Instead, the tourists will spend a day in Kolkata, getting a feel of the city's literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage and its 'creative energy', before flying to Assam for a four-day trip to Kaziranga. According to sources, the idea is not to bring large groups and take them around the country. There will be about 14 people in each group. "The WWF is only interested in those who are keen to visit the tigers' habitat. The organization is dedicated to bring the wild tiger back from the brink of extinction and doubling its numbers. Tourists will see for themselves how protection of the big cat leads to care for forests and grasslands that shelter other animals, sequester carbon, filter water and provide food to humans," an official said. According to him, the Sunderbans has been left out as a day-trip to the mangrove forests is out of question. "Even if we were to arrange a two-day trip to the Sunderbans, there is no guaranteeing that a tiger can be spotted. Logistics is also a problem. Given the high-end tourists who would be part of these tours, making proper arrangements for them may also be a problem," he said. After all, the tourists are paying over Rs 4,00,000 per head for the two-week trip. This excludes air-fare to and from Delhi. The tour will start from Delhi. The next four days will be spent at Kanha. From there, they will be flown to Kolkata where they will spend a day before flying to Jorhat for the onward trip to Kaziranga. The tour will involve tiger searching expeditions under the leadership of experienced guides. Apart from tigers, tourists hope to see one-horned rhinoceros, Sambar deer, wild buffalo, elephants and monitor lizards. The WWF has promised that accommodation will be arranged at remote lodges that are in harmony with the surroundings. "Kanha has been selected as it offers India's best tiger viewing. Other animals that may be spotted are chital, sambar, common langur, wild boar, Indian bison, sloth bear, Asiatic jackal, wild dog, rhesus monkeys and leopards. This park also has the largest population of Barasingha, the endangered swamp deer with beautiful antlers. The tourists will be put up at the Singinawa Jungle Lodge in Kanha," a person associated with the tour said. At Kaziranga, they will be accommodated at the Diphlu River Lodge. The tourists will take jeep rides and attempt to spot wild buffalo, hog deer, Hoolock gibbon, elephants, pythons and tigers. There wouldn't be any problem in sighting the one-horned rhinoceros that abounds. The tourists would also be on the lookout for gharial and dolphins in Brahmaputra.