The Sundarbans is the largest block of tidal mangrove forest in the world. 26% of the 50 mangrove types found in the world grow in the Sunderbans. It is regarded as the world's largest delta and is formed by the rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna.
The history of the area can be traced back to 200-300AD. A ruin of a city built by Chand Sadagar has been found in the Baghmara Forest Block. During the Mughal Empire, Raja Basand Rai and his nephew took refuge in the Sundarbans from the advancing armies of Emperor Akbar. Many of the buildings which were built by them later fell to the hands of Portuguese pirates, salt smugglers and dacoits in the 17th Century. Evidence of the fact can be traced from the ruins at Netidhopani and other places scattered all over the Sundarbans.
The Sundarbans are spread over 54 islands and two countries. The name 'Sundarban' can be translated literally as 'beautiful jungle' or 'beautiful forest' in the Bengali language. It is believed that this word has been derived from the Sundari trees that are found in the Sundarbans in large numbers. The Sundarbans is a vast area covering 4,264 sq kms in India alone. The Indian Sunderbans forms the largest tiger reserve and national park in India. The Sunderbans National Park is also noted for its conservation of the Ridley Sea Turtle. It was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997.
The Royal Bengal Tiger seen at the Sundarbans National Park is a major attraction. The Sunderbans has other fauna too like varied species of birds, spotted deer, crocodiles and snakes. A paradise for birdwatchers, the Sunderbans is home to such rarities as the Masked Finfoot, Mangrove Pitta and the Mangrove Whistler.
There are lots of other interesting places around the Sundarbans like the Bhagatpur Crocodile Project, which is a crocodile breeding farm, Haliday Island which is famous for Barking Deer and the Sajankhali Bird Sanctuary which is famous for avian fauna.
There are seven main rivers and innumerable watercourses forming a network of channels at this estuarine delta. All the rivers have a southward course towards the sea. The eco-geography of this area is totally dependent on the tidal effect of two flow tides and two ebb tides occurring within 24 hours with a tidal range of 3-5mts and up to 8mts. The tidal action deposits silt back on the channels and raises the bed to form new islands and creeks.