Sajnekhali Tourist Lodge, Sunderbans National Park
There are limited options of stay near the Sunderbans National Park and most of them are resorts, which have package deals that include transport from and to Kolkata, full board and boat cruises around the mangroves. However, from reading reviews and seeing pictures online, we realized that the resort’s guests are taken in one large boat around the national park. We feared that this would be noisy and not as nice as having a boat to ourselves. So we chose to stay at West Bengal Tourism’s Tourist Lodge, which is located on the island of Sajenkhali in the Sunderbans region and is the only one within the boundaries of the National Park. Here, we could arrange for our own private boat cruise, which cost us around Rs.3000 (including boatman’s fee, permit fee and Guide fee).
The lodge is old and has about 28 rooms stacked one beside the other along a long wooden deck on the upper floor of a 2-storied wooden structure. When we got there some construction work was underway and it looked like rooms were either been added or updated on the ground floor. Our double-room was small but comfortable with an attached, western-style bathroom. The only troubling factor of the room was that its walls are quite thin so if you are stuck there during a busy period, falling or staying asleep could be a problem. Luckily, there were no creepy-crawly problems, except for pesky monkeys who lived on the trees surrounding the property.
The lodge has a dining room where all the meals are served. Our room rate (Rs. 1000 per night) included breakfast and dinner, which was super-reasonable. For breakfast, on both days, we were served omelets with puris and a vegetable dish, along with tea/coffee. For dinner there was rotis, rice, a vegetable dish, dal, papad and a chicken-dish – quite nice! They packed us a lunch of super-oily Parathas and pickle for the boat cruise and this along with the bottles of mineral water we ordered, understandably cost us extra.
Sajnkekhali’s Tourist Lodge is the only non-resort option available close to the national park. It’s conveniently located as the office for getting permits is on the same island. And the Lodge’s manager is quite friendly and efficient when it comes to booking boat cruises, planning the day or ordering food. I wish the tourism dept did more to renovate or update the place and make it more comfortable. They could also setup buses from Kolkata and ferry rides from Godkhali for visitors to avail of; using the local transport system to get there, though interesting and cheap, is long and tedious.