Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Muddling through the mangroves

Another way to explore the Sunderbans on foot was to go on a mud walk through the mangrove forest. After waiting for low tide in the early afternoon, we donned special shoes provided by the tour company, Guide Tours, that could get muddy. Socks were recommended to be worn as well. I put on the smallest shoes, a men's size 7 but they were still much too big for me so I laced them up tightly and hoped. We started near what used to be a resort until Sidr came to visit.
Here are the girls playing in the mud, and we haven't even left the beach yet!

The walk started walking along a boardwalk, then after a few metres along the concrete support (all that was left) it was down into the mud This first area was quite open but again the damage from the cyclone was very evident.
It was a challenge when squelching through the mud to remain upright and keep one's shoes on. Often it felt to me that mine were going to be sucked off, but the tight ankle laces kept them on. With the extra length of the shoes I managed to upset my balance twice - once I ended up sitting on the pneumatophores (the air roots of the mangrove trees that stick up in the mud) and the other time I managed to land on some branches. So at least I didn't end up sitting in the mud. But there are some creatures that call the mud home. There were tiny crabs with a single white or red pincer scuttling around on the beach and disappearing into the mud at our approach. There were also larger crabs about 10 cm across in the forest plus the molluscs shown in the photo below that could either be found in the mud or attached to the trunk of a tree, from where they were easily knocked off.

We then entered an area of thick mangroves, having to bend out head and hold branches to not get flicked in the face. There was deeper mud and we even had to follow a few water channels. the highlight here was seeing tiger scratch marks on the trunks of a couple of trees. These scratch marks were above my head height so perhaps it was lucky we didn't meet any! From the dense mangrove we headed back towards the shore where the signs of a rejuvenating forest could be seen. Soon this entire mud area would be under 1 then 2 metres of water

Further on another sign of rejuvenation - a small mangrove seedling growing in the sand.

Then we saw a water snake in a small pool of water and passed by the cottages that were once homes to visitors but our now slowly being restored after a 3 metres tidal surge went through and almost destroyed them during the cyclone. Even the jetty is being rebuilt. It is inspiring to see the rate can overcome the damage but I can also see why powerful cyclones in the future may also lead to the destruction of the Sunderbans.

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