I had a fantastic experience with Nijhoom Tours on a 5-night, 6-day tour of the Sundarbans.
The booking process was excellently managed by Hasan, the owner of the company. The website and paying system is efficient and secure and Hasan was very helpful in answering any questions I had prior to the start of the tour.
Our tour had four people on it, all of whom were very friendly. My itinerary was as follows:
– Day 1: arrive in Dhaka in the evening and rest in a hotel (Richmond Suites). You book your own hotel for this night if you are arriving the day before your tour.
– Day 2: collect passengers from other hotels and go for a day tour of Old Dhaka. This included visiting numerous sights, such as mosques, churches and markets. I liked Dhaka way more than I had anticipated – anyone who has been to India will find that it is not as hectic as cities like Kolkata.
We then did a trip down the river on a small boat before boarding the rocket steamer. This was a great experience and was highly comfortable.
– Day 3: disembark the steamer and drive to Bagerhat and around to see sights. I found the Bangladeshi countryside to be peaceful and beautiful. The sights were interesting and we had the chance to go inside a house in a small Bangladeshi village.
Stay overnight in Mongla. The hotel (the name of which escapes me) was basic but comfortable and clean and will certainly do for any but the fussiest traveller.
– Days 4-6: board the boat to go into the Sundarbans and spend the day exploring the small canals of the world’s largest mangrove forest. We were joined by 8 Bangladeshis on board, each of whom had their own role as part of the crew.
A general word about the boat: it was very comfortable and the food in particular was superb. Hasan – if you are reading – please pass my thanks to the chef, who prepared incredible fresh food (such as river prawn / river fish curry and dhal soup). Any travellers who are fussy about food should warn Hasan in advance as it is not exactly easy to source new ingredients in the middle of the Sundarbans. However, I fully encourage you to eat as the Bangladeshis do and get stuck in. This was some of the best food I had throughout my trip around Asia. Clean water is provided.
We spent our time on the boat exploring the canals and trying to find tigers. We came very close to seeing one – we saw fresh paw-prints – but the chances of seeing a tiger are very small, even with an expert guide. I worked out that the 106 remaining tigers each has about 57 square kilometers to themselves. However, do not let this dissuade you from going on the tour as there is other wildlife to see and the peace/tranquility of being on the canal boats in rural Bangladesh is a memorable and enchanting experience. Just manage your expectations.
Day 6: go to Khulna on the boat, stopping off at a local fishing village along the way. We also stopped at a crocodile sanctuary on the way which we all thought could perhaps have been left out. You can see river dolphins / porpoises jumping in and out of the water as you travel.
We stayed at another comfortable and clean hotel in Khulna, which even had a beautiful rooftop pool.
Day 7: return to Dhaka by train. You will be offered the option of flying, but I would highly recommend taking the train as the views are wonderful (and train travel in Asian countries is an activity in itself). Stay overnight in Dhaka and move on the day after.
A word on our guide Faisal: Faisal was an excellent guide – perhaps the best I have had. He was knowledgeable and considerate of our wants and needs. He took us to local eateries but even went to the lengths of inspecting the kitchen before allowing us to eat the food.
A word on the security situation in Bangladesh: I was slightly apprehensive about this, given the negative press coverage Bangladesh receives in the West. While I know incidents to occur, these are extremely rare and the Bangladeshi people were generally extremely welcoming and friendly. They were just very happy that we were visiting their country. People in the villages would stop us and ask where we were from, some inviting us in for food. I would not let the security situation stop you from coming to Bangladesh, because it has so much to offer.
Overall, this was a superb tour and worth every penny. I know there are cheaper tours, but unless you want to be hoarded around with 30 other tourists then this is the way to do it.
I would give it 6/5 if I could.