I recently had the pleasure of managing a photo shoot in western Rajasthan for Shay Mitchell and Modeliste magazine. Here is a preview of one look shot in the Blue City of Jodhpur....stay tuned for L.A. Glamour Meets Jodhpur's Camels!
It is here...the March issue of Modeliste featuring Shay Mitchell in Rajasthan! I wrote the article 'A Passage to India,' which discusses what to see and do, and where to stay, eat and shop.
Dayapur, West Bengal, January 2018 - The Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta on the Bay of Bengal unfolds over 18,000 square miles in eastern India and Bangladesh. It is the world’s largest tropical mangrove forest. Within the delta lies the Sunderbans Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1973.
The delta contains a network of tidal waterways, creeks and alluvial islands and is home not only to Bengal tigers – the only tigers known to live in mangrove forests – but to Gangetic dolphins, Olive Ridley turtles, saltwater crocodiles, waterfowl and colorful crustaceans. It is an endangered habitat that can only be explored by boat, either a motorboat or a small country rowboat. Many naturalists working in the Sunderbans today were once ardent poachers, thankfully now transformed into guardians of the environment. The mangroves have adapted to flooding and salinity by the creation of breathing roots called pneumatophores that stick straight up out of the mud. Similarly, many animals in the Sunderbans, including the tigers, macaques and axis deer, have evolved to be able to drink salt water.
My base for exploring the region was the Sunderbans Tiger Camp in the village of Dayapur in Gosaba district, the last inhabited area before the entrance to the delta. Gosaba is one of the earliest settlements in the Sunderbans. In 1903, Sir Daniel Hamilton, a wealthy Scottish businessman, purchased 40 square kilometers of delta around Gosaba and attempted to develop the area commercially. He brought many people to this harsh environment, where they faced a constant struggle against mother nature and predators such as tigers, crocodiles, venomous snakes and sharks.
I went on several delta cruises during my stay in the Sunderbans. Since you must explore the area by boat, and the waterways are pretty wide, it is much harder to spot and photograph wildlife here than in India's other national parks. During my visit, I was able to spot wild boar, a lone crocodile, macaques, deer, and many beautiful Kingfishers, storks and herons. I also saw tiger pug marks in the mud leading out of the water, which illustrates that these tigers are indeed able to swim.
The economy of the Sunderbans is based predominately on wood products (timber, fuelwood, pulpwood), thatching material, honey, beeswax, fishing, and shrimp and mollusk cultivation. The mangrove tree sundari (Heritiera littoralis or looking-glass mangrove) yields particularly hard wood for house, boat and furniture construction, though it is currently at risk of extinction due to timber poaching. Furthermore, the Sunderbans is an important, yet highly-dangerous, honey production center; honey collectors are often killed by tigers, crocodiles and venomous snakes.
The biggest challenge facing inhabitants of the Sunderbans is a rapid loss of landmass. This is an area that is completely submerged during the monsoon season, thus even a small rise in sea levels can have devastating consequences. Already the rapid conversion of fertile delta land to agricultural fields and the growth in shrimp cultivation has destroyed a large area of mangrove forest. This deforestation and the diversion of water from rivers towards the mainland is causing silt to build up in local estuaries, clogging the natural waterways. Disappearing mangroves also leave the region more at risk to devastation by cyclones and tsunamis. Furthermore, rising surface water temperatures and increased salinity are threatening the local flora and fauna. As a result, in recent years a large number of residents have moved to the mainland.
For more on the conditions faced by villagers in the Sunderbans, read Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide.