Night falls like a black hood over the largest mangrove forest in the world, the Sundarbans. Straddling the border between Bangladesh and India, this beautiful forest (which is likely where it gets its name from — Sundar, meaning beautiful, ban, meaning forest) is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, saltwater crocodiles, all manner of snakes, crustaceans, river sharks, and a few million crab-catchers, fishers, and honey hunters.
I’d travelled 2000 kilometers (1250 miles) to reach the edge of the Sundarbans and then taken two ferries and three flatbed tuk-tuks to reach the last embankment on the edge of the forest. It was dark by the time I lugged my drone and bags into the little room I’d taken by the river. Climbing up on to the embankment an hour later, I saw the forest lying dark across the river. The milkyway dissolved into view. Lightning lit up the clouds on the far side of the forest. Occasionally a night fisherman would put-put across my field of view. An incessant chizzzzzz of crickets filled the monsoon air. I set up my camera and prepared to sit through the long exposures on the steps leading up to a small jetty.
As I sat watching one arm of our galaxy traverse across the sky, I mulled the dichotomy of the Sundarbans and its place in our Universe. This was a land both life-giving and life-taking. Tigers killed more humans here than in any other place in the world. The big cat was known to swim across rivers and onto land and into villages to hunt. Yet, this estuary was one of the richest fishing of grounds and is the first line of defense against storm surges, rising sea levels, and cyclones.