Tour operators said early response from tourists was much higher than before even amid the pandemic
The world's largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, is set to reopen for tourists on Sunday under five conditions following a seven-month closure due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The Burigoalini forest station of Shyamnagar upazila informed trawler owners of the conditions at a meeting on Saturday morning.
The conditions are – no trawler can carry more than 20 tourists, tourists will not be able to carry any product other than food, each trawler has to have waste baskets for sanitation and waste disposal, no mic or sound box can be used on any trawler, and maintaining health guidelines.
Meanwhile, a festive atmosphere has been prevailing among local trawler owners and boatmen following news of the reopening.
They are repairing and cleaning up their boats and trawlers that have been lying unutilised for a long time.
The tour operators said they mainly operate in the Sundarbans from October to April. However, even on special festivals or holidays, the operators take tourists to the Sundarbans under various packages.
They said early response from the tourists was much higher than before even amid the pandemic.
Assistant Forest Conservator Sultan Ahmed said: “Tourists will be allowed to visit the Sundarbans from Sunday. We have already got permission from the ministry. However, tourists will have to maintain health guidelines while travelling.”
He said a maximum of 75 people were usually allowed to travel on a large ship. The tour operators would have to take fewer tourists if necessary.
Bhabatosh Kumar Mandal, president of the Burigoalini (Nildumari) Ghat Trawler Owners Association and local UP chairman, said tour operators had suffered as much as cruise ship owners, who had been affected by the closure for about seven months.
“It will take a long time to overcome the loss. The operators have already started their preparations after hearing about the reopening,” he said.
There are nine tourist spots in the Sundarbans, with over 45,000 tourists visiting them from November to March, which is the peak period for Sundarbans tourism.
The government restricted tourist gatherings in the Sundarbans, a Unesco World Heritage Site, on March 19 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.