Honey Collection Tour
Sundarban National Park is a source of unlimited natural resources that helps sustain the livelihoods of the locals. Raw materials that are collected by the villagers include wood, thatching materials, honey, beeswax, fish and crustaceans. Honey collection is undoubtedly the most adventurous, dangerous and physically exhausting activity in the Sundarbans, but the reward is immeasurable.
Every year, the trees in the Sundarban National Park bloom with flowers in March. The sweet fragrance of the flowers attract swarms of the Giant Asian Honey Bees (Apis dorsata), who construct hives deep into the forest. The local honey collectors, also known as Maualis or Mawalis, are permitted by the Forest Department to harvest honey from March end to May (dates are announced closer to date). The Maualis can earn a good amount of money within a few weeks from the sale of honey and wax. The Honey Collection tour allows tourists to join the Maualis as they embark on the task of harvesting honey and beeswax.
Haripada, an experienced mauali, shares the honey collection process with us: “We work in groups of 8 men, living together on a boat as a floating shelter. One man is left on the boat who acts as a the ‘shingari’ or trumpet caller to notify the others about the location of the boat and also takes care of the cooking. While rushing through the forest, we call out to each other as soon as as we detect a honeycomb. We light smoke torches prepared from dry leaves and branches to drive the bees away. We cut down the honey bearing parts of the comb and collect it in cane baskets. At the end of the day, we return to the boat and deposit the honey collected in large earthen cauldrons.”
The Sunderban Tiger Camp organises honey collection tours for guests who want to observe the Maualis in action. Guests can opt for either the 2 nights/3 days tour or the 3 nights/4 days tour.
Itinerary for the 2 nights/3 days tour:
Day 1: Guests are escorted from Kolkata to the Sunderban Tiger Camp. From there, they are taken to the Forest Department Office where they receive their permits to enter the forest. The remainder of the day is spent relaxing at the resort.
Day 2: The guests witness the Maualis offering prayers to the forest Goddess, Bonbibi, to protect them from tigers and other perils. The prayer ceremony is organised either in the village temple or at the entrance of the park. Following the prayer ceremony, guests board the boat that follows the Maualis as they navigate their way into the forest. They get to watch as the Maualis step foot on land and go about harvesting honey. In the evening, the guests are escorted back to the resort.
Day 3: On the third day, guests are escorted to visit the local village where they can observe the locals process the honey and beeswax that was collected. Post the visit, guests return to the resort and check out.
*The itinerary for the 3 nights/4 days Honey Collection Tour includes spending an additional day in the village observing the Box Honey Collection process in the Sundarban Village.