Ratargul is the only swamp forest in Bangladesh. It is located in Gowainghat Upazila, about 26 km from Sylhet district town. The Ratargul Forest covers an area of about 30,325 acres.
This vast area consists of 504 acres of forest and the rest is filled with small and large water bodies.
However, in the rainy season, the whole area looks the same. Ratargul is known as the ‘Sundarbans of Sylhet’.
Ratargul wetlands is submerged for four to five months in a year. Then tourists from different parts of Bangladesh come to see the submerged forest trees. Many tourists refer to Ratargul as the ‘Amazon of Bangladesh’.
In the rainy season, different species of birds can be seen on the branches of trees, and then some wild animals also take shelter in the branches of trees. Besides, in winter, thousands of guest birds sit on the Ratargul pond.
The best time to visit Ratargul is usually from July to October (late monsoon).
Ratargul is a natural forest, the local forest department planted several trees here including Hijal, Varun, Karach. There are also about 25 species of water tolerant plants including Kadam, Jalibet, Arjuna. In 1983, the Bangladesh Forest Department declared 504 acres of Ratargul forest as a wildlife sanctuary.
The way to go Ratargul from Dhaka
Sylhet-bound buses leave from Gabtoli, Fakirapul and Sayedabad Bus Terminals in Dhaka. Tickets for AC buses of Green Line, Saudia, S Alam, Shyamli, ENA etc. cost Tk.1000 to Tk.1200 per bus.
And the ticket price for non-AC bus is 480 to 600 taka per person.
The Train Route
You can choose trains like the Upban, Jayantika, Parabat or Kalni Express as your travel companion. They all leave from Dhaka for Sylhet. You can catch the trains from Kamalapur or Airport Railway Station.
If you want to go to Sylhet in the fastest time and comfortably from Dhaka, you can go by air.Biman Bangladesh,NovoAir and US Bengal regularly depart from Shahjalal International Airport for Sylhet.
From Chittagong to Sylhet
Sylhet can be reached by bus, train and air from Chittagong. To reach Sylhet by train from Chittagong, two trains named Paharika and Udayan Express run 6 days a week.
The way to Ratargul from Sylhet town
Ratargul can be reached from Sylhet in two ways. There can be reached in a very short time by the road inside Khadim Tea Garden and Khadimnagar National Park near Sylhet city. This way you have to go to Sringi Bridge by CNG autorickshaw or jeep. From Sylhet you can go to Ratargul in the morning and come back in the afternoon. So, it will cost 1200 to 1500 taka for CNG or auto rickshaw for the whole day.
If you rent CNG all day, you will be able to visit Bichnakandi at almost the same fare. If you want to take local CNG from Amberkhana in Sylhet, it will cost 100 taka per person to reach Sringi Bridge. To reserve CNG, you must go in a bargaining with the drivers. From Sringi Bridge you will find small fishing boats to enter the Ratargul forest. A small boat can carry 4-5 people. The rent of such a boat is 850 taka. Life jackets, umbrellas and midget hats are available for rent at night. On the second way to Ratargul, you have to take a car from Sylhet to Jaflong and get off at Sari Ghat. Local fare from Sylhet to Sarighat is 40 to 50 taka. From Sari Ghat you have to come to Gowain Ghat market by CNG and go to Ratargul by boat.
However, this route takes more time.
Apart from this, you can reach Matarghat from Bandar Bazar Point in Sylhet by adding CNG to Saheb Bazar and rent a dinghy boat to go to Ratargul Jalaban.
It is important to remember that no matter which way you arrives to Ratargul, you will have to rent a small boat from the fishermen to enter the forest. Maximum of 4-5 people can seat in a boat.
Where to stay
There are many quality residential hotels and rest houses in Lala Bazar area and Dargah Road at low rates.Where you will get different types of rooms for 500 to 1000 taka.
Besides, you can stay in Hotel Hill Town, Gulshan, Dargah Gate, Surma, Kaikobad etc. as your need and ability.
Among good service and quality residential hotels include:
Hotel Holy Gate, Holy Inn, La Vista Hotel, Pansy Inn, Hotel Metro International, Britannia Hotel, etc.
The cost of staying in these hotels will be from Tk. 2,000 to Tk. 10,000.
Luxury hotels and resorts include Nirvana Inn, Hotel Nurjahan Grand, Rose View Hotel, Nazimgar Resort, Grand Palace and some more. The cost per night will range from Tk. 8,000 to Tk. 30,000.
Caution whilst traveling Ratargul
Snakes usually take shelter in the branches of different trees after the forest is submerged in the rainy season, be careful about this. There are also leech infestations here. If you do not know how to swim, keep a life jacket with you. If necessary, take an umbrella and a raincoat.
Some More Tourist Spot in Sylhet
Apart from Ratargul tour, the popular tourist destinations in the vicinity are Bichnakandi, Jaflong, Lobachhara, Lalakhal and Hazrat Shahjalal’s shrine etc.