Before this trip of mine to Jhallong, I had never been to any forest. I always wished to visit one but it never worked out. This time, we 3 friends, planned to start with Dooars. But as we were in the middle of a project delivery, we didn’t had much time to cover whole Dooars at once.
After scanning through the Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks in Dooars, we fixed at Jhallong. Though you technically can’t call Jhallong a National Park or a Wildlife Sanctuary, but for a night it seemed to be a perfect destination for us. Specially we were very excited about staying in a camp within Forest. Jhallong is one of the lesser known hill stations and offer beautiful landscape and peace. It is known for cardamom plantation and the journey through Chapramari Sanctuary is a pleasant experience.
Jhallong River Camp is maintained by West Bengal Forest Development Corporation (WBFDC). So every booking is done from their Website directly. The different camps have been named on the birds that you’ll find there in the forest. So, name didn’t helped much to guess what’s the difference between the camps and the reason for price difference. We couldn’t guess anything due to missing of adequate amount of pictures too. After thinking a lot, we booked the Munia Swiss Luxury Tent-IV (Non-A/C ), the highest priced one.
Our journey began by catching Darjeeling Mail from Sealdah Railway Station on Thursday night. February has just started and one can feel the Summer is on it’s way in the afternoon’s in Kolkata. But, Thanks to the Himalayan Ranges, it was still chilly in North Bengal. We felt it as soon as we reached NJP (New Jalpaiguri) in the morning.
We stayed at my sister’s place in Siliguri. We all were carrying laptop to meet our project deliverable’s. The plan was to meet the deadlines on Friday and then visit Jhallong on Saturday. As we felt one night would be enough. As some basic research showed that, we’d be staying in an isolated area, so more than one day can be boring and kill the mood of staying in a camp 🙂
Next day morning, we left for Jhallong at around 10AM. It took us around 3 Hours with a break in between, to reach Jhallong. We just got stunned when we reached there, the view was awesome. Everything was feeling no natural. The whole place is maintained so well, that we couldn’t believe it belongs to Govt.
By noticing us, the caretakers, came forward to help us with the luggage. Finally, after showing them the booking slip, they took us to our designated camp. The route to the camp was beautifully maintained with different flowers. The camp that we booked, ‘Munia’, is the last camp and the highest priced one. And this is when we understand the difference between different camps.
Though all the camps have same facility and of same size, the front ones (towards the counter) are low priced ones and as you go further the price increases. Each one have it’s advantage of staying in. Like, if you want to be away from everything and just enjoy yourself, then you should choose the further ones (i.e. higher priced ones), whereas, if you want to be near the main counter, so that you can approach there anytime with ease, the you should choose the front ones. I’d say if you are a couple and want to have both the facility of being near the counter and not being too far to walk a KM to approach the counter you should choose the middle ones.
Finally, when we reached our camp, we realized our decision was perfect. Yeah, we’d have to walk a KM to reach the Main Counter, but we can enjoy ourselves in the isolated camp along the banks of Jhallong River.
Finally we ordered our lunch and left for Bindu. Bindu is situated in the Hills on the Himalayan foothills and one of the lesser known Destinations. Scenic beauty of the settlement positioned among the high mountains with the River Jaldhaka flowing through the valley. It is a feast for the eyes and stimulating to the mind.
Jhalong, Suntaley Khola, Samsing, Chapramari, Today, Tangtey, Parren are some of the places worth visiting from Bindu. The places are also accessible same when you stay at either Bindu or Parren and visit the rest of the places. One can visit this places staying even at Gorumara or Chalsa or Chapramari Forest area. All these are small villages in the Himalayan foothills, if you wish you can stay at one of these places or even can enjoy these places as Sightseeing. There are small resorts at Parren Busty also. For birding one can come across local birds like Pheasants, Cuckoos, Minivets, Flycatchers, Mynas, Orioles, Owls, Parakeets, Partridges, Sunbirds, Swallows, Swifts, etc. Samsing is nearly 90 kilometers from Siliguri via Chalsa and is situated beside Jaldhaka River; the main attractions are for scenic beauty, orange plantation and forest resort.
One can visit the second phase of Hydro Electric Power Station constructed on the river Jaldhaka. We spent some time at Bindu in the banks of Jaldhaka River. Enjoyed the local cuisine, Thukpa and Momo with Beer. At around 4 PM, we left for our stay in Jhallong River Camp.
Our lunch was ready, when we returned. Post lunch, we explored the area. Enjoyed the scenic beauty in the banks of Jhallong River with JB.
They have arrangements for Barbeque and Camp Fire. Camp Fire costs around 500/- and Barbeque depends on the amount of Chicken you’d take. As we didn’t want to have dinner so we ordered for 1.5 KG Chicken which cost us 700/-. We asked them to arrange both Barbeque and Camp Fire at around 9 PM.
At around 10 PM, they arranged the both, as in the evening, another group ordered the same. Finally we enjoyed ourselves till 2AM in the morning, and went to sleep.
Next day morning, after having breakfast, we went to explore the local village and spent some time on the banks of the River.
Though I’m not a photographer, but couldn’t resist myself to try clicking some of the beautiful flowers.
And finally, after having our lunch, we left for Siliguri.
Tips For The Visitors
- Jhallong can be very boring, as you have nothing to do there, except exploring the scenic beauty. So if you are not a nature lover, this place is not for you.
- Book the camps directly from WBFDCL Website : https://www.wbfdc.com/
- If you want to booze, please bring your Bottle from Siliguri / NJP. Once you enter Dooars, you’ll have a hard time finding it. Though the local village shops have it, but options are very limited. So if you want your favorite please carry it from Plains.
- Shared cabs or other modes of Transport is not available here. So you have to book private cab, negotiating it for the whole trip. Generally they have fixed price of 3500/-, but depends on the Season you are visiting and number of people. Remember, that excludes the fooding and lodging for the Driver. Of course, you don’t need to pay the amount of the camp for him, but some basic cost is involved for his lodging.
- Don’t try to book for more than one night, as it’ll be boring. Again, this is a small village with 50 – 60 people, and have nothing to offer except scenic beauty. If you still feel staying for more than one day, book it on the spot for next day after experiencing one night.
- Food options are limited, you need to order at the counter beforehand. There are 5 – 6 caretakers who looks after this place. But if you are fine with Bengali Cuisine with regular stipulated food then you’ll face no problem at all.
- Mr. Sushanta, the main responsible person for looking after this place, is very helpful and co-operating. Shoot out any questions to him, and he’ll be happy to help.
Update – July 2019: Jhallong / Jolung River Camp has now been upgraded to beautiful luxury cottages with AC and great amenities.