Dooars, the word came from a Bengali word “Duar” meaning “Doors“. Dooars is the gateway to Widlife Zone of West Bengal and also the gateway to hills of India and Bhutan. Although I have been to and crossed various regions of Dooars on various occassions, however I had never been to the Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks of Dooars as such. This plan of mine was going through my mind for a long time, however somehow I couldn’t materialize it.
It all started with, suggesting one of my office collegue about Hollong when he asked me about where to stay at Jaldapara. However I informed him that getting Hollong is very tough, due to obvious reasons, but he informed me that, he’s getting availability at Hollong during May. At that spark of the moment, I called up my wife and literally asked her, “Hollong jabo May te. Jabe? You have only 2 seconds to decide“. That’s it!! I’m not sure whether that collegue of mine made the trip or not, but I grabbed Hollong!! However after returning back from office, when I informed my family that we are going to Dooars, they badly wanted to join. Although initially I thought of visiting only Hollong, however with family joining in, I thought, why not utilize this chance to make a long trip to Dooars!!
When I started planning for the same, I was mostly confused with various Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks scattered throughout Dooars. And what mostly confused me is, most people (due to their time limits and various other boundaries) covered them on seperate visits. I had a hard time understanding the maps and how to plan for the same. As usual, members from India Mike came to rescue. So, in short, Dooars is divided into Eastern Dooars and Western Dooars. Western Dooars is comprised of Gorumara National Park and Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary. And Eastern Dooars is comprised of Jaldapara National Park, Chilapata Forest & Buxa Tiger Reserve.
Regarding accommodation, what I personally felt is, best is to book the Govt. Accommodations (Forest / Tourism Bunglows) for various reasons. Firstly, in most cases, the govt. accommodations are situated at best location, thus the best adventure, thrill and view. Secondly, safari permits are easy and guaranteed – this is very important for a wildlife tour. Thirdly, for the concerned persons, govt. accommodations, in most of the cases are best in terms of cleanliness, rooms, washrooms and the spaciousness. Although this I have personally felt and experienced, and might differ with views of others.
So for Gorumara and Chapramari, your preference of accommodation should be WBFDC Murti. If you can’t get a booking there then WBTDCL Murti. As for permits for Safari’s at Gorumara and Chapramari, first preference is given to guests staying at WBFDC Murti, next is WBTDCL Murti. The idea is, if your Gypsy is booked, your safari is booked. If you are staying at WBFDC Murti, you don’t need to worry anything. Just inform at the reeption and sit back and relax. If you are unable to manage a booking at either of the resorts, stay at Lataguri instead. As if you are staying at some private resorts, you need to go to Lataguri NIC for permits. So staying at Lataguri helps in that case. Also note that, during peak season, it becomes a lot of headache to stand in queue and get permits on your own. Because in worst cases, for safari’s of 1st Shift (6:00 AM – 7:00 AM), you might need to stand in queue from 8:00 PM previous day. This might sound very unnatural, however this is very true during peak seasons. Else there are local kids, whom you can appoint to be there in the queue for which you need to shell one some extras.
Also, at Gorumara, if you want to have a Elephant Ride, you need to stay at either of below resorts
- Kalipur Eco Village
- Dhupjhora Elephant Camp / Gach Bari
- Rhino Camp
For Buxa Tiger Reserve, you can either stay at WBFDC Resort, Buxa Jungle Lodge which is actually at Rajabhatkhawa, which is outside the forest region, however I’d strongly suggest to stay at Jayanti instead and enjoy the picturesue views. There are lots of hotels nearby the river bed at Jayanti, so you can choose one of them according to your preference. We found Mohanchura to be one of the resort having best views. Else if you can manage the PHE / CESC Bunglow, it’s great too!!
For Jalaparada National Park, your one and only choice should be Hollong Tourist Lodge. Infact I’d further go ahead and say that, either stay at Hollong or else skip Jaldapara. That’s because your experience at Jaldapara would be completely different and unique if you are staying at Hollong, which no other resorts can match. It’s one of a unique of it’s kind and no other lodge can match the experience of Hollong. Anyway, next one I’d recommend is Jaldapara Tourist Lodge at Madarihat.
I’d go ahead and furnish all the details as I proceed with each of the sections. So please keep reading!!
So, after all the homework, I finally came up with the below itinerary…
29th April – Day 1 : NMZ – Murti
30th April – Day 2 : Murti – Kalipur Eco Village
1st May – Day 3 : Kalipur Eco Village – Jayanti
2nd May – Day 4 : Jayanti
3rd May – Day 5 : Jayanti – Chilapata
4th May – Day 6 : Chilapata – Hollong
5th May – Day 7 : Hollong
6th May – Day 8 : Hollong – Hasimara
Well yes, my route is a bit odd. But I intentionally did it to keep Hollong in the end.
Finally after awating for a loooonnnnggg time, the D Day arrived and we embarked on our journey to New Mal Jn. from Sealdah by Kanchankanya Express. The journey en-route was mostly unhappenning due to the summers. After chit-chatting for a while, we had our dinner and took charge of respective berths!!
29th April – Day 1 – NMZ – Murti :
The morning was beautiful, rainy, full of greens. However the train was late by 3:30 Hours. We are getting a bit anxious, however the route from NJP – NMZ kept us occupied. No matter the number of times I travel in this route, it’d always be my personal favourite. The journey through the lush green forest gives an unique feel. And add crossing caves to that, and it becomes simply amazing.
Our partner in crime, Babai Da, was already waiting for us at NMZ. After a breif hug we started towards Murti. It took us around an hour to reach Murti. The resort was amazing, located just behind the Murti River with amazing views. Our train being late than it’s scheduled arrival, we had already called them up beforehand for ordering our Lunch. Upon reaching there, the first thing that we did is book the Safari’s, even before checking the rooms. That’s the beauty of staying at WBFDC Murti. No matter when you arrive, you are always given first preference due to the quota allocated for the guests staying at Murti.
We opted for the rooms named – Jaldhaka & Torsha. Staying at first floor is an unique experience of it’s own. You get to enjoy the river view from the Balcony!!
The lunch was tasty, and felt like home-made. After having a stumptous lunch, we took rest for sometime before proceeding for our Safari to Chapramari. Although I opted to book evening safari at Gorumara – Jatraprasad and morning safari at Chapramari. However the safari booking in-charge there suggested us to do vice-versa instead due to chance of spotting wildlife.
At both Gorumara and Chapramari, the safari’s are done in 4 shifts – Shift 1 (6:00 AM – 7:30 AM), Shift 2 (8:30 AM – 10:00 AM), Shift 3 (2:00 PM – 3:30 PM) and Shift 4 (4:30 PM – 6:00 PM). The cost of 4th Shift is higher than the other 3, because evening shift is always equipped with some Tea & Snacks along with a Tribal Dance for supporting livelihood of local villagers. During Winters (October – February), the time is shifted to 30 minutes ahead of what’s mentioned above. And the tickets are issued (at counters) 30 minutes in advance from Safari Starting Time. For E.g. For Shift 1 (6:00 AM – 7:30 AM) the tickets are issued at 5:30 AM. During Winters, the time changes from 6:30 AM – 8:00 AM and the tickets are issued at 6:00 AM. However practically, if you are not staying in either of WBFDC or WBTDCL Resorts at Murti, during rush time you’d need to stand in queue from 8 PM previous day if you want to do it on your own. Else, as I explained before, just have a word with the staff’s at your hotel, they generally have such staffs or appoint some local childrens to stand in queue for you for some premium.
Anyway, after taking a small afternoon nap after a stumptous lunch, we started for our Safari to Chapramari at 4:00 PM. The drive through the woods is something that I can’t explain in words. I’d consider myself so lucky, that even before reaching the gate of Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary, we spotted 2 Elephants. Although I couldn’t click a picture as most of body was covered by the trees.
The guide was really friendly and helped us spot a Greater Adjutant Stork and an Indian Gour. However the Indian Gour was so far away that even 300mm of focal length fall short!! One common problem I noticed with these Safari’s in Dooars are, not all people who visits for a Safari are wildlife lovers. In most of the cases, my experience was bitter due to these common people. For most of them doing a Safari and going for a tour to Darjeeling is same. It was like full of chaos. People are shouting like anything and when they couldn’t spot any wildlife, without haing any patience the most common phrase was “Ei amar ekta DP tule de na” (Hey, please click me a nice DP). This lead me to think even if there’s a chance of any wildlife appearing in, it’d get down to zero.
Anyway, after waiting till 5:30, we were sure, there’s hardly any chance of spotting in anything else due to this chaos. So we proceeded towards Chapramari Wilderness Camp, Panijhora for Tribal Dance which is a part of the package for evening (last) safari. Evening Safari’s are always equipped with such entertainments to support the local livelihood. The road to Chapramari Wilderness Camp, Panijhora was in devastating state. However we were presented with some refreshments like Tea and Biscuits as soon as we reached. Soon the show began. Though nothing exceptional, but it was nice. I do support such causes.
As we were about to leave, it started raining. Finally we came back to our hotel by 6:40. Babai Da was already waiting for us to take us out for authentic Tea. It started raining heavily by then due to which we really enjoyed the drive through the highway. He took us to a place named Mission Hill Tea Cafe. It was beautifully decorated. I’d say it was one of the best evenings I have spent till now. A cup of Darjeeling Tea, beautifully decorated cafe with decorative lights, music (a local gang was playing Indi-pops and Metallica) along with the thrumming sound of rain made it just perfect.
Later in the evening he dropped us to our hotel and left for the day. Soon we were served dinner. Again, there’s no point in mentioning the deliciousness of home-cooked style food. Later we chit-chatted for a while occupying the Hall. At around 11:30 PM we called off the day and went to bed.
30th April – Day 2 – Murti – Kalipur Eco Village :
It was a cloudy cool morning due to the rains. We started at around 5:00 AM for our Safari to Jatraprasad Watch Tower at Gorumara National Park. The watch tower, Jatraprasad, was named after an elephant at Gorumara. It took us around 30 minutes to reach the gate of Gorumara National Park. We were the first one to reach the Gate. After the formalities, we were eagerly waiting for the clock to strike 6:00 AM. We were super excited, as the safari booking in-charge at WBFDC Murti suggested us to take the morning safari at Jatraprasad considering the chance of spotting wildlife.
As soon as we began, we spotted a Peacock.
Next, a Wild Boar appeared in.
Next was a sambar deer!!
However, it’s not always about spotting the wildlife, one should enjoy the journey, the thrill of being at such a place. The guide was very friendly and helped us spot few Peacocks, a Wild Boar, a Spotted Deer, a Rhino (however it was out of my focal length :P) and few birds as well.
The experience here was more nice than at Chapramari. Irrespective of the guide you are assigned to, everyone tries to help you out spotting the wildlife. And all of the guides together maintained the decorum and silence. Any tourist whose voice was even beyond the whispering, the guides made them silent.
I was more than happy and considered ourselves lucky. First is we anticipated it’d be too hot in Dooars now, which is very normal, however due to the occassional rains, the temeprature was right within control and also the chance of spotting wildlife is strongest during November – March. March being the best month within that range. The reason is wildlifes comes out of the forest region in search of food and water. And that’s when you spot them. However during this period, due to the occassional rains, animals get the food and water inside the jungle only, resulting in minimizing the chance of coming outside in search of food and water, thus lowering the chance of spotting wildlife. Still, we were able to spot animals, right from our first day.
Anyway, later we were taken to another region, where there was lots of peacocks and birds. This time I got very frustrated, that I didn’t carried a 150-600 even after giving it a thought for few times. Actually it weighs around 2KG itself, so it’d have been a seperate luggage altogether. And thus, I thought of skipping the same. Which now I feel, was very much needed. Although I was never into Birding, and I never thought I’d enjoy Birding.
Finally, by around 8:00 AM we were back to our hotel. After having our breakfast, we quickly got ready and checked out.
Today our accommodation was booked at Kalipur Eco Resort. However we took a detour Jhallong and Bindu on our way. Well, I have been twice here previously, at Jhalong River Camp. This region is always one of my personal favourite. The serene beauty, landlocked between the mountains with Jholung river flowing by. Camping at such as place is like getting connected with your soul.
Although, as I mentioned on my post Jholung River Camp – Revisited, they were undergoing renovation. However 70% seemed to be complete. Glad, that I could found out Sushanta Da there. He confirmed that the renovation would get completed in next 3-4 months. So Durga Puja onwards, they will be ready to accept guests. Well my idea was to take my mom and dad there, to show them the beauty of the place and that this is the place where we keep coming every year. After chit-chatting for a while, we left, with promises to be back again this winter, once they are ready.
Next we moved to Bindu, Jaldhaka Hyder Power Project. Although I have been here, and I knew this place is nothing in comparison to Jhallong. However there’s a restaurant which I loved most. It’s beside the dam, with open balcony. So you can have a beer with finger licking momos and wai-wai gazing at the mountains of Bhutan. Being the border of Bhutan, you could easily get few delicacies of Bhutan such as Zumzin!! Zumzin is love!! Only the ones who have tasted it knows it’s true value.
Finally, we drove towards Lataguri, and after collecting the booking slip from Lataguri NIC, we drove towards Kalipur Eco Village. It’s nearby Medla Watch Tower, however somewhere I felt this part of Gorumara National Park, is not so nice. The region near Jatraprasad Watch Tower seemed to be more deep and thrilling. That’s the reason, Jatrapasad is most popular in Gorumara than other Watch Towers. However if you want to have a Elephant Ride at Gorumara, you need to stay at either of Kalipur, Dhupjhora or Rhino Camp. Everything comes included in the package i.e. Accommodation, Meals, Trip To Medla Watch Tower (you can go on your own as many times as you want), Tribal Dance (Evening) & Elephant Safari (Morning).
After keeping our luggages, we walked to Medla Watch Tower accompanied by a Guide. Whereas my Mom took a Bullock Cart Ride. Although this is not included in the package, however you can opt it for Rs. 40/- for a journey to and from Medla. Although we could spot a Rhino and Indian Gour (popularly reffered as Bison), however they were out of range of my lens. After spending sometime, we walked back to to our resort. The watch tower is just 15 minutes walk from the resort. However it’s not that safe to walk there post evening because of the Elephants. And that’s the reason, the cottages are situated at a level higher than the ground. This is very common at all forest guest houses / cottages throughout dooars. The idea is to keep yourself in a cage to see the wildlife, which is completely justified considering you are in their region.
During evening, we were served Tea and Pakoda and soon the Tribal Dance began. Although we felt there’s a lack of comminication between the performers. The performance was much more organized and better at Chapramari Wilderness Camp, Panijhora. However it doesn’t really matter much, considering it’s their livelihood.
Later at around 9:00 PM we were served dinner and post that we enjoyed the silence of wilderness for a while before hitting the bed.
1st May – Day 3 : Kalipur Eco Village – Jayanti :
We woke up at around 5:00 AM in the morning. As the Elephants here are not equipped with Seats as such, everyone decided to skip it except Me. And thus Babai Da joined me. One Elephant can accommodate 2-3 pax depending on the situation. This was my first Elephant Safari and thus I was very excited. We could spot various Birds, Deers and a Wild Boar.
Later we tipped the mahout to take us a bit at the deeper side in expectation of Rhino. And we were glad that we could spot not only a Rhino but also an Indian Gour (Commonly referred as Bison). However they were very far from 300mm range of my optics. Later we were back to our resort by 7 AM. It was a one hour ride.
After having our breakfast and getting freshen up, shortly, after paying all the bills we left for our next destination.
A Request : During my visit to various watchtowers, I noticed one common issue, that is most tourists were not there to enjoy the wildlife or don’t even understand of the behaviour and decorum they need to maintain while visiting a wildlife region. Most of them were making chaos and for them it was like any other outing or tour. I have a humble request to all such tourists, to please maintain the decorum and stay quite while at safari. Although if I had such powers, I’d have taken strict action against such tourists making chaos at the watchtowers, but I hope this of my message reaches to all.
NOTE : Most tourists who plans to visit Dooars, plans it keeping in mind spotting of various wildlife. However upon unable to spot any wildlife, they feel very disheartened, which is very normal behaviour. However I’d like to mention to all such tourists, that forest is not all about spotting wildlife. Forests itself have her own beauty and a wild feeling or a thrill. Try to get a feel of that and you’d feel good even if you can’t spot any wildlifes.
WBFDC Banani Murti : Well I already mentioned previously, staying at WBFDC Resorts have an added advantage over staying at private resorts regarding the safari permits. You don’t need to run anywhere for getting the permits, instead you’d get it from the hotel itself. Also safari permits are reserved for guests staying at WBFDC Resorts, so no matter the rush, safari is always guaranteed if you are staying there. Also in terms of accommodation and location, WBFDC Resorts are the best option than any other resorts. The rooms and washrooms are clean and the property is very well maintained. The staffs are very friendly, helpfull and co-operative. The food is delicious Bengali style home-cooked food. You can book this online, from WBFDC Website.
Kalipur Eco Resort : If you want to have an Elephant Safari at Gorumara, you need to stay at either of Kalipur / Dhupjhora / Rhino Camp. However please note that, unlike Jaldapara, Elephants here are not equipped with custom made seats. So you’d need to sit in the back of elephant, which can be an issue for the kids, womens and senior citizens depending on their fitness level. The resort is nearby Medla Watch Tower and maintained by Jalpaiguri Wildlife Division II. It comes in a package consisting of Accommodation, Meals, Trip To Medla Watch Tower (you can go on your own as many times as you want), Tribal Dance (Evening) & Elephant Safari (Morning). The property is really well maintained and the rooms and washrooms are clean. The food there is really great!! Although this part of the forest is not that much dense and thrilling, however spending a night during Purnima (Full Moon) can give you goosebumps. You need to book this over phone and transfer the advance through Demand Draft. You’d need to collect the booking reciept from NIC Lataguri before proceeding there.
NOTE : This is a resort maintained by State Forest Dept. to help guests accommodate right within the forest. So please understand the various circumstances and do not expect any kind of luxury. You may visit if you are wildlife lover, else if you are on a family luxury tour, better avoid instead of having bitter experience.
WBFDC Murti (Accommodation) : Rs. 5976/- [Jaldhaka & Torsha costs Rs. 2400/- per room per night and Extra Cot charge was Rs. 300/- per cot per night. Please note, doesn’t matter if you opt for extra cot or not, you have to pay this charge for extra person.]
Chapramari & Gorumara Safari (6 Pax) : Rs. 4200/-
Food Bill at WBFDC Murti : Rs. 3356/- (Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast and Uncountable times of Tea!!)
Kalipur Eco Resort : Rs. 5100/- (3 Pax) x 2 = Rs. 10,200/- [Package includes Accommodation, Meals, Trip To Medla Watch Tower (you can go on your own as many times as you want), Tribal Dance (Evening) & Elephant Safari (Morning)]
Vehicle : 2500/- per day
WBFDC Banani Murti – Booking : WBFDC Website
WBFDC Banani Murti – Reception : 7797870810
WBFDC Banani Murti – Canteen : 9933768956
WBFDC Banani Murti – Manager : 7407368859
WBTDCL Murti Booking : WBTDCL Website
Kalipur Eco Resort – Mr. Manab Kumar Ghosh : +91-99327-86001 [For Booking]
Kalipur Eco Resort – Mr. Kamal Kanti Das : +91-99325-43943 [Caretaker]
Babai Da (Driver) : +91-89066-72949
This article is continued at Enchanting Dooars – Buxa – Jayanti – Chilapata