Hollong at Jaldapara National Park needs no introduction for anyone who has done their part of research. Situated amidst the lush green forest, right in front of the salt pit, Hollong Tourist Lodge (also known as Hollong Bunglow) is well known for spotting wildlife and activities. Yes, getting an booking here is really tough and needs some luck along with lots of practise. When I say practise, I mean, one needs to be well versed with the whole booking procedure. As you’d hardly have less than 2 minutes to type in guest names and pay. And as we all know, “practise makes a man perfect“!!
This trip report is in continuation of Enchanting Dooars – Buxa – Jayanti – Chilapata
Just for your reference again, we are following 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
Hollong have 8 rooms in total, spanned across 2 floors, out of which 5 rooms are available for guests and 3 of them are reserved for VIP’s. Both the floors have a common room, where guests spend most of their time to experience the wildlife activies. During the evening, the staffs would provide few search lights, which you can use to spot the wildlifes even after it gets dark. However you should use the lights sensibly to never distract and disturb the wildlife.
Out of the guests rooms, room no. 5 (Kingfisher) and 8 (Hornbill) are view rooms. Thus if you can manage to get either of these two rooms, you won’t need to go to the common room and you can experience all the activities from your rooms itself. Between the room no. 5 (Kingfisher) and 8 (Hornbill), your first preference should be room no. 8 (Hornbill) as it offers better and unobstructed view same as the common room. However during the time of booking, you cannot specify the rooms. That’s allotted on first come first serve basis. Thus you need to reach there as early as possible and inform at the reception during the time of your check-in. Also you need to be a bit lucky too, as in case, if some guests are already staying there from previous day in those specific rooms, then you are out of luck.
Below are the Room No. along with their Names.
1 – Hollong
2 – Torsha
3 – Malangi
4 – Sissmara
5 – Kingfisher
6 – Florican
7 – Peacock
8 – Hornbill
As I have already exaggerated it before “While at Jaldapara, either stay at Hollong or simply skip it” is very true. Staying right in front of salt pit has a different experience which can’t be explained in words. Next best option is to stay at Jaldapara Tourist Lodge at Madarihat which you need to book from WBTDCL.
For tourists staying at Hollong, you don’t need to opt for any Gypsy safari, as the Gypsy’s come to Hollong only as part of their safari’s. For Elehpant Safari’s, guests staying at Hollong are given first preference, and then the guests staying at Jaldapara Tourist Lodge and finally the guests staying at Private Lodges. Based on the requirement the management decides the number of Safari’s accordingly. For guests staying at Hollong, you’d need to inform the in-charge during the time of check-in. Always try to take the first Safari i.e. at 5:30 AM as the chance of spotting wildlife is very high. Although if you are staying at Hollong, you’d be able to spot wildlifes throughout the day, however Elephant Safari’s are meant for if you want to be close to them 🙂
Regarding the on-spot payments, one needs to pay Rs. 600/- per pax for Elephant Safari’s. Meals costs Rs. 400/- per head which is excluding Lunch. Lunch is charged extra at Rs. 250/- per pax. All the rooms are double bedded, however if you want to share within 3 pax, you’d need to pay Rs. 1000/- per pax per day irrespective of whether you opt for extra bed or not. Tourists who have booked their stay through WBTDCL, please note that the rules written there in the booking slip, are applicable for lodges under Tourism Dept. Hollong Tourist Lodge belongs to WBFDC, and thus the rules and payment information written in the booking slip are not applicable for Hollong.
Suggestion : Although there’s 90% of chance that you’d be able to spot wildlife if you are staying at Hollong. However to maximize the chance, better stay for 2N. And during your stay at Hollong, better do not plan any other sightseeings. Try to spend the whole day there to watch all possible activities.
Request : During our stay, I noticed that, various tourists are wearing bright coloured dresses and sitting right in front of the river. Everyone needs to understand that, this scares away the wilds. And that happened a lot of times. We heard the elephants, deers, however we couldn’t spot them unless they moved out of sight. I’m not asking you to not to visit nearby the river, but all I’m saying is, do not spend a lot of time sitting and chit-chatting there. And by all means, please follow the decorum of being at forest and avoid wearing bright coloured clothes. As that affects all the tourists staying there at Hollong. Instead sit at the common room and have fun!
NOTE : Previously Hollong Tourist Lodge needed to be booked from WBTDCL. However the lodge basically belonged to Forest Department. As conveyed by the in-charge there, due to various issues (overbooking mostly) with WBTDCL, the booking is now being migrated to WBFDC. As of today, during this migration phase, the lodge is not available for booking on either of the websites. So for future visitors, please keep an eye on both the websites. Forest is closed anyway, as of time of this writing, due to monsoon. Post that we should be able to see it under WBFDC. Also unlike WBTDCL which used to follow opening window of 6 months in advance, after the migration is done, it’s expected to follow WBFDC rules i.e. opening window will be 3 months in advance. Also as conveyed by the in-charge there, booking of Elephant Safari also, will now go online. So guests booking Hollong Tourist Lodge, need to book and pay for Elephant Safari online, during the time of booking only.
4th May – Day 6 : Chilapata – Hollong / 5th May – Day 7 : Hollong :
We woke up at around 7:30 AM and after having our breakfast we left by 9:30 AM. I really didn’t wanted to miss the experience of staying at Room No. 8. Although I knew, we’d need a bit of luck, as in case someone is already occupying the same from previous night. However with a hope in our hearts, considering it to be a lean season, we started for our last leg of the trip.
Next 2 days were planned at Hollong. We deliberaly kept any sightseeings off the list, as we wanted to maximise our chance. We reached the checkpost by next 30 minutes. There you’d need to fill up the guest details and submit photocopies of your ID Card. The journey to Hollong from the Checkpost, is itself a Safari. This is exactly what tourists pays for if they are not staying at Hollong and opting for Gypsy Safari at Jaldapara.
The route is around 8 KM and took us around 15 minutes to reach Hollong. As soon as we reached, we noticed a Sambar Deer. As we were about to rush to click pictures, Babai Da informed us to complete the check-in procedures and that we’d get whole 2 days to catch these activities.
We were very lucky to be the first one to arrive. And luckily, we got both Room No 5 and 8. Quickly after completing all the documentation procedures we were showed the rooms. The rooms were really spacious and very clean and well maintained. As we were the only persons and had 3 rooms on ground floor itself, we occupied the Common Rooms!!
Well one thing that I’ll always regret, is why I didn’t carried a 150-600mm. The region is full of various birds, and for bird lovers this is a great place for birding!!
For next 2 days, except for having meals, going to washrooms and to sleep, we spent the whole day at common room itself. It was like, as if we were sitting there like the Kings, and various wilds one after another came in and payed us a visit!! Surprisingly, we noticed a pattern amongst their visiting time. Every species follows their own timings.
There’s nothing much to say about our experience at Hollong, instead let the pictures tell you the stories!!
And here they come!!
6th May – Day 8 : Hollong – Hasimara :
Well, today being the last day of our trip, we were a bit depressed. Not because that the trip is coming to an end, but because of the thought that we’d have to go back to same old life again.
We sarted our day a bit late at around 8:30 AM. After getting freshen up and having our breakfast, we left by around 10:00 AM.
As we had whole day, we planned to pay a visit to Totopara & Lankapara, which is a small village and home to the Toto Tribes, which is considered to be one of the unique tribes in the world.
As our train was from Hasimara, we couldn’t control our love for being in Bhutan again being so close to Bhutan. So yes, again, we were at Bhutan 🙂
Finally Babai Da drove us to Hasimara. With promises of being in touch and tears in our eyes, we left to board our train. It started raining by then, thus we couldn’t chat much.
Hollong Tourist Lodge :
The rooms were really spacious, clean and well maintained. The food is finger-licking and heavenly. The staffs are very cordial, smiling and helpful. However they really expect a good tips, so you have to deal with that carefully.
Hollong Tourist Lodge – Rooms : 2500/- x 3 (Rooms) x 2 (Days) = 15000/-
We asked Babai Da to stay with us at Hollong instead of the driver’s room. So we had to pay Rs. 1000 x 2 (Days) = 2000/- for extra person.
Hollong Tourist Lodge – Meals : 400 x 7 (Pax) x 2 (Days) = 5600/-
Hollong Tourist Lodge – Lunch : 250 x 7 (Pax) x 2 (Days) = 3500/-
Hollong Tourist Lodge – Elephant Safari : 600 x 5 (Pax) = 3000/- (We didn’t opt for the Elephant Safari on 2nd Day)
Hollong Tourist Lodge – Vehicle Entry Fee : Rs. 250/-
Hollong Tourist Lodge needed to be booked from WBTDCL.