When it comes to exploring wildlife and wild-animals, some National Parks of Dooars India play a big role to satisfy the souls of nature enthusiasts. Many may not be aware of the fact that there are many places to visit in Dooars. Duar means door in Bengali and this region has been aptly named Dooars or Duars as it is the door to Bhutan and North East India.

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From the rippling rivulets of Jhalong and the picturesque valleys of Buxa with forests marked by walking trails to the riverbeds at Jaldapara and the lush greenery of Gorumara National Park, these places are a treat for the eyes. These parks, however, remain closed during the monsoon season. Travellers coming to this stunning place around November-December can be a part of Raas Mela which is one of the ancient fairs held here. As per the Bengali calendar, the day of the full moon (Purnima) in the month of Kartik marks the beginning of the fair. So plan your trip to this lesser-known gem to create memories that can be cherished for a lifetime.

All these would also mean a great time for tourists as chances of sighting go up tremendously. But you need to know which Dooars forests offers you the best sighting experience. Read below to know where the Rhinos, Eliphnd, Red Pandas and other wild animals are waiting for you.

 

Jaldapara National Park

Situated in the Eastern foothills of the Himalayas, the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary along with Gorumara National Park is famous for one-horned rhinoceros, elephants and Bengal Tigers, spotted deers, barking deers, sambhar deers, bison, wild pig, hog deer and bison.

Spread over 200 sq. km area, Jaldapara National Park is your best bet if you want to see the mighty rhinos. This national park boasts of high one-horned Asiatic rhino population besides other species such as Indian bison, deer, antelopes, and of course elephants. Though the Jaldapara forest area has a small population of leopards and tigers, you might just get lucky to spot one!

  • Timings: 6 AM to 6 PM
  • Entry fee: INR 25 for Indians and INR 100 for foreigners.
  • Safari Charges: INR 140 per person for elephant safari; INR 450 per person for Jeep safari; INR 50-200 for taking your own vehicle inside the forest; INR 100 for hiring registered guides.
  • Guide: Rs. 100/- per vehicle
  • Camera: Rs. 25/- (still)
  • Camera: Rs. 250/- (video)
  • Note: Though the Forest Department allows travellers to enter the forests with their own vehicles, you can’t get into the core area. Thus the animal sighting chances remain quite low.
  • Tip: The salt pit opposite to Hollong bungalow is the best place to view the Bisons and Rhinos, who come out in the evening to satiate their craving for salt.
  • Nearby attractions: Don’t miss the Khairabari Leopard Rescue Centre where leopards rescued from nearby tea gardens and human settlements are kept before being released into the wild. You can also visit Totopara, home to Toto tribes who are one of the 75 designated primitive tribal groups of India.
  • Three Elephant Safaris take place every day for one hour each and all in the morning:

  1. 6am to 7am
  2. 7am to 8am
  3. 8am to 9am 

You need to start a minimum one hour before your slot time to complete entry formalities and reach on time. It takes few minutes at the forest main entry gate on National Highway at Madarihat to complete entry formalities and then further 20 minutes by car to reach Hollong Lodge.

  • Jeep safaris in Jaldapara National Park. Three safari trips take place every day – two in the morning and one in the afternoon:

  1.  5:30am to 7am
  2. 7am to 8:30am
  3. 3:30pm to 5pm

So a safari duration is for 1 hour 30 minutes. 

 

Buxa Tiger Reserve

It is a 760-square-kilometre reserve in the Buxa National Park. Buxa Tiger Reserve is part of the Buxa National Park situated in the Alipur Duar district of West Bengal. With six tigers relocated here a year back, Buxa Tiger Reserve has been a hotspot for tiger sighting.

Buxa Tiger Reserve Forest is home to over 400 species of trees, 400 species of herbs, 150 species of orchids, 250 species of shrubs, 100 species of grass, and about 130 species of aquatic flora. The forest is full of Champa, Simul, Chikrasi, Gamar and Sal trees. Even the fauna has a wide variety in it. Asian Tiger, elephant, bison, sambar, giant squirrel, antelopes and wild boar can be spotted in the jungle. The forest is also a bird watcher’s paradise boasting 284 species of birds. Beautifully coloured butterflies can also be found here.

 Safari Timings: Jeep safaris from Rajabhatkhawa entry point is open between 6 am to 3 pm.

  • Entry cost: Rs. 250/- for the vehicle along with a driver, and Rs. 50/- each for the travellers (Fare updated: January 2020). 
  • Cost of Jeep Safari: If you book the full Jeep along with a guide, it will cost around Rs. 1200/- including permits and guide fee. If you book through a local contact person, you can negotiate. (Fare updated: February 2019) 
  • Safari Timings: Morning 6am to 11am; Afternoon 2pm to 6pm.

  • Safari duration: 3-4 hours (through different parts of the jungle)
  • Trivia: One of the popular entry points for the tiger reserve is situated at “Rajabhatkhawa” (which means “the king ate rice”). It is believed that after a war, which culminated into a truce, the kings of Bhutan and Cooch Behar ate their lunch (rice) in this town.
  •  

Gorumara National Park

Situated on the banks of rivers Murti and Raidak in the Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, the Gorumara National Park is a site that you cannot miss to afford on your next trip to Dooars. Spread over an area of 80 square kilometres, this medium-sized forest is situated in the foothills of the Great Himalayas and has a large variety of flora and fauna on display for the curious visitors, nature lovers and wildlife photographers, who visit the place to catch a glimpse of the miraculous workings of nature. Full of riverine grasslands and moist deciduous forests, the place is especially famous for its Asiatic One-Horned Rhino, but also houses many other mammals, reptiles, insects and birds, including the majestic Asian Elephants, The Royal Bengal Tigers and the Great Indian Hornbill. Indian Wild Dogs, Giant Squirrels, Wild Boars, Deer, Cobra, Python, Woodpeckers and a variety of other species can also be easily spotted here.

Declared as the best-protected area in India by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2009, the national park also offers a myriad of safari options, wherein spotting of animal is not uncommon. The place is a beautiful one to spend a few hours in peace and solitude, to live in harmony with Mother Earth, and to appreciate the glorious bounties that it bestows upon humankind so generously.

Watchtower Entry & Counter Timings

There are four entries or four shifts in a day. Timings vary depending on season.

March to September

  • Visit time: 6am to 7:30am; Permits Issued: 5:30am to 6:30am.
  • Visit time: 8:30am to 7:30am; Permits Issued: 6:30am to 7:30am.
  • Visit time: 2pm to 3:30pm; Permits Issued: 1pm to 2pm.
  • Visit time: 4:30pm to 6pm; Permits Issued: 2pm to 3pm.

 October to February

  • Visit time: 6:30am to 8am; Permits Issued: 6am to 7am.
  • Visit time: 9am to 10:30am; Permits Issued: 7am to 8am.
  • Visit time: 1pm to 2:30pm; Permits Issued: 12noon to 1pm.
  • Visit time: 3:30pm to 5pm; Permits Issued: 1pm to 2pm.

NOTE: Apart from the watch towers of Gorumara, you can also get entry permits for Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary at the ticket counter at Lataguri. Entry and counter timings are the same.

Fares for watchtower visits

  • Fare updated: January 2020
  • Vehicle cost from Lataguri to:
  • Jatraprasad/Rhino Point, Medla, Chandrachur: Rs. 990
  • Chukchuki: Rs. 720
  • Chapramari: Rs. 1140; Rs. 1320 (with tribal dance program)
  • Vehicle entry fee: Rs. 100
  • Guide fee: Rs. 180
  • Video Camera: Rs. 200

Per person entry fee:

  • Jatraprasad: Rs. 120 (for shift 1-3), Rs. 160 (shift 4)
  • Chapramari, Chandrachur, Chukchuki: Rs. 70 (shift 1-3), Rs. 120 (shift 4)
  • Medla: Rs. 120; Additional Rs. 40 for Bullock Cart Ride.

If you are in a group of less than six and want to book the full Jeep, you need to pay an entry fee for all six. If you are single or a couple not wanting to book the full jeep, you can pay a per person charge and join a group of others in a jeep who too are availing such rates. For example, per person, overall charge for a visit to Jatraprasad & Rhino Point for the 4th shift would be around Rs. 400/-, while the fare for booking a full jeep for a similar trip would be around Rs. 2400/-.

Note that per person entry fee for foreign nationals (except SAARC countries) is double.

Fares for Jeep Safari

The Jeep Safari costs about Rs. 2,200/- if you book the whole vehicle. We were staying at Murti Tourist Lodge of WBTDCL and took their help to book the early morning Jeep Safari. If you go at the counter, it would cost a little lesser though.

 

Neora Valley National Park

Situated in the Kalimpong district of West Bengal, Neora Valley National Park touches the neighbouring state of Sikkim and our Himalayan neighbours, Bhutan. This forested area in Dooars is the most biodiverse national park in eastern India. The dense forest cover here makes it a popular hotspot for trekkers and adventure seekers besides being regularly visited by entomologists and bird watchers. The Neora Valley National Park is also one of the rare places in India where can spot the elusive red panda and clouded leopards.

  • Timings: 8 AM till sunset.
  • Neora Valley National Park Entry Points: Samsing and Lava
  • Entry fees: There is no entry fee, but you would need a permit from Forest Department officials.
  • Nearby attractions: If you are entering from Lava, make sure you visit the Nature Interpretation Centre where you can have a very good idea about the terrain, fauna and animal life of the forest.

So, before choosing a Dooars tour package, make sure one or couple of these pristine wildlife destinations are included in them.

 

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