Hello my name is Malay Ghosh. I am from Kolkata, West Bengal. This time my destination was north Bengal during the Puja vacations. I tried to cover a part of Dooars, Jhalong and then back to New Jalpaiguri (NJP).
From NJP to Banani Resort
NJP is the gateway of north Bengal for which you can get a train from Sealdah station in Kolkata and reach NJP in the next morning. Well in advance we had booked a car to take us to Murti. We booked West Bengal Forest Development Corporation’s (WBFDC) ‘Banani’ – the best location near the Murti river and probably the best location to halt in Lataguri to visit Dooars.
Our cab driver rightly suggested us to halt near the Teesta Barrage, because we reached NJP early in the morning and we had a very little breakfast with some cookies and cakes only. Beside River Teesta, you will find a few roadside dhabas. We had Maggie and some ‘Boroli’ fish fry. Regarding Boroli fish – a Bengali may relate it with a mourola fish. That was a crazy combination of Maggi with Boroli fish fries and one can have chilled beer also if they wish to. After the breakfast, you may have a look at the Teesta Barrage and move towards your destination towards river Bindu.
On the way, talk to the WBFDC canteen guy over phone and order for your lunch. Check into the resort, freshen up and enjoy your lunch – it’s almost the same taste you have at home. After you satisfy your hunger, talk to the resort manager and book your evening safari at Chapramari. The forest department will send an open hooded Jeep along with a guide. Most of the safaris can be booked from this Forest Department Resort itself. Gorumara Elephant Safaris can be availed only by those staying inside the Forest Department’s accommodation at Gorumara Eco Village Kalipur, Gorumara Elephant Camp Dhupjhora and Gorumara Rhino Camp Ramsai. Tickets for the same are not issued from the Ticket Counters.
Chapramari & Gorumara Safari
In 1896, an imperial forest-service administrator D.H.E. Sander first sent a proposal to the-then English-dominated Government of India that ‘Chapramari’ could be developed into a tourism centre. In 1895, this area was made a national reserve forest under the Indian Forest Act. In 1939, the name Chapramari Wildlife Reserve came to be used, while the Government of India, in 1998, gave it the status of a national wildlife sanctuary. The name Chapramari has come down from ‘Chapra’. It is a type of small fish found in northern Bengal, and ‘Mari’, means a lot. Chapramari receives waters from the Teesta, the Neora, and the Murti. A large variety of flora and fauna are found in the forests.
Related: Visit Buxa – the unexplored land
Chapramari is known for its elephant population. Gaur (the commonly called Indian bison) is quite common in the Chapramari region. Deer, boars, and leopards are also found there. However like Gorumara Royal Bengal Tiger are not found here. The place is popular with bird watchers, with parakeets, kingfishers, and green pigeons found in abundance. In 2009, a marauding leopard was captured in Dooars and released into Chapramari. The Evening Chapramari Forest Safari has a complimentary evening tea with traditional Nepali dance.
In the evening, while having your evening snacks and drinks, plan for the next day’s morning safari. Ask the resort manager and book in advance for the 6 A.M Safari. You should better go to ‘Gorumara’ the next day – there you can see plenty of peacocks and rhinos as well at a distance.
There are two watch towers there. The park is located on the flood plains of the Murti River and Raidak River.
Return to the hotel, have your breakfast and select your menu for lunch. Today, you need to take some pain to go to the Lataguri booking counter which will open at 2 pm for booking the safari to ‘Medla’. Only this booking is not possible from your resort as only 80 heads are allowed inside and bookings are possible only from 2 locations – Lataguri and Kalipur. So, better reach the counter well in advance. Leave at 4 pm because it’s a long 14 km drive to Kalipur where you have to get down from your car. A watchtower has been recently built and it gives a good view of the inner areas of Gorumara National Park.
Medla Watch Tower is built on the near the river Murti. From the watch tower visitors can watch elephant herd is crossing the river or wondering rhinos or Indian bisons, deer etc. On a clear day Mt. Kanchenjunga clearly visible from Medhla Watch Tower. To make the watch tower more attractive to the visitors forest department have arranged a 1km buffalo cart ride to reach the tower.
After a tribal dance show, when you are returning to Lataguri, the jeeps ride amidst the darkness of the Jungle. This thrill is just awesome with thousands of fireflies (jonaki) lightning your way back!
Safari to Jatraprasad
The next morning we planned for an early morning Safari at ‘Jatraprasad’. Jatraprasad Watch Tower was named in the memory Jatraprasad – the most favourite pet elephant of the forest department. Jatraprasad has a two-tier watch tower and it gives an excellent view of the forest area, wildlife and small rivers running through Gorumara National Park. Jatraprasad Watch Tower is probably the most popular place among the tourists who come to this National Park.
The ‘Rhino Observation tower’ is located near the forest bungalow of Gorumara National Park. It’s a small rhino view point from where there are high chances to get glimpses of the famous one horned rhinos. And as there is a salt reservoir below the tower, there are every chances to sight elephants also.
Returning from there we had our breakfast. Every member of the group decided to have a bath on river Murti today before we say goodbye to this lovely place. There is a gate in the backside of the resort to get down to the river. Before going for the bath we ordered for lunch, because our next destination was to ‘Bindu’ and ‘Jhalong’ and we were not sure whether we will get such quality food on our way.
Bindu Barrage and Jhalong
As we had our lunch, we had no hurry to check in to the hotel at Jhalong. So we made a different plan. We went directly to the Bindu Barrage which is 40 kilometres from Murti i.e. around 2 hours drive from Murti. We spent the afternoon there and had a good cup of coffee. The peace loving people of Bindu are engaged either in Elaichi (Cardamom) or Suntala (Orange) cultivation. This is Indo-Bhutan border and it’s under military surveillance. Jaldhaka River originates from the Kupup or Bitang Lake in southeastern Sikkim in the eastern Himalayas and flows through Bhutan and enters here at Bindu. The three streams are known as Bindu Khola, Dudh Pokhri and Jaldhaka that originates from the Kupup Lake, a small glacial lake in Sikkim. These streams after they become one, then meet at Bindu. This makes the Jaldhaka River, and forms a riverine boundary with India and Bhutan.
We drove back around 10kms and checked into ‘Jhalong Green Island’. Though I personally believe that in Jhalong the best place to stay is the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation ‘s ‘Jhalong River camp’ on the lap of river Jaldhaka, but unfortunately at that point of time during the Durga Puja it was under renovation. But when we reached our resort we were really thrilled because literally that was an island and you have to cross a little iron bridge to enter the resort compound. This location too is on the lap of river Jaldhaka and we had a lovely, silent, thrilling and amazing evening there.
Tea by the Jaldhaka river
I had a plan to wake up late the next day because the last few days we were getting up from bed early say around 4:30am to 5:00am because I always prefer the 6:00am morning safari. Accordingly, we went late to bed but all your plans will go to vain. The music of the stream flowing by and the alarm clocks of those birds will force you to get up and trust me you will miss these if you do not get up early. That lovely foggy morning you will not forget till your last breath.
I preferred to have my cup of tea sitting by the river Jaldhaka and I could as well have had it sitting in Bhutan also, which is only a couple feet far from you. Breakfast was ready, they were calling us but I asked the Hotel Boy to bring it to me. It was just impossible for me to get up from there. But alas, every good moment comes to an end and it’s time for us to leave. We planned to leave early because on our way back to New Jalpaiguri, we were to visit Rocky Island, Samsing and Suntaley khola.
Samsing is a small hill village and tourist spot. It is the home of more than 2500 people. Its climate is noted for fog and cool breezes and a high rainfall. It has lots of tourist places like Lali Guras,Rocky Island and Suntaley Khola. Neora Valley National Park is about an hour’s drive from here. It is a cute tea garden inhabited by lovely and helpful Nepali people. Samsing is divided into two parts; Samsing basti, which includes Khasmahal and fari, and samsing tea garden.
Rocky Island & Suntalekhola
Rocky Island is 3kms from Samsing Tea Garden situated on the banks of the River Murti and is a popular camping site and provides an excellent opportunity to explore the interior parts of Neora Valley National sanctuary. The road to Rocky Island is full of pebbles and it ends at the bridge over the river Murti. The river is flows like a slender stream joyfully amongst the rocks. Do spend some time here, put your feet in the cool flowing water and enjoy the river.
Suntaley Khola is 4.5 km from here. In Nepali language, Suntaley means ‘orange’ and khola means ‘stream’. Several trek routes start off from Suntalekhola, and mostly run within the adjacent Neora Valley National Park. The forest area laying on the left side of the road to Suntalekhola is wonderful and is home to many varieties of birds and butterflies. Many types of birds are found here like the pond heron, black eagle, hill partridge, red-vented bulbul, ashy wood pigeon, bronzed drongo, white-throated fantail, blue rock thrush, scarlet minivet, lesser racket-tailed drongo, rufous sibia, grey treepie, spangled drongo and common green magpie.
I will return to Dooars!
But, it is time for us to leave this as NJP Railway Stn is around 80kms from here and we need to have our lunch on the way too. Dooars means ‘doors’ in various languages like in Assamese, Bengali, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Magahi and Telugu. There are 18 passages or gateways between the hills in Bhutan and the plains in India. This area is crossed by the Sankosh River making it the Eastern and Western Dooars, with an area of about 880 sq km. The west part of Dooars is called as the Bengal Dooars, and the east side as the Assam Dooars. Dooars is equivalent with the Terai characteristic of northern India and southern Nepal. The reason saying this is- it’s obvious that you can’t cover Dooars in a single trip. You have to come back again and again and again to this lovely place to explore the wildlife and nature and that too not so far from your house. So, see you again Nature…