It is said that the state of Bengal is as diverse as the land of India itself when it comes to natural beauty. The northern part of the state is crowned with the Himalayas, the land sketched with rivers, lakes and forests; you will also find dry, arid lands to welcome the tourist. In the southernmost, there is the great delta and mangroves. Scattered across are the numerous wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in West Bengal.
Here is a list of the nature reserves. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.
Wildlife Sanctuaries And National Parks In West Bengal
FORESTS OF THE HIMALAYAS
Singalila National Park
Situated at 7000 feet above the sea level, the Singalila National Park is one of the most picturesque national parks in West Bengal. Situated in the Himalayan region that adjoins the area of Sikkim and Nepal, Singalila is also a very popular trekking route. The trek to the Sandakphu peak is a sublime experience with a stop at Tonglu.
The forest of Singalila National Park is rich in orchids and rhododendrons. The forest is home to the coveted Red Panda, Clouded Leopard and Himalayan Black Bear. Singalila is also a wonderful spot for bird watchers and photographers.
Where to stay – There are some government owned forest bungalows which are great to stay. Home stays are a great option too.
Neora Valley National Park
Neora Valley National Park is not only one of the most amazing national parks in West Bengal but also it has a global significance. It is home to the rare and endangered Red Panda.
Neora Valley is situated in the lower Himalayas in the district of Kalimpong. The area is rich in biodiversity, partly because much of it is unexplored. The hills and valleys create a dreamy atmosphere. The pines enveloped with the occasional mist create one of a kind portrait.
Where to stay – You can try staying at jungle camps and tents to enjoy the serenity and beauty of the place firsthand. There are a number of resorts, home stays and bungalows around the Neora Valley and Kalimpong town area.
Jore pokhri Wildlife Sanctuary
Tourists who travel to Jore pokhri( Jorpokhri ) are enchanted by this spectacular Himalayan hamlet. But not many know that Jorepokhri has the status of a recognized wildlife sanctuary.
Jore pokhri is flanked by two beautiful lakes which also names this place. In these lakes are found several kinds of rare species. There is a type of Himalayan salamander that is supposed to have gone extinct in the world except for these lakes. This species of salamander has been there on earth even before the dinosaurs came on earth. So if you click one of these special creatures, do not forget to show it off.
Quiet, quaint and surrounded by greenery, Jore pokhri is one place you will never forget.
Where to stay – Jore pokhri is about 19 km away from Darjeeling. There are very few staying options or home stays in Jorpokhri but with advance booking you can get a room. The option is to stay at the beautiful bungalow run by the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC).
Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary
Mahananda is one of the lush forests situated at the lower regions of the Himalayas. The forest is flanked by two rivers, the Teesta and the Mahananda giving the forest its deep green cover.
Mahananda is a dream destination for bird watchers and photographers. Many rare and beautiful birds, flowers and also animals can be seen in this forest. If you are lucky you can get a glimpse of the Binturong and Clouded Leopard and even a Royal Bengal Tiger.
Where to stay – The best place is the Forest Lodge run by West Bengal Tourist Department in the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary.
Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary
The Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the oldest in India. The sanctaury sits high at an elevation range of 4,900 to 8,500 ft above sea level. The sanctuary has two major lakes that are the source of water to the city of Darjeeling.
Senchal Wildlife Sanctaury is rich with its animal, bird and flora population. There is the hard to spot Barking deer and Assam macaque and the one of a kind Himalayan Flying Squirrel. You can also spot the wonderful Moon Bear and if you are lucky also the leopard and the shy Jungle Cat.
Senchal has a dense forest cover that is natural as well as planted. You can spot wooded areas of oak, pines and birch. Visit in the looming season and you will be gifted with the sight of rhododendrons and orchids.
Where to stay – There are some rest houses, lodges and home stays available near Senchal wildlife Sanctuary or you can stay at Darjeeling. However the best place to stay is the Rambi Forest Rest House run by the Wild Life Division of Darjeeling.
Gorumara National Park
Gorumara sports the famed one-horned rhino. At one time, it was a place highly threatened by poachers who killed the rhino for its horn but with the effort of the forest officials and locals, it has become one of the most successful conservation stories. It is one of the best national parks in West Bengal and in India to spot the Indian rhino.
The forest is also famous for its rich population of deer, bison and elephants.
Where to stay – Although there are many available hotels and resorts for the tourist, the best forest bungalow near Gorumara is the WBFDC Murti Banani. You can see all information about Banani here on how to book and reach. If you stay at Murti Banani, they would also provide you the tickets and arrange for the safari at Gorumara National Park.
If you want some more adventure, you can also try the Dhupjhora Elephant Camp.
Buxa Tiger Reserve
Another beautiful spectacle of nature, the Buxa Tiger Reserve is a place of lush hills and tigers. However, the forest in Alipurduar has been under threat from poachers, mining and human intervention for quite some time. The Forest Department is trying its best to maintain the natural environment.
Buxa Tiger Reserve is very unique – it has Himalayas in the north, a Ganges tributary, wet and dry forest area. The Buxa fort and the Mahakal Cave are worth a visit.
Rich with tigers, leopards and elephants, Buxa is one gem we must protect and enjoy.
Where to stay – You can stay at the hotels in Alipurduar. However, try the WBFDC forest Bungalow at Buxa.
Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary
Adjacent to the Gorumara National Park, the Chapramari forest is also rich in bison, various kinds of antelope, elephants and rhino. Its salt pit attracts a lot of animals. Tourists get a very close look at the wildlife in Chapramari. In the salt pit, one can spot bisons, wild boar, peacock, sambar and peacocks and a lot more at one time. Ancient trees and bird songs lull you into a deep state of amazement.
Where to stay – Just like Gorumara, the best place for the tourist is the WBFDC Murti Banani. The forest bungalow sits beside the Murti River. On the other shore of the Murti river stretches the forest of Chapramari. Be ready to wake up to the call of peacocks here. You can find all booking details of WBFDC Murti Banani here.
Jaldapara National Park
Like the Gorumara and Chapramari, Jaldapara is one of the best national parks in West Bengal to spot the Indian rhino after Kaziranga in Assam. Jaldapara has a rich population of gaur (Indian bison), various kinds of antelopes and primates. Peacocks can be seen commonly along with exotic birds like the hornbill.
The Jaldapara forest has a green cover of tall grass which makes it easy to spot animals on a safari. The area is also home to tribals who have been a part of the jungle for hundreds of years. The Torsha river flows through these woods.
Where to stay – One of the best places to stay is the tourist lodge run by the Department of Tourism, government of West Bengal.
FORESTS FOR THE LESS ADVENTUROUS
Ballabhpur Wildlife Sanctuary
If you want to enjoy the forest in a quiet, restful way without the threat of big predators, visit the Ballabhpur Wildlife Sanctuary. It is one of the best examples of deer conservation that started in 1977. Today, it is rich in cheetals and the rare black bucks with jackals and smaller animals.
The forest also has lakes which are a favourite spot for the migratory birds. Very near to Shantiniketan, do pay a visit to the deer of Ballabhpur.
Where to stay – There are several resorts and hotels in Bolpur. Take a day trip to the wildlife sanctuary, the gates close by 4 pm.
Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary
The Bethuadahari in Nadia district is different when it comes to the sanctuaries and national parks in West Bengal. It was established not to protect any particular species but to protect the specific land what is called the ‘Gangetic alluvial ecozone’.
The Bethuadahari forest has a different kind of landscape and beauty. It is different from the dense forests of Buxa or Gorumara. The woods are made of miles of sal and bamboo creating a different aura.
The Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the beautiful Indian rock python. It grows up to 10 feet and if you are in luck, you may spot one of these in the wild. You can also spot jackals and monitor lizards here. You can also get to see the amazing gharial, the crocodilian which is found only in the Indian subcontinent.
Where to stay – You can stay at the bungalow of West Bengal Tourism department. You can also find many hotels around Krishnanagar and Nabadwip area which are about 25 to 35 km away from the forest.
Bibhutibhushan Wildlife Sanctuary
Bibhutibhushan Wildlife Sanctuary is also known as the Parmadan Forest. About 25 km away from Bongaon, it makes a good day trip or picnic spot. In terms of wildlife there is not much you can see. The location is however very beautiful. The Ichchamati River flows undisturbed beside the forest.
Take a boat ride across the river and enjoy the tranquility. Enjoy the bird calls and serenity.
Where to stay – There is a forest bungalow but the present condition is uncertain. Go for a day trip if travel from Kolkata.
Narendrapur Wildlife Sanctuary
Narendrapur Wildlife Sanctuary is more commonly known as the Chintamoni Kar Bird Sanctuary or “kayaler bagan”. Adjoining the city of Kolkata, situated in Narendrapur 24Pgs (South), this is a comparatively small wildlife sanctuary but worth a visit.
Chintamoni Kar Bird Sanctuary was formerly a private area which was later given a sanctuary status because of its rich population of avian and butterflies. For bird lovers, nature enthusiasts and photographers of Kolkata, it is their own wildlife near hand. It is also home to many kinds of ferns and orchids.
Where to stay – Stay anywhere in Kolkata. The sanctuary is minutes away from Garia and 20 km from the Howrah Railway Station.
Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary
Raigunj Wildlife Sanctuary is also known as the Kulik Bird Sanctuary or North Dinajpur Bird Sanctuary. It is a heaven for birds and bird lovers.
Situated beside the Kulik River, the area is home to thousands of birds. Every year at winter, the place gets about one lakh winged visitors who are migrating from the cold of the north.
You will never be disappointed at Raigunj because the place is teeming with avian life. Kulik is considered one of the biggest bird sanctuaries of Asia competing with Bharatpur. Know more about Kulik Bird sanctuary here.
Where to stay – Stay at the WBTDC managed tourist lodge.
Ramnabagan Wildlife Sanctuary
Ramnabagan is a protected area mainly to preserve forest cover. Situated in Burdwan, it makes a great weekend trip. The wooded area is used to preserve antelopes like the spotted deer and the endangered black buck. The forest is also home to langurs and smaller animals like the fox, jackal and civet.
Where to stay – The Ramnabagan Wildlife Sanctuary is adjacent to the city of Burdwan. So you may stay at any hotel in Burdwan and visit the sanctuary at daytime.
Biosphere Reserves in West Bengal
Sundarban Biosphere Reserve, Bhagabatpur Crocodile Sanctuary and Sajnakhali Wildlife Sanctuary
Sunderban National Park, Bhagabatpur Crocodile Sanctuary and Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary fall under the protected area of the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve. It is one of the world’s richest place in terms of biodiversity and highly valued. It is a part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The deltaic area of Sunderban is spread around a large region but tourists can visit some permitted locations. It is very unique in terms of its land type, flora and fauna.
The area is home to several kinds of creatures, ruled by the Royal Bengal Tiger. The next animal that comes to mind in Sunderbans is the equally dangerous salt-water crocodile that can grow up to 20 feet long.
Sunderbans is also home to many rare species of predators like the fishing cat, leopard cat and jungle cat. It also has the flying fox, macaque, chital and wild boar and many more species.
Sunderbans is also famous for its water birds. The Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary, also called the Sajnekhali Bird Sanctuary has been created to protect and enjoy millions of avian of the Sunderbans. A major attraction for tourits is the Bhagabatpur Crocodile Sanctuary which has done commendable work in protecting the species.
Where to stay -There are many facilities for tourists in Sunderbans. You can stay at resorts or in ferries itself.
Mayurjharna Elephant Reserve
Mayurjharna is the only Elephant Reserve in West Bengal and is vital for the elephant population. Stretching from Paschim Medinipur to Bankura, it has 414 square kilometer of main reserve and a further zone of 1400 square kilometer.
Mayurjharna Elephant Reserve is very close to the Dalma Forest and Sanctuary and Singhbhum Elephant Reserve and for the elephants, this is a regular migration path. It is common to see a group of these giant animals travelling through the jungle and sometimes on the roads.
As the Reserve is quite widespread, it can be enjoyed from many points. You can access it through Bankura and Medinipur areas or you can travel from the Jharkhand side.
Where to stay – You can stay at Bankura, Jhargram, Ghatshila or at the many hotels and resorts near the forest.
Island Sanctuaries in West Bengal
Haliday Island Wildlife Sanctuary
Haliday Island is a part of the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve. The island has been declared as wildlife sanctuary in itself because of its rich wildlife and beautiful landscape.
The Haliday Island has been opened up to the tourists as part of the Tiger Tourism Project. Sitting on the lap of Matla and the delta, Haliday Island is a destination for the one who truly love adventure and nature. It is about 50 km away from Gosaba and Canning.
The Haliday Island Wildlife Sanctuary is still unexplored and as it is also frequented by the Royal Bengal, it makes it more difficult to do so.\
Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuary
Along with Sajnekhali and Haliday, Lothian is another wildlife sanctuary in West Bengal. As it is an island with its own species of plants, birds and animals it is more special. No wonder the Sunderbans is considered one of the most special national parks in Bengal as well as around the globe.
Lothian is considered safe among the other places of Sunderbans as the tiger is hardly ever seen here. Tourists come here to enjoy the beautiful sunset over the delta.
The island has a healthy population of snakes, crocodiles, monitor lizards, smaller mammals and aquatic life.
Where to stay – For both Haliday Island and Lothian Island Wildlife Sanctuary, stay at any ferry or resort in Sunderbans and take a day trip to the islands. There is a talk to develop eco-friendly tents for tourists in the islands here.