History of Buxa Tiger Reserve
Buxa Tiger Reserve Entrance
Buxa Tiger Reserve or Buxa National Park lies in Alipurduar district of West Bengal. Its northern boundary runs along the international border with Bhutan. The Sinchula hill range lies all along the northern side of BTR and the eastern boundary touches Assam.
Buxa Tiger Reserve was established under Project Tiger in February 1983 and was the 15th Tiger Reserve of India. In 1992 Buxa was conferred the status of National Park. The name Buxa Tiger Reserve was coined from famous Buxa Fort.
Dolomite extraction used to be the main economic activity, but after the declaration of Tiger Reserve, it has come to halt.
Wildlife at Buxa Tiger Reserve :
About 67 mammal species are reported to thrive in the reserve, including 21 endangered species. Indian Gaur, Leopard, Elephant, Barking Deer, Sambar, Hog Deer and Wild Dog has found refuge at Buxa. The Chinese Pangolin and the reticulated regal python are endemic to the Buxa forests.
One of the oldest organizations of India – Bombay Natural History Society conducted a survey on birds of Buxa which mentions 500 different species are present at Buxa Forest. This year from 6th – 9th January 2019 Bird Festival was conducted at Buxa. Eminent wildlife photographers, naturalists and tourists gathered in huge numbers. Avian species like Great Hornbill, Serpent Eagle, Brown Fish Owl, Honey Buzzard, Scarlet Minivet, Hooded Pitta, Indian Roller are often seen at Buxa.
The Journey to Buxa and Jayanti Begins:
I started off from Coochbehar around 7.00 am in the morning on the auspicious day of “Buddha Purnima”(18th May 2019). Within 1 hr I was at the Buxa main entrance.
Permit to visit Buxa Tiger Reserve is issued from the counter adjacent to the Buxa main entrance. The permit is valid for 2 days. Vehicle entry fee is Rs 300/- and entry fee of Rs 100/- per person(for Indian Adult), Rs 300/-(for Foreigners). No entry fee for below five years of age. Also, the entry fee of the driver is not required.
Through the beautiful stretch of the lush green forest, I reached Jayanti. I stayed at a home-stay on the banks of Jayanti River. The home-stay had very basic amenities. USP of the home-stay was the picturesque view of the Jayanti River and on the backdrop was the Bhutan Hills.
Chunia Watchtower Trail:
View of the jungle from Chunia Watchtower
After Lunch, I took the trail to Chunia Watchtower. I was accompanied by the most knowledgeable and jovial guide of Buxa – Kurban Khan. Kurban was my companion for most of my jungle adventures in and around Buxa Tiger Reserve.
The trail to Chunia Watchtower is through buffer area of Buxa Tiger Reserve. The trail is known for Leopard sightings. There is another watchtower in the name of “Bhutia Basti Watchtower” on the way to Chunia.
As we steadily drove across the rugged terrain of Jayanti River bed, local folklore of Leopard stories filled my mind. A Leopard was seen by the locals in the morning near Baje Khola(“Khola” in Nepali means River). We skipped Bhutia Basti Watchtower and swiftly drove towards Baje Khola. A group of Thick-knee bird was scanning the river bed in search of invertebrates. With a brown plumage, the bird gets well camouflaged with the background of rocks, stones and soil. The bird is active during dusk and dawn. All this makes difficult for Thick-knee to be spotted. It was a good start for the day. Thick-knee at Baje Khola
We waited for a while but no signs of the elusive cat can be heard or seen. Gradually we headed for Chunia Watchtower. The view from the watchtower is breathtaking.
At the time of return from Chunia Watchtower, we had a stopover at Bhutia Basti Watchtower. There is a water body in front of the tower. In the months of March and April, wild animals congregate at the water body to quench their thirst. View from Bhutia Basti Watchtower
This year due to early showers, all forest bound small streams are bubbling with water. An early torrential rain was a great boon for the fragile habitat. Bushes and trees have grown thick and fast and there is ample food of wild animals in the forest. It seems animals are in the core area of the Buxa due to availability of the profuse amount of food and water.
As the sun was going down to welcome a full moon night, we decided to call it a day and return to our abode.
Suddenly the weather became bad and dark clouds were hovering over us. It started to rain. I munching snacks and hot pakoras at the balcony of my room and wondering about the powerful nature. It seemed like thunder clouds would burst on me.
There was a power cut. Locals told me there is no chance to restore power tonight. Electricity guys can fix it up tomorrow late noon. I had my dinner in moonlight overlooking the Jayanti River. Thousands of words are not enough to describe the beauty of Jayanti on a full moon night.
I slipped to bed early. Needed good rest to rejuvenate me for tomorrow’s Core Jungle Safari.
Safari to Chunia Watchtower is allowed in private vehicle with a guide. It is suggested to opt for Innova or Bolero, it may be difficult for small cars to ply across the rugged terrain of Jayanti River bed.
Jungle Safari at Buxa Tiger Reserve :
Core Safari Entry Gate @ Buxa
Four vehicles are allowed in the morning and in the evening for core safari. There is no provision for online booking. There is a huge demand for core safari during peak season in the months of November to April. Therefore, it is suggested to pre-book safari from any local acquaintance.
Kurban reached to the lodge sharp at 6.00 am. The forest was wet and damp. Tress had fallen and the roads were blocked at many places due to yesterday’s storm. Dense canopy engulfed the whole forest and it was really difficult to spot any wildlife. The only chance was if any wild animal crosses the road or stands adjacent to the road and is kind enough to give a passage to its private life.
We saw a Barking Deer jump across the road and a few peacocks at Jayanti River bed. Bala River bed was inaccessible due to road blockage. Barking Deer
We returned from safari around 8.30 am.
Cost of Jeep Safari – Rs 1600/- Duration – 2 hrs (maximum 6 persons are allowed in a vehicle)
Pokhri Trail at Jayanti:
Turtles at Pokhri
I had my breakfast and checked out from the home-stay at 10:00 am. My next destination was Pokhri.
Pokhri is a small wetland on high altitude is home to several species of fish(a large number of catfish) and turtles. The trek from Jayanti to Pokhri passes through the dense forest. This site lies close to the Core-Buffer boundary. Tashigaon Watch Tower is on the way. Pokhri is considered holy both Hindus and Buddhists.
Kurban was there with me for the Pokhri Trail. We took “Muri”( puffed rice) feed the catfish and turtles Pokhri.
The vehicle goes up to to a certain point, and we need to walk for a kilometre to reach Pokhri. But the trail is steep and there is virtually no road.
The water of the lake never dries. It is frequented by elephants during the dry season. The trail was closed for the tourists in the month of April 2019 as an elephant herd was stationed around Pokhri.
We scattered “Muri” for the catfishes. The size of the catfishes is gigantic. They compete amongst each other to get a chunk of its share.
Private car with a guide is allowed at Pokhri. Catfishes at Pokhri
I believe in the aphorism “Every tour makes our soul young”. So, with a young soul, I returned back to Coochbehar.
Fun N Frolic – Locals at Jayanti
Sightseeing/ Attractions/ Things to Do at Buxa and Jayanti:
- Core Jungle Safari at Buxa Tiger Reserve.
- Buffer Jungle Safari to Chunia Watchtower.
- Enjoy quality time amidst nature at Jayanti River bed.
- Hiking to Pokhri.
- Visit “Boro Mahakal”. The trail goes through picturesque landscape. Follow the link to know more about “Boro Makakal” trail – Boro Mahakal Trail
- Trek to Buxa Fort.
- Day visit to Lepchakha – A Drukpa village.
Accommodation at Jayanti:
There a few home-stays with basic amenities at Jayanti.
Best Time to Visit:
Oct – April.
How to reach Jayanti:
The nearest railhead is Alipurduar Junction. It’s less than an hour journey from Alipurduar. Alternatively, the nearest airport is Bagdogra.
Nearby Attractions :
Jaldapara National Park, Sikiajhora, Raimatang, Chilapata