Jaldapara is arguably the most preferred wildlife destination of Dooars and is almost in every tourist’s bucket list interested in flora and fauna of Dooars.
Blessed to be born in Dooars and my native place – Jalpaiguri at a distance of 75 km from Jaldapara, I pay a visit to this beautiful grassland quite frequently.
Habitat & Wildlife at Jaldapara:
Drained by rivers Torsa, Malangi, Hollong and Buri Torsa, the park provides extensive grassland which is the abode to a wide variety of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and avian life.
Jaldapara is the home to one-horned rhinoceros and one of the last few refuges of this endangered species. Elephants, Gaur, Deers, Leopard, Wild Boar and host of avian species like Hornbills, Eagles and Raptors play their games at Jaldapara.
This time I was a solo traveller with the sole objective to drive into the park in the evening. From my experiences, I prefer sunset safaris if my target is mammals. In the evening mammals are most active and it’s relatively easy to spot them also the beautiful golden light of the evening creates awesome images.
I reached Jaldapara and had my lunch at Jaldapara Tourist Lodge. Safari tickets and the vehicle starts from the compound of Jaldapara Tourist Lodge. Like a child, I was eagerly waiting for the happy hour at 3.00 pm. Sharp at 3.00 pm we started to drove into the park. I was accompanied by the by Bhola – my guide and the driver.
As we enter Jaldapara through Madariha Gate, the forest was flooded with hues of green. I saw a few vehicles lined-up at the far end of the narrow corridor. I instructed our driver to rush to the place. A mammoth tusker was standing tall – the real “King of Jaldapara”. Unfortunately, we were the last vehicle. The tusker took a few steps towards us, and there was utter pandemonium. People started to scream and shout. Every safari vehicles were on the back gear in tandem with the pace of the king, but the king was not in the mood to stop. Few guides got busy trying to compel it to go deep into the woods. Finally, it moved into away. Disturbing animals in their hinterland maybe for own safety is always a moral conundrum.
It was in a state of “musth” – a sexually aggressive period of elephants. Their temporal glands become swollen, from where a strong smelling fluid, rich of testosterone, runs down on their cheeks.
All vehicles hurried off. I decided to cross the spot and wait on the other side. From my experiences, I knew it will come up again on the road and follow the smell of the female. Within a span of 10 minutes it emerged from the woods, displaying its tusks and the gigantic power, yet so gentle and sober. I took a few photographs and drove further down for – Hollong.
Our first stopover was at Hollong Bungalow – an old heritage forest bungalow. Hollong has a salt lick and animals sighting is quite common in Hollong. As I reached Hollong, there was a rhino and a gaur. A peafowl was perched at a treetop. I was able to get a silhouette with the backlight. Call of the peafowl’s reverberated through the woods. The gaur had lost its tail and had a scar in its right ear, maybe leopard had attacked in its early years. We were the last of the vehicles to leave from Hollong. Dark clouds hovered over us, the light suddenly dropped. I decided to head for Jaldapara Watchtower skipping Harinjhora Watchtower.
There are grasslands on both sides of the road leading to Jaldapara Watchtower. On the way, I saw a herd of elephant and gaur deep inside the forest. As we were about to reach Jaldapara Watchtower, I saw a rhino busy grazing.
It sated to downpour, I packed my camera. Three of us put the hood of the gypsy and proceeded for return. I was an amazing experience to drive through the greens. Drizzle was icing on the cake. A male gaur peeped its head from the woods, where in the world can you have such an experience…
I had to skip the “Bodo Dance Show” which is included only in the last safari due to bad weather.
Railhead – Nearest railhead Alipurduar/Coochbehar/Hasimara. Alternatively, from Bagdogra Airport, Jaldapara is about 3 hrs drive.
- Hollong Bungalow.
- Jaldapara Tourist Lodge.
- There are few private lodges with basic amenities.
Safari Options –
- Jeep Safari.
- Elephant Safari.
Jeep Safari – Jeep Safari is conducted four times in a day.
- Morning – 5.30 am to 7.30 am, 8.00 am to 10.00 am
- Evening – 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm, 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm
Cost of Jeep Safari – Rs 2350/-. The last safari (from 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm) cost Rs 2650/- due to the inclusion of Bodo Dance in the package(for a group of six). Try to opt for the last safari; the likelihood of animal sighting is more.
- Morning – 5.30 am to 6.30 am, 6.30 am to 7.30 am, 7.30 am to 8.30 am.
Cost – Rs 900/- per head. You will be given first preference for Elephant Safari if you are staying at Hollong. You need to simply inform at the reception and your seat will be reserved. Try to avail the first safari at 5.30 am, chances of a sighting are more.
Note : All safaris are closed on Thursday.
Best time to Visit – March to May
Things to carry – Govt. ID proof, Binoculars and Essential medicine.