Dooars (Diary in brief )
13.4.23 -14.4.23 Sealdah>NJP>Siliguri>Fulbari>Rhino Inn (Jaldapara National Park - Salkumar Gate) [ Uttarbanga Express > Car ]
15.4.23 Jaldapara NP> Safari> Chilapata > Kalchini Tea Garden > Raimatang>Hamilton ganj>Hashimara> Jaldapara NP
16.4.23 Jaldapara > Murti>Cooch Behar Rajbari > Cooch Behar Tea Estate> Lataguri (Gorumara)
17.4.23 Lataguri (Gorumara) > Jatraprasad Safari>Chalsa>Matelli Tea Estate >Samsing> Mission Hill > Fagu > Ambiok > Gajoldoba
We (Barun and I) took Uttarbanga Express and reached NJP/ Siliguri at 7.30 am and reached Anindya's house . Our train ticket was confirmed thanks to Mohua. Since Tutuda's ticket was not confirmed, he reached Siliguri by bus and went to Anindya's home at 9.30 am. The bus journey took 14 hours.The roads are much better now, Tutu da informed us. We left for Jaldapara at 10.30 am. We took Fulbari (Jalpaiguri) route by Anindya's car to reach Rhino Inn (owned by Kalu Chhetri) , which is just beside Salkumar Gate of Jaldapara National Park. Not many people book safari at this gate. Madarihat is the popular gate. Now it is possible to book safari online at https://www.wbsfda.org . We reached the resort at 2 pm. We were told our Elephant safari has been cancelled due to strike called by the Mahout. One of them was killed (by the elephant) on duty and was denied the compensation of Rs 15 lakh ! They earn only 8500 per month. For the first time in my life, I supported the strike !
After having our lunch, I opted for 4-5.30 pm slot for safari. Since there was one vacant slot in one car , I managed to do the safari. While rest of our group could not manage it. I paid Rs 600 for the Safari. Actually the rates are like this : Rs 350 for the guide charge. Rs 187 per head as entry fee/permit and car hiring charges are Rs 1500. The area is around 216 sq Km, but only 6 Km is allowed to the tourists.
You will have to get down at 3 watch towers : Hollong (which is not a watch tower actually), Harin-danga (non operational) and Jaldapara watch tower. So out of 3 watch towers, 1 is not operational. So unlike other famous National forests you have to get down at certain points !
There are 4 safaris in a day @ 1.30 hours each ! There is no zone. There is only a fixed route ! This is completely ridiculous.
We paid Rs 1200 for the room for 2 people in Rhino Inn. The food is extra @ Rs 600 per day. The food is really good. The owner Kalu Chhetri is a Nepali, but speaks perfect Bengali. He booked elephant safari for us. We made the payment by G-pay to him and sent him the PAN Card. He did the Elephant safari booking for us. His number is +91 97331 05135 and +91 97334 48204. Call phone (+919733448204). He is the ideal person to do the booking for Elephant safari from this gate. He is known to all the forest department staffs.
He said it will take some time to get the refund, since the elephant safari has been cancelled. Interestingly Victoria aka Sampa (Ranju Kaku's daughter) is also staying at the same hotel. She is now teaching in a Coochbehar College. She told me she will be soon transferred to Chandan Nagar. They have also come here for a safari.
Today we did the morning Safari at 5.30 am - 7 am. We made the payment yesterday. Kalu da has been great help while booking the jeep safari off line. Everybody knows him.Since we were very apprehensive about the Jeep Safari (rightly), we did not book any safari online. His resort is jest beside the Safari booking counter.
We saw Rhino, Gaur, Red breasted Parakeet, Green Imperial Pigeon, Yellow footed Green Pigeon,Barking deer,Sambhar and peacock. The guide told us, they have been last trained in the year 2016 and he has no knowledge of birds ! He shouted "Sambhar-Sambhar" on sighting a Sambhar in the same vein, when a guide in Ranthambhore would have shouted on sighting a tiger !!
After breakfast we left for Raimatang. To reach Raimatang we took the route of Chilapata forest. On the way we saw Kalchini Tea Garden. We had lunch before reaching Raimatang. To reach Raimatang you have to travel on the dry river bed for some time. After reaching Raimatang we trekked till the river bed. There is a wonderful homestay there. After spending some time we returned back to our resort.
On the way back, we saw Hamiltonganj (where Tutu da bought Insect repellant) and Hashimara Air Force base.
You can write/email to DFO of Jaldapara at http://jaldaparanationalpark.org/dfo-jaldapara/ for any complain.
Today we checked out of our hotel and left for Cooch Behar Palace/Rajbari.
The Rajbari was constructed in the year 1887. It was really impressive. Inspired from the Western Renaissance period, Cooch Behar Palace is a unique blend of European and Indian architecture.Maharaja Nripendra Narayan created the Cooch Behar Palace in 1887. Inside the Palace is quite impressive too, it is straight out of Vatican ! It is one of the architectural masterpieces, that displays the regal era of the Koch Dynasty in India. It was part of Ahom kingdom. It is apparently the first planned city. The city centre is Sagardighi Lake. The houses around the lake are quite impressive.
We reached our resort Camping de Dooars at 5.30 pm. We paid only Rs 1200 + GST per day for 2 person. The food is extra. It is one of the most impressive budget hotels I have seen in India. I booked it online from goibibo. It is owned by a lady from Siliguri.
We did our safari in the morning to Jatraprasad watch tower. We were told Chuk chuki watch tower is not functional ! The charges are similar to Jaldapara National Park. Anindya did not join us for the safari.
After breakfast we left for Chalsa and took the route of Chalsa (we passed by famous Sinclairs Hotel) >Matelli Tea Estate >Samsing> Mission Hill>Fagu>Ambiok Tea Estate via Gorubathan and finally came back to Siliguri via Gajoldoba. We had some photo session at Ambiok. We had tea at Gajoldoba. We saw the impressive Bhorer Alo nearby.
But we missed the train and came back by combination of Bus and Train. We got down from the bus at Baharampur at 6 am and took an auto rickshaw to reach Baharampur Train Station and finally took Bhagirathi Express train at 6.38 am to reach Sealdah at 10.40 am.
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