FOREST & WILDLIFE
The forests of West Bengal have wide variations. There are many sanctuaries. Some notable sanctuaries are mentioned in this page. Forests are strewn across the state: from the northernmost tip, on the slopes of the high Himalayas, to the Dooars in the foothills, through several lesser-known forests; in the western tracts of the state and the fertile Gangetic plains, on to the magnificent Sunderban on its southern edge. These cover 1532% of the state, comprising 11,879 sq kms, of which 7,054 sq kms are reserved forests.
Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary
Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary in Darjeeling district was established as a game park in 1955 and got the status of a sanctuary in 1959.
The sanctuary has over 158 kms of forests which vary from riverine forest dense mixed wet forests in the Latpanchar area which is the highest point in the sanctuary, located at 1,219 m above sea level in the Kurseong hills.
The variation in altitude and forest types in the sanctuary makes it the habitat of a large number of species of mammals, birds and reptiles. The important mammalian 5 pieces found here include the tiger, elephants, Indian bison as well as many species of lesser cat, Himalayan black bear, clouded leopard and the rare mountain goal. Endangered species of avifauna like the fairy bluebird and Himalayan pied hornbill also live in its hilly forests.
Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
Situated in the foothills of eastern Himalayas, the river Torsha flows through this rain forest sanctuary, the sanctuary encompasses luxuriant vegetation and a rich variety of wildlife. The Malangi River also flows nearby from east to west. Riding elephants and 4x4 safaris are the only ways to move inside this forest. An elephant safari is preferred by most people staying at Jaldapara (in Holong lodge or other tourism lodges) overnight. The 4x4 safari is available both in the morning and in the afternoon.
How to reach
JALDAPARA WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
The nearest aerodrome to the district of Jalpaiguri is Bagdogra airport at a distance of around 20 km. Nearest rialway station: Dalgaon- 20 km, Alipurduar Jn. - 50 km, New Alipurduar - 54 km. Places to stay Madarihat Tourist Lodge, Madarihat Youth Hostel and Holong Forest Bungalow.
Board train from Kolkata to Jaldapara, a journey of about 12 hours. Madarihat is the nearest railway station. It is about 9 km from Bagdogra airport. The places covered between Kolkata and Jaldapara are Barddhaman Junction (95 km), Malda Town (328 km), KishanGanj (473 km), New Jalpaiguri (561 km)
Taxi from Kolkata to Jaldapara to travel by road. The cost of cab ranges from INR 5 per km, depending upon the type of car.
There are direct flights available to Jaldapara from Kolkata. Travel by flight takes about 1 hour. Several cab and taxi services are available outside the airport to travel from airport to other parts of Jaldapara. Bagdogra airport is the nearest airport near Jaldapara. It is about 99 km from Bagdogra airport to Jaldapara.
Buxa National Park
Buxa National Park, in the subdivision of Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri district, was set up in the year of 1982-83 at the north eastern corner of West Bengal bordering Bhutan and Assam. It was declared as a National Park in January 1992. The name Buxa Tiger has been derived from Buxa Fort. With an area of 759sq km this picturesque reserve with its prodigious Terai, Bhabar as well as Hilly landscape is crisscrossed by numerous rivers and their tributaries present a breathtaking landscape.
CHAPRAMARI WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Chapramari is a forest in Dooars area of North Bengal. The forest is a continuation of the Gorumara forests. The two forests are separated by the Murti River which passes through the otherwise continuous forest. Whereas Gorumara is a National Park, Chapramari is only is a wildlife sanctuary only. For most tourists the distinction between Chapramari and Gorumara is only theoretical as they may stay in a resort close to Gorumara but visit Chapramari for sightseeing tours or vice versa. As in case of other forests of Dooars, wildlife sighting remains the main attraction for most tourists visiting Chapramari. There are a number of forest safaris available that take tourists inside the forest. Sighting of Elephant, Spotted Dear, Barking Dear, Rhino and Gaur (Indian Bison) is the most common. The area close to Murti River is also quite popular as picnic spot for the locals. It provides a breathtaking view of forests against the backdrop of the Kanchanjungha and other Himalayan peaks. A huge variety of flora and fauna covers the forests. Chapramari is famous for its elephant population. It is the home to diverse avifauna and mammals like Elephant, Gaur, Leopard etc.
How to reach
Passing through Dooars by the arterial National Highway 31, can reach Chalsa crossing about 2 hours or 60 kms from New Jalpaiguri rail station. From here till Nagrakata (about 12 kms away) on both side of the road there is Chapramari forest. The forest area starts immediately after crossing the Murti river continues till reaching the Jaldhaka river. Somewhere midway on this road there is Khunia crossing. From here the road to the right will pass through the core area of the forest towards Murti and Gorumara National Park. The North bound road from here will reach the nearby forest bungalow and beyond it will take to Bindu - Jhalong area of Dooars.
Neora Valley Nationai Park
Spread over an area of SR sq kms in Darjeeling district, Neora Valley National Park is one of the richest ccolgigical zones in the country, Established in 1986, I he park, nestling in the valley of the Kalimpong hills, is named after river Neon that runs through it.
Neora Valley Nal ionai Park has two entry points, Lava and Samsing. Lava, a. picturesque hamlet, has a WB1,11C-run Nature lnierpretation Centre and Buddhist Monastery that are worth a visit, WRIDC also has a forest rest house in msing.
How to reach
NEORA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
The popular tourist destination Lava (which is about 105kms from NJP and 34kms from Kalimpong) is located quite close to Neora Valley National Park. The entrance to the park at a village named Kolakham is about 10kms from Lava. It takes over 1 hour to reach Lava from Kalimpong and over 3 hours from NJP (via Kalimpong).
From Lava the distance of 10kms to Neora Valley would easily take another 1 hour because of the bad road condition. A jeep type vehicle is available to negotiate this approach road to Neora.
Singalila National Park
Located on the Singalila ridge in Darjeeling district, Singalila National Park is bordered by Sikkim on the north and Nepal on the west. Spanning an area of 78.60 sq. kms, it is situated at a height of about 1,200 m above mean sea level. The two highest peaks in West Bengal, Sandakphu (3,630 m) and Phalut (3,600 m) fall inside the park.
How to reach
Singalila National Park
By Road: Singalila National Park is well connected by road. But the roads are circular and the journey can feel like wave motion. The road route from Siliguri > Sukna > Rangtong > Kurseong> Tung > Sonada> Ghoom> Manebhanjan > Tonglu - 90 kms.
By Train: The nearest railway station of is Ghoom Railway Station 31 kms from Tonglu (entry point to the Singalila National Park).
By Air: Singalila National Park is located 13 kms from Bagdogra Airport in Bagdogra. That is the nearest airport, but by road it is less than 100 kms and takes 3 to 4 hours.
Jorpokhri Wildlife Sanctuary
The Himalayan Newt or Salamander, once thought to be extinct was found near a small lake at Jorepokhri, 28 kms from Darjeeling town, in 1964. It is called 'goro' by the local people. The sanctuary has gained prominence for its scenic beauty and is a popular picnic spot. The WBFD Rest House at Lepchajagat, is just 4 kms away. DGHC also has a comfortable tourist lodge at Sukhia Pokhari, 2 kms from the sanctuary.
How to reach
JORPOKHRI WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
It is situated at about 19 kms from Darjeeling town center. From Ghoom, through the road to Sukhiapokhri which leads all the way to Mirik. Sukhiapokhri is about 11 kms from Ghoom and Jorpokhri is another 2 kms from there. Visitors have to book a car from Darjeeling taxi stand and it takes little over 1 hour by road. From Mirik it takes about 1 hour drive to reach Jorpokhri via the Pashupati Market located on the India Nepal border. From Siliguri, distance to Jorpokhri is 85 km.
Ayodhya Hill, in purulia district is an extension of the Dalma Hills in aliening Jharkhand. About 260 kms from Kolkata and 42 kms from purulia town, this is a popular retreat because of the scenic beauty of the surrounding forests, lakes and springs. Al an altitude of about 610 m, the hill is ideal for rock-climbing and trekking. The Bamni Falls nearby, gushing down rocks and bushes, is breathtakingly beautiful.
Tall trees of sal, mahua, palash and teak grow in the red laterite soil of the Chhota Nagpur plateau, of which Ayodhya and the hills around are an extension. The forests are home to leopard, pangolin and Madras tree shrew. Elephants migrate seasonally from neighboring Jharkhand.
How to reach
Ayodhya Hill is about 260 km from Kolkata, 42 km from Purulia town. Durgapur Expressway connects Purulia to Kolkata.
Several trains to Purulia are available from Howrah. Buses are also available from Kolkata.
Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary
Located 22 kms north at Krishna nagar, on NH 34, the Sanctuary has a satire population of chital, jackal, ghariat, porcupine, jungle cat and common langur. Birds are also found in abundance here. There are two popular nature trails within the Park.
How to reach
BETHUADAHARI WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
By Air: Nearest airport is at Kolkata (Kolkata Airport), which is airlinked with all major Indian and international cities. Bethuadahari is 155 kilometers by road from Netaji Subhas Bose International airport. From krishnanagar its one hour by road.
By Rail: Krishnanagar local train is available from Sealdah Station (Kolkata). To reach this historic place other trains like Lalgola Passenger and Berhampore Passenger are also available. From krishnanagar its one hour by road or there is a railway link also.
By Road: Bethuadahari is on National Highway (NH 34). And is nearly 3 ½ hours drive. It has good bus connectivity to and from Kolkata, Malda, Siliguri, Berhampore, Jalpaiguri, Purulia, Mayapur etc. Private vehicle can also be hired.