Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary
In the valley of Jaldhaka, at 1500ft above sea level is a prospective tourist destination. Situated on the hill section of Gorubathan under Kalimpong Sub-division, it is cut off from the rest of the district by a mountain ridge descending south-west from Reche-la and is separated from Bhutan by the De-chu or Jaldhaka River.
Jaldhaka can be reached from Siliguri, (90Kms) and from Kalimpong (135Kms) after crossing the Coronation Bridge at Sevok and touching Chalsa, Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary, Jhalong and Gairibus on the way.
There is a beautifully located forest rest house overlooking the scenic Jaldakha valley and the Bhutan hills. Accommodation can also be arranged in a private hotel known as Paro Inn.
The Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary is situated at the foothills of Eastern Himalayas and on the bank of river Torsa in West Bengal. The vast grassland with patches of riverine forests, was declared a sanctuary in 1943 for protection of the great variety flora and fauna. Principle among them is the Asiatic one horned Rhino.
The Jaldapara sanctuary is a mixture of a mosaic of woods, grassland, swamps and streams. The Sanctuary covers an area of 216.51 sq km.
Drained by rivers Torsa, Malangi, Hollong, Chirakhawa, Kalijhora, Sissamara, Bhaluka and Buri Torsa, the Sanctuary provides extensive grassland which is last refuge to a wide variety of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds.
The main attraction in Jaldapara apart form its exquisite natural beauty, is the Asiatic one horned rhino which can be seen from the Elephant back, while driving on roads to and from a watchtower.
The Jaldapara sanctuary holds the largest rhino population in India after Kajiranga National Park in Assam.
One can come across Elephants wandering in the woodland and frequenting the open grasslands, rivers and glades. Massive Tuskers and Makhnas, Indian Bison, Hog Deer, Spotted Deer, magnificent pied Hornbill, colourful Green Pigeon, Indian Peafowl and other feathered beauties will greet your eyes at the windowsill of the hollong lodge.
Below is an account by visitors to the sanctuary
Herds of Gaur (Indian Bison) are easily sighted during early morning and late evening. Deer are well represented here with four species, the Chital, the Hog deer, the Sambar and the Barking deer. Sambar, the largest of Asiatic deer, is usually seen in a small family group in the woodland and along streams. Unlike Chital, Hog deer are basically solitary in nature and Barking deer is a small deer notable for its loud alarm call like the bark of a dog. Wild pigs can be seen in small parties around river banks and open grounds engaged in digging out tubers and bulbs. Tigers and leopards are the main predators in this reserve, though seen rarely by the tourist. Lesser cats of the reserve are jungle cat, leopard cat and fishing cat. Other important animals in the sanctuary are the common otter, the small and large Indian civet, Giant squirrel, Indian pangolin, Hispid hare, Indian porcupine and Indian Rock Python.
Different vegetation types are met in the Sanctuary. The major area comprises northern dry deciduous forest, moist mixed forest, Sal-Khair Sissoo association (Riverine) and alluvial Savannah. More than 30% of the total area is under grassland. Dense stand of grasses are comprised of Saccharum spp.; Themeda arundinacea, T. villosa, Setaria Palmifolia, Cymbopogon spp., Thysanolaena maxima, Phragmites Karka, Arundo donax and Imperata cycliderica.
Interspersed in the grassland are trees such as Sissoo, Khair, simul, Siris etc. Flood plain grassland interspersed with marshy and swampy land and the adjoining riverine forests are the ideal habitat of the Rhinoceros and other inhabitants.
Jaldapara is a paradise for bird watchers. It is one of the very few places in India, where the Bengal Florican can be sighted. Jaldapara is exceptionally rich in avifauna because of varied terrain, mosaic of vegetation and rich insect life. More than 240 species of birds are found in variety of habitat – grassland, water bodies and woodland.
The Grassland of Dooars
The varied tree forests and rich shrub growth on the forest floor provide ideal setting for many woodland birds, such as Green Pigeons, Hornbills, Barbets, Parakeets, Woodpeckers, Cuckoos, Orioles, Drongos, Babblers, Thrushes etc. Brahminy ducks, Whistling Teals and Merganser are winter visitors. The most common birds are the large and little Cormorant, Indian Shag, Darter, Egret, Pied Wagtail, River Lapwing, Moorhen, White Breasted Waterhen etc.
The hunters in Jaldapara are the Owls and Nightjars. Crested serpent Eagle is common raptorial bird. The other main birds of prey are Pallas’s Fishing Eagle, Pied Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrow Hawk etc. A variety of birds, typical of grassland and open country, can be seen from watchtowers viz. Doves, Bee-eaters, Rollers, Hoopoe, Shrikes, Larks, Hill Mynas, Bulbuls, Finches. Call of the Red jungle fowl is as common as the musical sound of crickets. Bengal Florican, Black partridge, Shaheen Falcon, Great Pied Hornbills, Forest Eagle Owl, Large Green billed Malkoha and White Rumped Vulture, Lesser Adjutant Stork are the endangered bird species found in the Sanctuary. Some fortunate visitors can see the Peacock displaying his full array of feathers during the breeding season.
An adventurous elephant ride in the morning will take you deep inside the grassland for the real excitement. The sights of rhino in a muddy pond, the herd of elephants or the running deer are the thrilling experiences in Jaldapara. Jeep safari inside the forest is also organised on a regular basis.
Please note the elephant rides are booked on the spot and can not be reserved in advance.