Jaldapara is one of the most popular forests of Dooars. The Holong bungalow inside the forest is probably one of the most sought-after tourist accommodations anywhere in India. Today Jaldapara has grown much beyond the Holong Bungalow and has a large number of options for tourists visiting the National Park.
Jaldapara was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary back in 1943 for the protection of wildlife, particularly single-horned Rhinos. Recently in 2012, the forests of Jaldapara has been upgraded to the status of a National Park. Jaldapara is situated at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in the Alipurduar district in West Bengal. River Torsha runs through this riverain forest sanctuary which is mostly covered with tall grasses. The Western side of River Torsha is called the Jaldapara and the Eastern side is known as the Chilapata forests.
Jaldapara is best known for its population of one-horned Asiatic Rhinos, which is the second largest in the world after the Kaziranga forests of Assam. The population of Rhino in Jaldapara is said to be around 160 and is increasing at a steady pace. The problem of wildlife poaching that is present in Assam, is not there at Jaldapara leading to their soaring numbers.
Other major wildlife includes Asiatic Elephants, Swamp deer, Hog deer, wild pigs, Gaur (Indian Bison), and several birds, reptiles, and others.
Birding at Jaldapara
Jaldapara is a paradise for bird watchers. It is one of the very few places in India, where the Bengal Florican was sighted. Set out with a binocular and see the majestic flight of hornbill, racket-tailed drongo, and paradise flycatcher.
What to See
A thrilling elephant safari is organized in the early morning from the Hollong forest bungalow to offer the exquisite beauty of the vast grassland of Jaldapara. The elephant ride is the best possible way to explore the sanctuary with the rare sight of Indian rhinos and Asiatic elephants. However please note that elephant rides are always in high demand and they cannot be booked in advance. Tourists have to book the Elephant ride on the spot and a ride cannot be guaranteed.
The jeep safari inside the sanctuary is another major attraction. There is multiple Jeep safari being organized both in the morning and in the evening. The number of watchtowers where the Jeep safari takes tourists has increased in recent years. Tourists must travel in the forest department-approved Jeep accompanied by a tourist guide.
Excursions: Local excursions may be arranged to visit tea gardens to see the manufacturing of tea in the nearby tea gardens by prior arrangement with nature beyond. An anthropological excursion to the nearby Tribal village, Totopara, can be arranged.
Places to visit around Jaldapara:
Totopara: 30 km from Jaldapara, a small village on the banks of River Torsha bordering Bhutan is the only habitation of Toto, a primitive tribe in Dooars. Their number has dwindled to less than 1000. The aboriginal lifestyle of the Totos attracts tourists from many parts of the world to visit here.
Chilapata: Forests on the eastern part of river Torsha are known as Chilapata forests. Hidden deep inside Chilapata is the ruin of a thousand-year-old fort of Nal King. It has tremendous historical and archaeological importance. Built-in the 5th century during the Gupta Empire the ruins still recall the memories of the Golden Age of India. There are several forest safaris available in Chilapata as well which can easily be accessed from Jaldapara.
Khayerbari Tiger Rescue Centre – When the show of Tigers in Indian Circus was banned in 1998, many tigers were rescued and brought to this rescue centre. Leopards captured from the whole of Dooars area also find shelter here. The Tiger Rescue centre has a watchtower from where you can see the animals. There is also a battery-operated small car that takes tourists on a ride inside the leopard area of the park. The rescue centre is about 15 km from Jaldapara town.
Other Places Around
Gorumara National Park: 80 km (2 hours)
Phuentsholing - Bhutan: 30 km (1 hour)
Buxa Tiger Reserve: 30 km (1 hour)
Where to Stay
In recent years several options have come up for tourists to stay at Jaldapara. Holong bungalow is the best and the most expensive. However, rooms are booked months in advance and it's difficult to plan a tour depending on its availability.
Madarihat Tourist lodge of West Bengal Tourism is a good choice. From a completely wooden structure in the past, the tourist lodge has come a long way with air-conditioned deluxe rooms. However, service standards here may be questionable.
Several private hotels have come up in and around Madarihat in the last few years. Some of these hotels are resorts that offer good value for money and decent services. Get in touch with our helpdesk executive for more information and booking of these resorts to suit your budget.
Air: Bagdogra 145 km from Jaldapara is the nearest airport from where tourists can reach Jaldapara by road route via Siliguri, as noted below. (Siliguri to Bagdogra - 13 km).
Rail: The most important railway station in North-East India is NJP about 140 km away. NJP is directly connected with all major stations in India. The nearest station is at Madarihat (5 km) and Hasimara (10 km) where some trains have a stoppage.
Road: Jaldapara is connected by National Highway with Siliguri and can be reached by car within 3hrs.
Area: 100 sq. km.
Altitude: 61 meters.
The best season: is October to May.
Clothing: Summer- Cotton, Winter- Woolens.
Languages spoken: Bengali, Hindi, Nepali, English.
Entry-point to the sanctuary is at Madarihat.