The Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary is situated at the foothill of Eastern Himalayas 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 of flora and fauna. Principle among them is the Asiatic one horned Rhino. The 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 refuge to a wide variety of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Madarihat town is the main town near the forest.
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 elephant or the running deer are the thrilling experiences in Jaldapara. Please note the elephant rides are booked on the spot and cannot be reserved in advance. For most part of the year, the few elephants available are unable to serve the large number tourists who flock the Sanctuary. Jeep safari inside the forest is the other option of visiting inside the forest.
Chilapata - River Torsa divides the continuous stretch of forest with Jaldapara on the western side and Chilapata being on the eastern side of the river. Chilapata has become a favourite Tourist destination for many in the recent past. You can go for a forest visit with permission of the forest department and accompanied by approved guide. Chilapata can easily be visited from Jaldapara as part of day sightseeing tour as the distance is barely 15 kms. Hidden deep inside the forest the ruins of a thousand years old fort of Nal King that 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. Because the site is not maintained properly, it has now become the play ground for leopards, snakes and other animals.
Khairbari - This is a small stretch of forest on the west side of Jaldapara forest. There is a leopard rescue center at Khairbari named "South Khairbari Leopard Rescue Center". In 2005 when performing with Wild life were banned in Indian circuses, 19 rescued tigers were brought here at Khairbari. It was renamed as "Khairbari Royal Bengal Tiger Rehabilitation and Research Centre". The number of tigers is steadily decreasing here as most of the circus tigers died of age in the past. The number of Leopards at Khairbari is still substantial. The rescue center is about 10 kms from Jaldapara.
Bhutan Boarder - The boarder town of Phuentsholing is just 25 kms from Jaldapara via Hasimara. There is no entry formalities for visiting the boarder town. Many tourists visit Phuentsholing as part of a half day tour from here. You can also make Jaldapara your overnight halt on your way to a Bhutan trip.
Totopara, adjacent to the Jaldapara sanctuary is a major attraction for those interested in ethnic tourism. Toto Para is the only settlement for the Totos, one of the most endangered ethnic communities in the world. Their numbers are now reduced to mere a thousand. Lot of initiatives has been taken by the governmental and non-governmental agencies for uplifting their living condition. However, to live with them and to observe their traditional cultures can still be a precious experience. Even if you are stretched for time, you may visit Totopara as part of your local sightseeing.
Other destinations of Dooars can also be visited from Jaldapara on a day trip.
Wildlife in Jaldapara
The main attraction in Jaldapara for the tourists apart form its exquisite natural beauty, is the Asiatic one horned rhino which can be seen from the Elephant back, while driving on roads or froma a watchtower. The sanctuary holds the largest rhino population in India after Kajiranga National Park in Assam.
One can come accross Elephants wandering in the woodland and frequenting the open grasslands, rivers and glades. Massive Tuskers and Makhnas, Gaur, Hog Deer, Spotted Deer, magnificent pied Hornbill, colourful Green Pigeon, Peafowl and other feathered beauties will greet your eyes at the windowsill of the hollong lodge.
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 civet, Giant squirrel, pangolin, Hispid hare, porcupine and Rock Python.
For the Botanist
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.
Birds in the areaJaldapara is a paradise for bird watchers. It is one of the very few places in India, where the Bengal Florican can be sighted. The area 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 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, 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.
Where to Stay
Accomodation for the tourists visiting Jaldapara is arranged in the Madarihat tourist lodge and Holong tourist Bungalow. The Holong Bungalow is inside the forest and is preferred over Madarihat Bungalow which is on the forest fringe. Since the number of rooms in Holong is very limited, it mostly remains booked months in advance. A number of private hotels have also come up in the area around Jaldapara. naturebeyond provides booking in this lodges for its guests on a regular basis.
Please Note :During the rainy season the sanctuary remains closed to tourists. The duration is normally between June 15 to September 15