The Jaldapara National Park is situated at the foothills of the 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 the protection of the great variety of flora and fauna. Principle among them is the Asiatic one-horned Rhino. In 2012 the status of the forest was upgraded to a National Park. The forest here is a mixture of a mosaic of woods, grassland, swamps, and streams. The forest covers an area of 216.51 sq km.
Drained by rivers Torsa, Malangi, Hollong, Chirakhawa, Kalijhora, Sissamara, Bhaluka, and Buri Torsa, the National Park provides extensive grassland which is a refuge to a wide variety of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Madarihat town is the main town near the forest.
The forests of Jaldapara are spread North to South from the Bhutan border near Totopara in the North to the Mathurabagan tea estate in the south. The length of the forest is almost 50 km. However, the width of the forest is thin and only 5 to 7 km during most of the stretch.
Through the Northern side of the forest passes the National Highway 317. The surrounding area of this highway is where tourist activity used to be concentrated in the past. Madarihat on this highway is a forest fringe town. Most major lodges and resorts including the tourism department accommodation are concentrated here. Many more tourist resorts have come up in the area and commonly when the name Jaldapara is referred to, most people mean Madarihat and its surrounding area.
In truth, Jaldapara is the name of a village and a market in the southern part of the forest. This is a relatively less touristic part of the forest where accommodations are few and far between.
More recent tourist accommodations are coming up and are now concentrated near the Mdarihat – Falakata Highway 12 which runs parallel to the forest from North to South.
An adventurous elephant ride in the morning will take you deep inside the grassland for real excitement. The sights of rhinos in a muddy pond, the herd of elephants or the running deer are thrilling experiences in Jaldapara. Please note the elephant rides are booked on the spot and cannot be reserved in advance. For the most part of the year, the few elephants available are unable to serve a large number of tourists who flock to the Park. A 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 the permission of the forest department and be accompanied by an approved guide. Chilapata can easily be visited from Jaldapara as part of a day sightseeing tour as the distance is barely 15 km. 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 playground 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 centre at Khairbari named "South Khairbari Leopard Rescue Center". In 2005 when performing with Wildlife was banned in Indian circuses, 19 rescued tigers were brought here at Khairbari. It was renamed "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 centre is about 10 km from Jaldapara.
Bhutan Border - The border town of Phuentsholing is just 25 km from Jaldapara via Hasimara. There are no entry formalities for visiting the border 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 National Park 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. A lot of initiatives has been taken by governmental and non-governmental agencies for uplifting their living condition. However, living with them and observing 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 tourists apart from its exquisite natural beauty is the Asiatic one-horned rhino which can be seen from the Elephant's back while driving on a Jeep safari, or from a watchtower. The National Park holds the largest rhino population in India after Kaziranga 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, 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 in the 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 the 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 tourists. Lesser cats of the reserve are jungle cats, leopard cats, and fishing cats. Other important animals in the National Park are the common otter, the small and large civet, the Giant squirrel, the pangolin, the Hispid hare, the porcupine, and Rock Python.
For the Botanist
Different vegetation types are met in the National Park. 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. The dense stand of grasses comprised 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. Floodplain grassland interspersed with marshy and swampy land and the adjoining riverine forests is the ideal habitat for the Rhinoceros and other inhabitants.
Birds in the area
Jaldapara 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, a mosaic of vegetation and rich insect life. More than 240 species of birds are found in a variety of habitats – grassland, water bodies, and woodland.
The varied tree forests and rich shrub growth on the forest floor provide an 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 a 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. The 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 National Park. Some fortunate visitors can see the Peacock displaying its full array of feathers during the breeding season.
Where to Stay
Accommodation 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.
For booking your stay or a vehicle for your tour of Jaldapara, feel free to contact our expert team by calling the numbers provided or alternatively feel the inquiry form below and our team of experts will get in touch with you soon.
Please Note: During the rainy season the forest remains closed to tourists. The duration is normally from June 15 to September 15