There is no way Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary in Nadia, West Bengal can be counted as a major forest of West Bengal. This name comes as a small footnote in the long list of forests that are often visited by tourists to enjoy wildlife and nature. But a trip to this Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary can be one of your most memorable weekends.
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Bethuadahari is 30 km far from Krishnanagar in West Bengal, India. It is a man-made forest in Nadia district with two big water bodies. Very densely covered with trees the area is fenced and clearly separated from human settlement. The sanctuary covering 67 hectares was established in 1980. Inside the forest, in one pond rare turtles are preserved. The same pond houses alligators known as ghariyal. Every morning they come out of the pond as they are fed by forest guards. One has to be here to enjoy the scene.
Bethuadahari or Bethua is often referred to as a deer park as it houses nearly 350 deer, who are visible almost at every corner of the jungle. But calling it a mere deer park would be an understatement because this wildlife sanctuary, established on October 29, 1980, is a safe home for many other wild animals and birds. Apart from deer, there are wild cats, rabbits, mongoose, jackals, porcupines, monitor lizards, snakes, and langurs. Those who love birds will be delighted to know that there is a path inside the forest that is named after the legendary ornithologist, Salim Ali.
Named the Salim Ali Trail, this path takes you to a turtle pond where rare turtles are preserved. Next to Salim Ali Trail is Barringtonia Trail. Barringtonia is a genus of flowering plants, often referred to as hijalna. The path offers a plethora of this flower in various shapes and colors.
How to reach there
It is located beside National Highway 34. Therefore, those traveling by car or bus can easily get in. Buses ply on NH 34 Highway. Those wanting to travel by train from Kolkata take Lalgola-Sealdah Passengers or Hazarduari Express from Kolkata station, or the Bhagirathi Express from Sealdah and get off at Bethuadahari railway station. Express trains stop at Bethuadahari.
If you are coming from Kolkata, you will want to take NH34 through Madhyamgram, Barasat, Ranaghat. It is a single lane highway almost all the way, and pockmarked in stretches: two lanes of opposing traffic. You’ll want to be careful while driving as it’s not the best of roads. Although 4 lanes are in progress, given our government’s track record, it is hard to say when this will be completed.
In short, quite literally far from the madding crowd, a place to get up close with nature, a place to experience silence, spend a night with yourself, or with your family and friends. A good weekend getaway from Kolkata.
I went Bethuadahari wildlife sanctuary with my family. I booked WBSFDA cottage by Rs. 500/- Per day through their online booking mode. The jungle is very beautiful and dense and we felt very thrilling. You can see deer all around if you stay in the forest cottage. They come near the cottage after 6 P.m. From 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. before coming outside visitors you can see deer having their food at some fixed places.
Stay overnight for an unforgettable sunrise and an even more unforgettable full-moon night. Among the two government staying facilities there, one is inside the forest and the other near the entrance. WBSFDA properties are near the entrance.
The next day we woke up early and got ready to see the fauna inside – the staff feeds the deer at about 07:00 hours – so entry to the feeding zone is restricted till 08:00 even for residents – the logic being that the deer would leave their food on sighting humans – and would be left starving for the day.
We were advised to be at specific locations at 08:00 hours from where we had unrestricted views of deer feasting; seeing us, they observed for some time, before making their way into the jungles; we left the sighting place and in a few minutes the herd assembled to complete their meal. We trailed them to the pond where they descend for drinking. Roamed around the forest in the morning. The walk through the forest is lovely and scenic – you could smell the trees as they were. Then we visited the Nature Interpretation Center.
Word of advice:
1. There are Express buses which are much faster than the local ones. However, they do not stop at the WLS gate, so you will have to travel all the way to Bethua town and hire a toto ( charged Rs. 10 each) to come back a good 5 km. The local bus wasn’t bad though – we managed to be at the gate by 2 pm.
2. Carry a print-out of the online booking receipt. We showed this to the guard at the entrance, who called up the caretaker. The place is now looked after by a middle-aged man by the name of Nanda. He also serves you meals cooked by his wife at his home located just outside the WLS.
3. The shops outside serve tea, biscuits and have a limited stock of cigarettes. Carry your alcoholic beverages of your own.
4. Probably the best time to visit would be the monsoons or the winter. If you visit during the monsoon, carry some Electral powder – the heat and humidity inside the forest are oppressive.
5. The entry fee to the Park has now been increased to Rs. 50, though it was free for us.
The experience of spending a moonlit night surrounded by the dark forest with the sound of crickets and deer roaming around you will surely be something to cherish forever. You can also visit nearby places like Krishnanagar, Diknagar, Ballal Dhipi, and Shibniwas.