Those who are little bit enthusiastic about Indian wildlife, they know how tough it is to get confirmed booking at Jaldapara Hollong Bungalow, Jaldapara in West-Bengal. I tried several times, but all my attempts are in vain. This year I think due to covid pandemic and my good luck I got confirmed booking of two rooms and that is also for one night only. Here my advice is that, first book your room at Hollong Bungalow and then plan your holiday accordingly. Here I will share my staying experience at Jaldapara Hollong Bungalow.
Jaldapara national park is a park located at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas in Alipurduar District of northern West Bengal and on the banks of the Torsha River. Jaldapara is spread across 216.51 km2 of huge grassland with patches of riverside forests. It was acknowledged a sanctuary in 1941 for protection of its great variety flora and fauna. Today, it has the largest inhabitants of the Indian one horned rhinos in the state. The nearby Chilapata Forests is an elephant corridor between Jaldapara and therefore the Buxa Tiger Reserve.
The major attraction of the park is the Indian one-horned rhinos. The park holds the biggest rhino population in India after Kaziranga park in Assam. Other animals within the sanctuary include Indian leopard, Indian elephants, sambar, deer, spotted deer, hog deer, wild boars, and gaur.
Jaldapara is a heaven for bird watchers. It is one among the only a few places in India, where the Bengal florican is sighted. The other birds to be found here are the crested eagle, shikra, jungle fowl, peafowl (peacock), and lesser pied hornbill. Pythons, monitor lizards, kraits, cobras, and about eight species of fresh water turtles can also be found here.
How we reached there
On Friday night we reached Sealdah station to catch 02377 UP Sealdaha-New Alipurduar Special. Sealdah railway station is one of the main railway stations serving Kolkata in India. Sealdah is one of the busiest railway stations in India. But due to COVID situation and less number of trains the station I have observed calm and quite.
On The Way to Hollong (Jaldapara) tour
The train crossed many stations. It stopped first at Barddhaman Jn. Next stop would be Bolpur Santiniketan. I was standing at the door of the train, with the evening breeze on my face, watching various trees lightened. By 12.30 am everyone on the train had calmly downed for the night. We woke up at 8am in the morning. Our train arrived at New Jalpaiguri station 8.45 am (approx half an hour early). Finally we reached New Alipurduar around 1 pm. After reaching New Alpurduar we have had a memorable lunch.
Jaldapara is well connected by road from various places including NJP (New Jalpaiguri), Siliguri, Bagdogra, New Alipurduar, and New Coochbehar. From New Alipurduar, and New Coochbehar, one will get private taxis (small and large vehicles).
Here we fixed our cab of PK (Prankrishna)- Mobile: 7908869519/8509889252. From New Alipurduar Station to Hollong Bungalow Jaldapara for the Alto he charged Rs.3200 up and down. PK is a nice chap and very helpful too. I am quite happy and satisfied with him.
Madarihat Gate and Salkumar Gate are the two entrances to Jaldapara National Park. This lodge is accessible from either gate. It is located about 7 kms inside the Park from the Madarihat Gate and a bit more from the Salkumar Gate. Most people enter from the Madarihat Gate, even as we did. From the gate it’s a lovely drive on an unpaved road through the forest to the lodge. They have an electrified fence on one side of the road to stay wild animals faraway from the road. Each time we went up and down that road we saw wild animals roaming in the forest, Indian Bison, Wild Boar, Sambhar etc.
At the Madarihat Gate they check our Lodge booking papers and photo id before allowing in. Entry exit through these Gates are usually from 6 am to six pm. However in an emergency they allow entry and exit till 10 pm. After that the Gate is closed till sunrise subsequent day. That means, if there is an emergency at night it would be very difficult to come out of the forest to seek help. When we went from gate to bungalow we saw security guard standing after each Km.
The forest roads passes by quarters of the forest staff, a group of buildings where the safari elephants and therefore the forest’s working elephants stick with their keepers then to the Lodge. At the Lodge there are signs warning that Rhinos often come onto the front lawn which there are other animals all around. After seeing all these adrenaline suddenly started rushing more.
There’s a lick right ahead of the lodge and thru the day and night wild animals come to lick the salt. The Lodge staff replenishes that salt a day around noon. At evening the Lodge gave us powerful searchlights and you can see the animals at the salt lick.
In India, this is probably the closest you can get to the African experience of luxury stay in deep bush surrounded by wildlife.
Four of us visited Jaldapara National Park and we stayed at Jaldapara hollong Bungalow for one night only. It is a government owned accommodations in our country and government lodges were renowned for good maintenance. But this lodge has a pleasant surprise. Probably the best maintained Government owned accommodation in West-Bengal I have stayed ever. Decades old two storied wooden structure perched on stone and concrete plinth. Shining polished wood inside. Painted green outside to somewhat blend into the greenery all around. The rooms offer all the creature comforts you would want. Plenty of animals and birds. Wild rustic ambience. The place more than lives up to expectations.
The Lodge itself is a two story wooden building on stone and concrete pillars. There are 4 rooms on each floor i.e. a total of 8 rooms. There are two common rooms on each floor facing the salt-lick, offering wonderful views and animal sighting. Room 1 and 2 on the upper floor and Room 5 and 6 on the lower floor offer direct views of the salt lick. These are the best rooms. Room 4 on the upper floor and Room 8 on the lower floor over overlook the forest at right. Room 3 on the upper floor and Room 7 on the lower floor have windows overlooking the kitchen and dining hall at the rear. Probably the worst rooms however, these are the only two rooms which have double king size beds and the toilets are very large. These two are also the warmest room with sun shining in through the large windows all day. That’s a terrific advantage in winter. All other rooms have two single beds with medium sized toilets. Room will be distributed first come first serve basis. As we checked in late we got room 3 and 7.
The quality of bed linen, pillows, blankets, towels etc are reasonably good and clean. All the electric points, the ACs and Geysers work. The floors, walls and ceilings are polished wood lending a warm ambience. But there is no tea/coffee service and the only toiletries they provide is soap.
They have a package for bed tea, breakfast, evening tea and dinner at Rs 600 per head per day. Breakfast is a choice of Puri + Sabji, Bread + butter + jam, Eggs made to order, Bananas, Bengali sweets (rasgullas) and Tea/coffee. Evening tea is Tea/coffee, Biscuits, snacks (bhujia or namkeen or dalmooth) and Cake. Dinner is Rice/roti, Daal, Two varieties of sabjis, a Paneer dish for vegetarians and fish/Chicken/egg for non-vegetarians. Lunch is optional at an extra cost and is outside the food package.
Alcohol, soft drinks, juices etc are not available. Best to carry of your own. The food is really very tasty.
Excellent bird watching at the Lodge itself. At the Lodge grounds we saw Oriental Pied Hornbill, Indian Roller, Sunbirds, Shrikes, peacock and peahen etc. At the salt-lick opposite the Lodge we saw Imperial Green-pigeon, Yellow-footed Green-pigeon, Parakeet, Grey-headed Shrike, Long-tailed Shrike, Brown Shrike, Jungle Myna, Common Myna, Crested Serpent-eagle etc.
Also at the salt-lick we saw One-horned Rhino that Jaldapara is famous for. During our stay we saw the lone Rhino was grazing at and around the bungalow lawn from 6-8 pm, for full 2 hrs), Indian Bison all the time, Wild Boar once, Sambhar about 3 times etc.
For tourists staying at Hollong, you don’t need to opt for any Gypsy safari, as the Gypsy’s come to Hollong only as part of their safaris. For Elehpant Safari’s, guests staying at Hollong are given first preference, and then the guests staying at Jaldapara Tourist Lodge and finally the guests staying at Madarihat WBFDC Tourist Lodge ( Malangi).
Based on the requirement the management decides the number of Safaris accordingly. For guests staying at Hollong, you’d need to inform the in-charge during the time of check-in. Always try to take the first Safari i.e. at 5:30 AM as the chance of spotting wildlife is very high.
Although if you are staying at Hollong, you’d be able to spot wildlife throughout the day, however Elephant Safari’s are meant for if you want to be close to them. Regarding the on-spot payments, one needs to pay Rs. 600/- per pax for Elephant Safaris.