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Jaldapara Jungle Safari

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This time also after repeated try I failed to book Hollong Bungalow (WBTDCL) and my Jaldapara Jungle Safari would not up to the mark. For the last 4 years, I am trying to book this bungalow in Jaldapara but all my attempts were in vain. This time also the reservation facility is nonfunctional now due to the renovation work of the bungalow. Then I tried for Barodabari Malangi lodge of WBFDCL but failed. At last, I managed to book WBTDCL Jaldapara Tourist Lodge. There also one day I got 1 non AC family room in the main building for one night and AC cottage for another night. The review of my stay is in the mentioned link-

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, it will incur no extra cost to you but I will get a referral bonus to fund our travels.

Jaldapara National Park is a stunning place, located in the Alipurduar district of the state of West Bengal. Jaldapara National Park was recognized in the year of 2014. The total area of the park is 216.51 Sq Km. The Park is situated at the bases of the Eastern Himalayas and on the bank of Torsa River.

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We reached Jaldapara Tourist Lodge around 3 pm. After checking in I went to the manager in the reception area to know about the details of Jaldapara Jungle Safari. They had two types of Jungle Safari-

Elephant Safari

Elephant safari in Jaldapara takes place in the early morning hours and starts at the Hollong Lodge of WBTDCL (West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Limited) and Barodabari-Malangi Lodge (WBFDCL). These safaris are run by the staff of the Forest Department on trained elephants. The elephant ride is the best way to explore the sanctuary with the sporadic sight of Indian rhinos and Asiatic elephants.

Jaldapara Elephant Safari booking process-

As Jaldapara Elephant Safari is exciting so the booking the ride is perhaps the trickiest part. First, you should know that the elephant ride can only be booked while you are in Jaldapara and not in advance or online.

The guests of Hollong Lodge are given the first preference. If you have booked at Hollong Lodge (which is not easy to get due to huge demand or other issues), you can book directly from the lodge itself.

Second preference is given to Barodabari-Malangi Tourist Lodge (operated by West Bengal Forest Development Corporation Limited- WBFDCL) if any remaining free slots remain.

Third preference goes to Jaldapara Tourist Lodge of WBTDCL. After all these consumption if any ride remains that go to other private lodges or hotels.

Three Elephant Safaris take place every day for one hour each and all in the morning from 6 am to 9 am. You need to start a minimum one hour before your slot time to complete entry formalities and reach on time. It takes few minutes at the forest main entry gate on National Highway at Madarihat to complete entry formalities and then further 20 minutes by car to reach Hollong Lodge.

Elephant Safari Cost

      Entry fee – Rs. 100 per person (Indians), Rs. 400 per person (foreign nationals).

      Elephant ride – Rs. 500 per person for Indians, Rs. 750 per person for foreigners. 

    Car entry fee and Parking – Rs. 300.

     Still Camera – Rs. 50, Video – Rs. 500.

     Jeep charge for pick up and drop – Rs. 300 – 500.

     Service charge by hotel – extra.

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Guide charge- Rs.250.

On average, it would cost Rs. 700 – 900 per person in a group of four (for Indians).

Few additional tips about Jaldapara Jungle Safari

1.      Possibility for elephant safari in Jaldapara National Park is really very low but if you love wildlife and obsessive about jungles, elephant safari is a must do thing when you are in Jaldapara forest.

2.      It is also suggested to all first timers that the scope of spotting wild animals is much better in elephant safari compared to jeep safari and it is really an electrifying & exciting way to feel the fun of jungles.

3.      An elephant takes you deep inside the forest where a jeep or vehicle won’t be able to take you. The elephant passes through the dense forests cross the streams and take you close to a one-horned Rhino or a Bison. It is an awesome feeling and sight.

4. Jaldapara forest remain closed on Thursdays.

5. Using of Mobile and speaking loudly in the jungle are strictly prohibited.

Jeep Safari

The jeep safari inside the forest is another major attraction. There is several Jeep Safari being organized both in the morning and in the evening. The number of watchtowers where the Jeep safari takes tourists has increased during the recent year. Tourists must travel in the forest department permitted Jeep accompanied by a tourist guide. The forest or tourism department does not directly operate any vehicles for Jeep safaris. There are few designated and privately operated open Gypsey vehicles that are used for Jeep safaris in Jaldapara National Park. Three safari trips take place every day – two in the morning and one in the afternoon: 5:30 am to 7 am; 7 am to 8:30 am; and 3:30 pm to 5 pm. So safari duration is for 1 hour 30 minutes.

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            The best possible way to book a Jeep Safari is through your hotel. Almost all hotels in Madarihat make arrangements of jeep safari for a service charge. If you want to book on your own, you can go down to the Madarihat market area and talk to the owners of the chosen safari vehicles and fix up a safari. This way you can eliminate the hotel’s service charge.

A jeep can accommodate up to 6 persons. A full jeep consisting of 6 persons from Madarihat would cost about Rs. 1800 which includes entry fee of tourists, guide fee, vehicle entry & parking fee, camera charge, etc. The cost of jeep safari from Hollong Bungalow is lesser and is around Rs. 1500 for full Jeep.

We booked rooms for two nights. While the manager took down the request, he repeatedly kept saying that it would not be possible to arrange elephant safari, but he would obviously try for jeep safari. He showed us the long list of requests already pending and our bleak chances. Our chances were basically depending on some earlier bookings getting canceled. On repeated requests and perhaps through some extra friendly approach I could manage to get him to work harder. He could finally secure a slot for us and that too on the 2nd-day evening jeep safari.

However, if you are a self-dependent person and want to book the elephant safari all by yourself, you basically have two options:

1. Contact the Divisional Forest Officer (03582-227185). He can help you directly talk to the forest department staff operating the elephant rides and then fix up a slot for you on a day, if available.

2. Book Hollong Lodge directly and try your luck…. such chances are very low though.

We stayed at Jaldapara Tourist Lodge (of WBTDCL) and booked the afternoon Jeep Safari through the Lodge Manager. The main entry gate of the forest is at a short distance from the lodge and on the national highway (takes less than 5 minutes to reach). The vehicle picked us up to post lunch at 3 pm from the lodge. 

Once the entry formalities were completed at the gate (by showing the payment receipts for the entry fee, parking fee, guide fee, camera charge, etc. and making an entry into a register kept at the check post), we were on our way into the jungle. There was electrical fencing on both sides of the forest route. Along the way, we crossed the Hollong River. Hollong river and the wooden bridge a superb place to spot wildlife on the river banks. We saw Elephants were bathing in the Hollong River and elephant keepers were helping them. We got down from Jeep and took a few snaps. That was a spectacular scene to watch.                               

Jaldapara National Park presents an astounding sight with dense trees that rise up to the skies and allow very little sunlight to penetrate through. The park is a mixture of a mosaic of woods, grassland, marshes, and streams. Jaldapara is one of the most popular forests of Dooars. The Hollong bungalow inside the forest is probably one of the most sought after tourist accommodation anywhere in India. Today Jaldapara has grown much beyond the Hollong Bungalow and has a large number of options for tourists visiting the National Park.

Today, Jaldapara National Park has the good population of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros in India, an animal threatened with extinction. Other animals in the sanctuary include Indian leopard, Indian elephants, barking deer, spotted deer, hog deer, wild boars, and gaur.

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Toto tribes and Mech Tribes (Bodos) original tribes of this area. From that time this place was known as “Totopara”. The forest is covered with tall grasses. Jaldapara is a heaven for bird watchers. It is one of the very few places in India, where the Bengal florican is sighted. The other birds to be found here are the crested eagle, Pallas’s fish eagle, Finn’s weaver, jungle fowl, peafowl (peacock), partridge, and lesser pied hornbill. Pythons, monitor lizards, kraits, cobras, and various species of freshwater turtles can also be found here.

Best Time to Visit

Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary remains open from September 15 to June 15 and closes down during the monsoons. The monsoon time is the animal breeding season. So the safaris do not take place during this time. The best time of the year to visit the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary is between the months of October to March.

How to Reach

 

By Air – Nearest airport is Bagdogra airport, about 135 Km from the Jaldapara National Park. Bagdogra airport is well connected by road to Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. By cab, the fare would charge Rs.3500-Rs. 4500 (depending upon season) and approximate time to reach could be 3.5 hours.

By Rail – Though the nearest railway station is Madarihat, which is about 07 Km from the Jaldapara National Park. But effective railway station is Hasimara. Hasimara is about 12 km from Jaldapara National Park and well connected by road. Private cab will take Rs. 200 to Rs. 250 from Hasimara to reach Jaldapara.

By Road – Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary is well connected to Major Cities and Places by road network. There are a number of government and privately operated vehicles that go to Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary at frequent intervals. NH 31 is the main highway.

After crossing Hollong River we saw a heard of Bison roaming in the forest. Our vehicle stopped there and we witnessed the evening march of wild Bison. While you can see various wildlife during elephant safari, the main objective is to spot the one-horned rhinos. From the main entrance of the forest at National Highway, the Hollong Lodge is about 7kms inside the forest. Our driver took us near the lawn of Hollong Lodge. We reached Jaldapara watchtower within 25 minutes. Right across the lodge, there is a walkway through a stunning garden and at the end was a watching area with benches around. Ahead was a wide channel and then there was a large grassy land with a saltlick surrounded by dense forest. Saltlick attracts wildlife. What we saw was something unbelievable… a huge bison right at the middle of the grassy land near the saltlick. 

I could make out that the man was staying at Hollong Lodge itself and would have spotted many animals last evening from his room. Only a few lucky ones get lodging option in Hollong Lodge that gets booked months in advance and get to grasp such wildlife which most others can’t.

After spending 15-20 minutes there we came out from lodge campus and entered in the other part of the forest. Here the jungle is a dense forest of tall Sal trees and spread with elephant grass. At one point the guide asked the driver to stop… on the right was a large one-horned rhino in the forest!! That was a fantastic view and achievement of a lifetime. Then we saw another rhino.

At another point along the way, the car slowed down and the guide pointed his finger towards a branch of a tree. We saw two peacocks were sitting there.  After a few minutes, another peacock came from nowhere and crossed our route. We saw various types of birds in this safari.

We reached to Harindanga Watchtower. However having waited keenly for quite some time, we were unable to make any animal sighting here. It was time to turn back and the time to stop the safari.

Where to stay

While there are quite a few private hotels in Madarihat which you can book through travel & tour agencies or online, but there are 3 specific accommodations in Jaldapara that are targeted by most tourists.

The first one is the Hollong Lodge which is operated by the West Bengal Tourist Development Corporation Limited (WBTDCL) and it has the highest demand. It is located deep inside the jungle and about 7kms from the main entry gate of the forest. Other than great greenery and natural forest environment, the lodge also has a viewing area at one end of its lawn from where you can often see wildlife on grassland at a distance which also has a salt lick to attract animals. You can book elephant and jeep safaris straight from the lodge.  Due to a limited number of rooms in Hollong Lodge, it gets booked months in advance. You can book it online by following below link-

https://www.wbtdcl.com/

The second lodge which too has high demand here is Barodabari-Malangi Tourist Lodge operated by the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation Limited (WBFDCL). It has several kinds of rooms in the main building as well as nice cottages circling a rambling lawn. Safaris can be booked from here as well. This lodge can be booked online through the WBFDCL website by following below link-

https://wbfdc.net/

The third one is Jaldapara Tourist lodge, maintained by WBTDCL sited on the vicinity of Jaldapara National Park surrounded by a dense forest of Jaldapara. There are clean, spacious rooms with different rents and children garden inside the lodge with animal statues found in Jaldapara Park. There are cottages and d/b rooms in the lodge alongside Jaldapara forest. It has a widespread well-curated lawn. The four sides of the lodge are green. Rooms are well maintained, clean and washroom is airy and odorless. There is a complimentary breakfast with each booking. The restaurant is inside the premises. Food quality is average but with a high price (my opinion). One can book Jungle safari & Elephant safari from the lodge reception with the help of the manager. You can book a room here online also by maintaining below link-

https://www.wbtdcl.com/

All the lodges are in the budget category but offer nice clean accommodations. 

Also read CHILAPATA JUNGLE SAFARI

GORUMARA JUNGLE SAFARI

 

Last updated on 07.01.21

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