The prospect of putting up at a quiet cottage nestled amidst rambling verdant tea gardens in the heart of the wild, with a fairly good chance to encounter the Great Indian one horned Rhinoceros, Indian Bison, Indian Elephant and dozens of species of birds was a trip a wildlife buff like me couldn’t resist. And, when I arrived at Gorumara, which falls under Terai foothills, in the Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, I realized that apart from the bounty of wild life on offer, the region being centrally located to Dooars, facilitates easy access to multiple tourists spots like Murti River, Chapramari Reserve, Jaldapara National Park, Lataguri and Gorumara National Park making it the ideal stopover point.
Gorumara in particular and Dooars as a whole has excellent connectivity. The nearest railhead is only half-an-hour’s drive at Chalsa with the closest airport located at Bagdogra, just 85 kilometers away. The other option is taking a car from Siliguri, a comfortable two hour drive through the charming countryside. Every year from the fifteenth of June to the fifteenth of September the forest remains closed.
The main activity involves Jungle Safaris which are both jeep as well as elephant safaris. Since the safaris are conducted by the Forest Department, vehicles have to be booked in advance plus prior permission obtained from them for both the safaris to Chapramari Reserve as well as Gorumara National Park. I chose the evening Safari hoping to spot some migratory birds. Both reserves have watchtowers plus I am told the forest is dotted with watchtowers that give you a spectacular view of the Dooars grasslands and forest.
The local driver of the van I’d hired got me the tickets for my Chapramari safari which saved me having to stand in queue at the ticket counter. Elephants are normally a common sight here with two massive reserve forests, the Chapramari Reserve and the famous Gorumara National Park hugging each other. At the watchtower my guide Rajiv promised I’d get my money’s worth. The drive through the jungle intersected by jungle streams and grasslands was a pleasing sight despite not sighting any wildlife except for some timid deer.
Standing two storied tall in the heart of Chapramari Reserve was the watchtower. Being winter, dusk was setting in fast and after an hour and half wait, during which I enjoyed a peacock dance and some birds and deer again, a few meters away in the fading light I managed to spot a bison walking towards the river. A few more followed, but the elephants decide to stay away.
From there as we proceed in a convoy for our safety, I was not sure whether I wanted to encounter any more wild animals since it was already dark and the prospect of one springing up between the headlights was more unnerving than exciting. However, it wasn’t my day and the next morning at the jungle camp all I got to brag about was the Nepali dance that we witnessed later that night.
More to Explore
Apart from the big stuff confined to the forests interiors, local sightseeing provides ample bird watching opportunity including herons, ducks, great hornbills, parakeets and kingfishers. A refreshing morning walk around the resort, while the mist is still clearing, is a great time to do that. Its advised not to venture too far on foot because elephants are known to greet you right on the main road. Although a spectacle, it’s risky and caution should be heeded.
The Murti river around 9 kilometers away has some pretty tourists bungalows. So does Lataguri, with its own compelling private resorts. Malbazar town in Dooars, is 65 kilometers from Jalpaiguri where a wide range of accommodation is also available and the place is well connected by rail network. From Malbazar you could hire a vehicle which will take a two-an-half hours to Jhalong and Bindu, picturesque tourist spots on the Indo-Bhutan border where the sight of the Jaldhaka river is splendid along with the Jaldhaka Dam, a hydro-electric project. The place has a popular roadside haat, mostly frequented by Bhutanese plus a couple of picnic spots worth a visit.