The land of Asiatic one-horned rhino, Jaldapara National Park is the pride of Dooars and a 'must visit' place for nature lovers. A place of enriched bio-diversity with varied flora and fauna, it is a prime destination for wild-life enthusiasts as well as general tourists. The forest mainly comprise of savanna and riverine type, and is an ideal habitat for Rhino, Bison (Gaur), Elephant, Deer and innumerable smaller mammals.
The vast grasslands of Jaldapara provide great opportunity for sighting wild animal. The adventurous elephant ride early in the morning and exciting car safari allows the tourists to enter deep inside the forest. Sitting on the back of an elephant one can have a prized view of rhino resting in a muddy pool or a herd of elephant roaming majestically in the open grassland.
The forest department has constructed several watchtowers inside the forest for wild life viewing. Step out with a binocular and spend the whole day looking at the most exquisite animals and birds in the serene landscape. The small streams cutting across the vast grasslands with beckoning Bhutan Himalayas in the horizon and the tranquilizing breeze give real peace of mind for the traveler looking for a break from the routine world.
The National Park remains closed from June 15 to September 15. No tourist activity inside the sanctuary is allowed during this period.
Total Area: 216.51 Sq km
District Head quarter: Jalpaiguri
Best time to visit: October to June
There are about 32 revenue villages around Jaldapara with a population close to a 100000. Apart from substantial Bengali population concentrated in the Northern fringe of Madarihat, most of the villagers belong to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe category. The Toto tribe living on the Norther fringe of the forest at Totopara have a population of about 1000 and are considered endangered due to their few numbers.
If you are arriving at Bagdogra Airport or New Jalpaiguri Station, you may travel to Jaldapara either through the National Highway 31 that passes through Dooars or through the Jalpaiguri – Maynaguri Highway.
The NH31 via Sevok, Malbazar, Banarhat and Birpara reaches Madarihat at a distance of 130 kms. This route, although slightly longer, passes through forests and tea gardens with aluring views of the Darjeeling and Bhutan hills. It is one of the most beautiful drives and takes about 3.5 hours to reach Jaldapara.
If you are travelling through the Jalpaiguri – Maynaguri highway, you will take a left turn at Dhupguri to meet NH31 at Telipara crossing about 5 kms before Birpara. This route is the shortest with distance to Madarihat being about 120 kms.
Instead of taking the left turn at Dhupguri, you may travel further to Falakata and take a left turn from there. The Falakata – Madarihat road is a little narrow and the total distance through this route is about 125 kms between Jaldapara and NJP / Bagdogra.
About the forest
Jaldapara was declared a game sanctuary in 1941 with an area of about 100 square kilometres. In 1976 and 1990 the area was increased to reach the current total area of 216.5 square kilometres. There are 32 villages in and around the National Park with an estimated population of about 1 lakh. In 2012 Jaldapara Wild life Sanctuary was given the status of a National Park by the union forest and environment ministry.
Rhino is the most famous resident of this forest. The Asiatic rhinos exist in six protected areas in North East India and in some places inside Nepal. In India Rhinos exist in Jaldapara and Gorumara in Dooars area and Pobitora, Manas, Dudhwa and Kaziranga in Assam. Outside Assam, Jaldapara has the largest population of Asiatic Rhinos in the world. Over the last 40 years the rhino population in the world has reduced by about 90 per cent making it one of the most endengered animals in the world and making Jaldapara forests all the more important for their survival. Due to the conservation efforts the population of Rhinos here stands at a healthy 65.
Apart from the Rhino, Jaldapara is home of 32 other Mammals, 230 species of birds, 16 species of reptiles, 8 species of turtles and 30 species of fish. 11 of these species are considered endangered as per wild life protection act. These endangered species include Rhinos, Tiger, Gaur, Elephants, Leopard, Sloath Bear, Python, Pangolin and others.
Jaldapara also has wide variety of fauna with 585 species of plant in the forest. The forest cover includes dry and wet mixed forests, Mixed Sal forest, Grasslands, Bamboo forests and sandy river beds.
Madarihat is the nearest township and is adjacent to Jaldapara sanctuary. There is a well-furnished tourist lodge just on the entrance of the sanctuary. A number of private accommodation has come up in and around Madarihat. The government maintained (WBTDC) tourist accommodation is also at Madarihat. The famous Holong bungalow entry gate is also here. The Madarihat town has a small Rail station and a relatively large market.
Chilapata - About 10 km from Madarihat is Hasimara. This is also the entry point to Chilapata forests. Tourists visiting Jaldapara forest normally prefer to combine a trip to Chilapata in the same tour.
Phuentsholing - Bhutan boarder Phuentsholing is about 28 kms from Madarihat and can be reached in about 45 minutes. Tourists staying around Jaldapara for more than one night prefer to visit the border town as part of sightseeing.
Totopara is a small village about 20 kms from Jaldapara. The village is the only place where a primitive tribe Toto’s live. The total population of Toto tribes is just above thousand making them vulnerable to extinction.
Khairbari Tiger Rescue Center – There is a tiger rescue center about 10 kms from Madarihat town inside Khairbari forest. When Tiger show in Indian Circuses were banned, the rescued Tigers were brought here. Today many of the tigers are either old or dead, but the drive through the Khairbari forest is still an excellent experience.