Establishment of Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary was established in the year 1941, with the aim of protecting the Indian one-horned rhinoceros. In May 2012, its status was upgraded to that of a national park.
Location and Area of Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in the Alipurduar sub-division of Jalpaiguri district in north Bengal, very close to the Bhutan border on the banks of River Torsa, the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary is at an altitude of 61 metres and is spread across 216.51 square kilometres (83.59 sq mi) of vast grassland with patches of riverine forests.
Landscape of Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
Sitting at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayan range, the sanctuary is a melange of a mosaic of woods, grasslands, swamps and streams. Its landscape depicts an amazing view of dense trees that rise up to the skies and allow very little sunlight to penetrate through, giving an eerie ambience to the place and a sense of excitement and uncertainty to the visitors.
Flora at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary encompasses a rich biodiversity with luxuriant vegetation and multifarious wildlife. The forest is mainly a savannah covered with tall elephant grasses. The place teems with plants and beautiful flowers, especially after the monsoons. Some of the prominent tree species found in the park include the tall Sal and Shishu trees. Other varieties of ferns, shrubs and tall grass can also be seen.
Fauna at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary has the principal population of Indian one-horned rhinoceros in the state, an animal threatened with extinction, and is a Habitat management area. The park holds the largest rhino population in India after the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, sheltering a population of more than 160. The rhino can also be spotted at the Gorumara National Park close by.
Apart from this star resident, other wildlife species inhabiting the area include the Royal Bengal Tiger, leopards, elephants, sambar, barking deer, spotted deer, hog deer, wild pigs, bison and hispid hare. The nearby Chilapata Forests is an elephant corridor between Jaldapara and the Buxa Tiger Reserve. The creepy-crawly reptiles such as the python, cobra, krait, monitor lizards and geckos are also there to arouse the visitors’ fear and anxiety. Also, about 8 species of fresh water turtles can be found here.
Birds at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
Finally, the place is a paradise for the enthusiastic bird watchers, with over 350 species of birds beautifying the park and its skies. It is one of the very few places in India, where the Bengal Florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis also called the Bengal Bustard) is sighted, along with the famous Great Hornbill. Other avifauna includes the crested eagle, Pallas's fish eagle, shikra, Finn's weaver, jungle fowl, peafowl (peacock), partridge, lesser pied hornbill, racket-tailed drongo and paradise flycatcher.
Jaldapara Jungle Safari
The early morning Elephant safari is the best way to explore the sanctuary. Also, there are jeep safaris inside the forest in the morning and afternoon. Watchtowers built along the water bodies also provide the best wildlife viewing opportunities.
Accommodation at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
The main accommodations for the visitors of Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary are at the Hollong Tourist Lodge, which is deep inside the forest from the entry point at Madarihat, the nearest town to Jaldapara, located on a national highway (NH31 Siliguri-Hasimara), and the Jaldapara Tourist Lodge on the forest border at Madarihat itself. The former is preferred more and has only 7 rooms for the tourists, thus requiring months in advance booking.
Visiting Information to Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
There are three ways to get in from the entry point Madarihat:
By Air: From Bagdogara, the nearest airport at 140 kilometres distance.
By Rail: From Madarihat, the nearest railway station at 7 kilometres distance, from where the Jaldapara Tourist Lodge is a walkable distance. Also both Birpara/ Hasimara stations are at 20 kilometres away from the sanctuary.
By Road: The NH31 connects from Siliguri to various places in North Bengal from where the NH31C leads to Madarihat via Birpara.
Best Season to visit Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
Although open from mid September to mid June and closed during the monsoons, the best time to plan an adventurous visit to the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary is during the months from October to April, when the weather is excellent and the animals can be spotted easily.