Dooars is the foothills of Himalayas, stretching from West Bengal to Assam. Though essentially plain land, the area is quite beautiful because of presence of several forests, interspersed with several mountain rivers, mainly the Teesta river.
We stayed in Lataguri, an hour from New Jalpaiguri Junction (a major station, typically the gateway to Sikkim and other mountain destinations in West Bengal). Lataguri is the town next to Gorumara National Forest. Also, it is easy to travel from here and make day trips to various tourist destinations in the hills.
Typically I do not like making such “everyday travel” kind of trips. But this time I just went with the flow.
Reached Maynaguri station in the morning. We had a car waiting for us.
Shortly after breakfast in the hotel we headed towards few tourist destinations on the hills. We covered these places called Murti River, Jhalong and Bindu.
Tis is just another tourist spot. You can spend sometime in the river adoring the natural beauty. There are few guest houses just on the river. For spending a quite weekend by the river, this can be an excellent option. Example a WB tourism guest house – Banani Forest Resort.
This is just a view point. Few joints where you can have noodles, momo, etc. are there. The other side of the hill is Bhutan. On the way I noticed a very scenic stay – Jhalong govt. guest house. Made a mental note to try and stay a weekend here sometime.
Bindu, again is a tourist spot. It is a small village with quite a few shops who sell momos, noodles, woollens (we went in the winter), chocolates, etc. If there are not too many people, you can spend sometime near the water. It’s quite a nice scenic location.
In the morning we did the Jeep Safari in Gorumara National Forest. There are 2 places from where you can do the booking.
- You can book from here: https://wbfdc.net/safaribooking
- There is an offline booking center too. I figured that this was largely used by tourist groups, who did not book the tickets before and also needed maybe more jeeps to travel in a group.
The online option gets booked quite early. So went and stood in line at around 5am to get tickets for 6am safari. There were already around 20 people before us. One person represented one jeep. When I spoke to the person in the beginning of the line – he was standing in line from 2am!
They usually give tickets for 15 jeeps in a slot. They also arranged some extra jeeps, it being tourist season, but still we did not get the 6am slot. We got tickets for 9am slot. It was for the better as during 6am safari weather would be have been too cold.
During the safari we saw many peacocks, a baby python (still a good 5-6 ft in length), a couple of elephants too (after we came out of the forest and was travelling back to the safari starting point, we saw them from the road in the forest beside the road). The jungle itself was quite dense. And the experience of the forest itself was good. According to the local people, safaris of Jatraprasad and Chapramari are good (book from https://wbfdc.net/safaribooking), and has good possibilities of spotting rhinos as well.
The rest of the day we rested and spent time in the guest house.
We had lunch in this nice restuarant Poncho Byanjon.
We went to Lava – a hill station around 80 kms from Lataguri. Standing at around 7,200 ft, it is one of rare places in West Bengal which sees snowfall every year. We also wanted to go to Rishop another great destination near Lava. Our plans however did not materialise. We went till Lava, reached around 11am, however the weather was too bad. It was completely misty with very low visibility. It started raining.
And all this was happening when the outside temperature was 2degree C. The locals in Lava heavily discouraged us to venture towards Rishop. We could not see anything in Lava too. We came back from the hills after some time.
We travelled to Buxa Tiger Reseve. This place was a good 140 kms from Lataguri. We started early and reached Buxa at around 1pm. You need to get a pass to enter the forest. We got the pass from Rajabhatkhawa – the town near entrance of the forest.
We went through the forest to the banks of Jayanti river. The river bed was completely dry. Cars were meandering on the river bed. It fills up during Monsoon, the locals said. There are scores of home stays available here. We had lunch near the Jayanti river bed.
There are only a couple of Jeeps available to take you on a safari. These are private players and can be booked through your hotel or from the place where you buy entry pass to the forest.
The safaris for the day was booked. There was another option to go around in the forest – If you have a MUV or Jeep type vehicle yourself, you can go and visit couple of watch towers inside the forest.
You can have to take a forest department person, a guide, who will accompany you in the car. This would cost you around 200/- for the guide. We tool this option. The guide made us the cross the river and took us around 2 watchtowers on the other side of the river.
The forest was very dense. According to the guide, unless an animal comes and stands on the road, you cannot have a spotting in this forest.
We came out of the forest around 4pm and headed to our stay destination for the night – Jayanti Hills Jungle Camp resort.
We woke up in the serenity of Jayanti Hills Jungle Camp. We had breakfast and headed towards Coochbehar. Our train back to Kolkata was from here. Someone had heavily recommended Coochbehar palace to us.
It was a Friday and Coochbehar palace Museum is closed on Fridays. We could enter the premises of the palace and went round the place. It was a huge and intricately built structure. We were impressed by the mighty structure.
We headed to the Coochbehar station from here. Had lunch and boarded the train.