Imagine sleeping inside a forest bungalow with wild animals moving around the compound in the dead of night. Strange sounds break the silence ever so often, adding to the eeriness. There’s a sudden flurry of movement over the fence — is it a herd of wild pigs or a leopard?
This is Chilapata, a dense forest near Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary in Jalpaiguri district. It forms an elephant corridor between Jaldapara and Buxa Tiger Reserve.
Once infamous for dacoits, Chilapata has over the years become a popular destination for tourists, thanks to the efforts of the local administration, forest department and police.
The West Bengal Forest Development Corporation runs an eco-tourism resort, Mendabari Jungle Camp, at Kodalbasti, 2km inside the jungle. At night, it’s best not to venture out of the bungalow on foot as leopards often visit the stream by its side for a drink.
You can enjoy a jeep safari in the forest. Mud-paved tracks and thick vegetation that allows almost no sunlight to get in will greet you on the trail. Stop at Nalraja Garh — one of the largest secular monuments of the Gupta period in West Bengal. The remains of the 2,000-year-old fortress inside the dense jungle will awe struck you.
It is said that Nalraja Garh was excavated by Sudhin De in 1986-87. In his report, the researcher proposed that the monument was built during the Gupta period, judging by its architectural features. It is better not to venture inside for you may find a snake slithering around, putting paid to your adventurous mission.
Another interesting site is the watchtower beside the Torsa. You can find several domesticated elephants near the watchtower called “kunki” by the local people.
Once on the top of the tower, you can spot a rhino lazing around amid a clump of tall grass near the river. But don’t try to explore because such tall grasses are a favourite hiding place for leopards.
You can spend some more time on the watchtower and have a spectacular view of the sunset over the Torsa.
How to go?
Take Teesta Torsa Express from Sealdah or Kamrup Express from Howrah to reach New Alipurduar Junction, the nearest rail station. Chilapata is an hour’s drive from Alipurduar.
Where to stay?
Mendabari Jungle Camp, run by WBFDC at Kodalbasti, provides basic accommodation. Contact: West Bengal Tourism, M-4 Building, Hill Cart Road, Siliguri. Telephone: (0353) 2511979, 2517561
WEST BENGAL FOREST DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION LIMITED.
6A, Raja Subodh Mullick Square, 7th – Floor, Kolkata-700013
Ph No. : 033-2237-0060/ 2237-0061/ 2225-8549