Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chagrined at Chilapata

Our third and last destination of our Dooars' trip was Chilapata which is a dense forest near Jaldapara. We drove through Hasimara past the Airforce Station and halted to buy some local tea. Surprisingly, where our driver stopped the car, all the teashops side by side had their signboards in Telegu. We bought two varieties of tea, one for flavour (the costly and recommended one) and another to which milk can be added (the way I like tea personally). However, to tell the truth I did not quite enjoy either type once I got back to home.

Soon, we reached Chilapata and after querying some locals, we made our way to the forest rest house. Unlike Jaldapara, this place again has only two rooms at the bungalow and no ready ration for the guests. The caretaker took some money from us and went to the market which is a few kilometers away. However the bungalow is quite well maintained. The beds rooms and bathrooms are spacious, the living room is very well furnished and on the top of it, it had a television with satellite connection. This is the first time we could watch TV during our trip to Dooars and my aunt fully utilized the time watching the daily soaps (including repeat telecasts) that she had missed in the last few days.

Lunch was simple comprising Khichdi and finger chips and we settled for a jungle safari in the late afternoon after a quick nap. Our car and guide came to pick us up at 4 o’clock. The guide enlightened us that the name Chilapata has its origin from Chila Ray, a general of Coochbehar after whom the place was named. Very early during our trip we could locate a deer in the woods from some distance and hoped that we would be able to see many animals there especially since it is considered as an elephant corridor and sighting of elephants are almost regular according to my research before the tour. But alas, during the entire safari we were not able to see any other animal except for some wild pigs and wild hens. The guide did not seem to be quite competent and we figured out that he was living in the area only for the last five years after his father, who works in the forest department, got transferred to Chilapata. The driver was in fact more alert and interested to make us see some animals and sensing our disappointment drove farther to what is common and allowed but to no avail. However, the drive through the forest was quite fascinating in its own. We halted at a couple of places in between.

Our first halt was at Nalraja Garh which is a fort built during the Gupta period in fifth century and only the ruins are left now. That too our guide only showed us what used to be the front gate of the fort and convinced us not to go any further inside as it was not safe. Later I learnt that many people actually take a tour inside on foot. Most part of the gate had been buried under earth and one has to actually bend quite a bit or crawl to go to the other side. Our guide actually told us that the fort is going beneath the ground inch by inch, which is quite possible and makes sense, but the reason he told was a bit over the top. His justification was that the destruction of the fort was in fact due to a curse on the Nal kings.

While we were coming to terms with this explanation of history, he showed us some trees and told us yet another enthralling story about their origin. The myth goes that while the fort was being destroyed and buried due to the curse, some faithful guards favoured to be associated with the fort out of their loyalty and were transformed into trees and since then there are still guarding the ruins of the fort. And the bizarre thing with these trees is that they bleed just like humans if they are cut. Actually, I found some dark marks and dried up sticky liquid on the trees which is very similar to blood clot. The guide even volunteered to make a fresh cut and let us see for ourselves but we decided in the negative since we were not experts to come up with any scientific explanation and from my earlier conversation with the caretaker at the forest bungalow, I knew that what he was talking about blood like liquid secreted by the tree was a fact. I don’t remember the name of the tree now but the guide told us that that species of tree is available only in that place and there are only a few of them and any attempt to grow it elsewhere had failed.

Our next and last stop was a watch tower just beside the Torsha river. I had fallen asleep on the way and just as the car stopped I woke up and screamed in enjoyment seeing an elephant. But soon I saw the chains around its legs bound to a nearby post and realized that it was not indeed a wild elephant but a trained one, one which is called “kunki” in local terms and there is not much excitement in sighting one. The watch tower again was a disappointment as there were no animals in the vicinity. The guide showed us some unraveled grass along the river bed and explained that that must be the doing of the rhinocerous who might have gone to Jaldapara. However, in spite of the discontent of not seeing any animal from the watch tower, we were happy to witness the sunset across Torsha.

As the sun was going down, I became conscious that my vacation is also coming to the end and was saddened by the realization that it was time to go back to the busy routine of city life.


  1. Hi Deep,my friend and I, both 60+ years old are planning to go to Chilapata and Khutimari, during Pujas, along with our respective wives. Your write-up on Chilapata was really informative as well as interesting. We will be driving up in my Bolero (no driver) from Kolkata. Would you be kind enough to give me some suggestions, and advice, on what to do and what not to do. I along with my friends, have driven up to many forests in our younger days. But, in the last 15 years I have not been to forests, though I have driven up to N. Bengal quite a few times. In April, 2009, I had driven up to Thimpu,on work, with a companion who was not a driver. Your advice if any will be highly appreciated.My e-mail id is savison@vsnl.com. Best regards. Pradip Chaudhuri.

  2. Hi Pradip,I guess there's nothing much activity to do in a forest. You may take an evening safari and an early morning safari amidst the forest. We could not take the morning safari but probably there is more chance of seeing animals on that one. You have to take a guide (compulsory) and probably you have to book their car only. They won't allow your own car. You can do a day visit to Khutimari from Chilapata, so that you can stay at Chilapata only. The forest rest house at Chilapata was quite good (except food) though it is located near the main road. You have to contact the DFO's office of Jaldapara WildLife Division for booking. One of my friends once stayed at the Mendarbari Jungle Camp. That is located more near the forest but it is more kind of a okay accomodation according to him. Chilapata is one of the most dense forests of Dooars, so you can not roam around that much on your own. Sending you an individual mail also.

  3. Hi Deep,

    A couple of my friends and our respective family wish to visit Jayanti, Raymatang, Jaldapara and Chilapata next Feb. Can you furnish some more info on how to get permission for safaris. To book the Chilapata Forest Rest house we need to write to the DFO but how do we transfer cash for the booking. As you have stayed there I hope you can throw some light on this. Thanks in advance.

    You can mail me at mainak2005@gmail.com.

  4. Hi Mainak,

    Sorry for the late response. I was away on another trip.
    Just tell the caretaker over there and he will arrange for the safari plus guide. Some bargaining can be done.
    Regarding the booking, write to the DFO's office and also ring them up to follow up. They will fax you an acknowledgement or a confirmation of the booking that you need to carry with you. you need to pay only at the forest rest house (to the caretaker). No advance payment is required.


  5. Planning a trip to Chilapata this April. Going by your accounts it seems not much of wildlife is there. Can we go to Jaldapara to have a jeep safari inside the sanctuary? I have been told that rhino spotting is possible only from elephant-back. Do you also think so? Jaladapara lodges are already booked out and they don't offer elephant rides to outsiders. Thanks - Pradipta Basu / Bangalore

  6. Pradipta, Chilapata is actually a more dense forest so chances of spotting animals is more there. It was just we did not see many. It can happen in any forest, there is no guarantee that you will be able to see wildlife animals.

    Now with jeep safari, the problem is that the animals can sense that some vehicle is coming their way and they may hide. So there is lesser chance of spotting animals on jeep, at least in Dooars, than on elephant back.

    As far I know, you can book elephant rides in Jaldapara even if you are not staying at Hollong Bungalow. You have to probably speak with them a day in advance for the booking and be there in the morning for the ride. At least when I stayed there that was the rule. Two families took the elephant ride with us who were not staying at Hollong.

  7. could you please guide us with following things:
    1)Can i cover the whole buxa forest staying at "chilapata" instead of staying at "rajabhatkhawa"
    2) Is there any government bunglow at chilapata - if so, how can we book that
    3)Road map entire dooars including the following:
    a) Garumara
    b) Jaldapara
    c) Rajabhatkhawa
    d) Chilapata
    We know we are expecting a lot from your side. But it would be of immense help if u can provide us with the following.

    Waiting eagerly for your reply
    Debasish: 9830488346
    Mail id: debasis.halder86@gmail.com

  8. Hi
    We are planning for dooars during December. Need some help from your side.
    Could you please help us with the following things
    1)can we go around the dooars from chilapata instead of jaldapara.
    2)could you please provide a detailed road map of dooars including: a)Jaldapara
    3)any government bunglow available - if so please provide us how to do so

    Thanks a lot in advance. Will be highly obliged if you could keep our request.

    Debasish: 9830488346
    Mail Id: debasis.halder86@gmail.com

  9. Debasish, I will try to answer your queries.
    Chilapata is in between Buxa and Jaldapara so you can visit these two places while staying at Chilapata. I think Jayanti or Buxa will be a better option than Rajabhatkhawa. You can start your journey from here - get down at Alipurduar railway station. the visit Chilapata and Jaldapara respectively. Gorumara is a little off the track. It probably falls under Jalpaiguri Wildlife Division.
    There is this Mendarbari Jungle Camp in Kodalbasti which is a property of WBFDC. You may visit their website (http://www.wbfdc.com) for details. Also there is a Forest Rest House of the Forest Department. To book that bungalow you have to write to the DFO's office of Jaldapara WildLife Division.
    However, this bungalow is more near the main road and also there is no elephant safari available in Chilapata unlike Hollong. My personal experience is that you will enjoy more if you stay at the Gorumara Forest Bungalow or Hollong Bungalow at Jaldapara where you have greater chance of seeing animals at night when they come to eat salt.
    Let me know if I can be of any further help.


  10. check this out for Chilapata: http://akdcts.blogspot.com/2011/02/help-tourism-and-chilapata-jungle-camp.html

  11. Hi Deep I found your writing very informative and helpful, please advise me on the following urgently :-

    1) We a group of 4 friends (age group 24-25) are planning to go to Jhalong and then at chilapata to stay for a total of 5 day 4 nights. We can't decide that whichever between Hollong/Gorumara and chilapata will be better for enjoying night life of jungle and watching animals roam around,eating water or salt, jungle safari on jeep/elephant. We are stuck in a dilemma. These things of jungle are our primary concern . Please advise on both of my following e-mail ids : - rmitray.rangan@gmail.com(personal id)
    Rangan.M@dastur.com (office id)

    Thanks in advance..Cheers

    Rangan Mitra Ray

    1. The Chilapata forest bungalow is outside the forest core area near roadside sowatching animals in the night is not possible. It is a dense forest but unfortunately we did not see many animals during our jeep safari.

      Hollong on the other hand provides you the opportunity to have early morning elephant safari which is better than the jeep safari. During the night many animals come to visit the salt pit near the bungalow. Food is also much better here.

      But if you want to be alone Gorumara may be a better option and you can have the entire bungalow by yourselves since there are only two rooms as far I remember. Many bisons come to visit the nearby Rhino point salt pit but it is not as near as in Hollong.

      However if you have 4-5 days you can split it up. At least two places is very natural and you can cover three of them also.

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