In the Foothills of the Himalayas
A journey through the rolling hill slopes, mesmerizing lush green tea gardens separated by meandering silvery mountain streams, high Sal forests, quite ethnic villages, vast meadows with a blue outline of the great Himalayan ranges in the horizon, endless sky…. It is Dooars for you!
Lying in the Himalayan foothills in North Bengal, Dooars has great natural beauty. The wildlife-rich tropical forests, innumerable hill streams cutting across the green carpet of tea gardens and undulating plains, low hills rising up from the rivers all make it one of the most picturesque destinations. A drive through the Dooars plains, the gateway to Bhutan and the whole of North east India, can be the experience of a lifetime.
The Dooars valley (also called Duars), stretching from the river Teesta on the west to the river Sankosh on the east, an area covering roughly 130 km by 40 km, forms a major part of the Jalpaiguri district.
The name Dooars is derived from “doors” as the region is the gateway to the whole of North-east India and Bhutan. Dooars is also the gateway to the hill stations of the Darjeeling – Sikkim region.
Dooars is famous for its rich biodiversity and forests, the most notable of which are Gorumara National Park, Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary, and Buxa Tiger Reserve.
How to reach ?
- Siliguri is the gateway to the Dooars. Cooch Behar, being the headquarters of the North Bengal State Transport Corporation, is well – connected by long distance bus routes to Siliguri as well as Kolkata, Jalpaiguri, etc.
- There is a railway service connecting Cooch Behar with Kolkata via New Jalpaiguri. One can also avail the railway service via Alipurduar.
- The nearest airport is Bagdogra, connecting Kolkata, Delhi and Guwahati.
Places to Visit
Chilapata Forest falls on the way to Cooch Behar from Jaldapara. This is another dense
forest with elephants and leopards. But, be warned, the most dangerous inhabitants of the forest are armed robbers! In fact, less than three vehicles are not allowed into the forest at any given time for security reasons. The prime reason for hazarding such a trip would be to visit the 5th century CE Nal or Mendabari Fort, mentioned in Marco Polo’s travelogue.
Dalgaon View Point
Dalgaon View Point is a 2-hr walk from Gairibas, which in turn is a 4-km drive from
Jaldhaka village. The fantastic walk is not hard on the feet and very pleasing to the heart. It goes through patches of wild forest and wildflowers. The view all along the way is spectacular. The lush green hills of Bhutan
are stretched across the horizon; in the plains below flows the Dechu from Bhutan that becomes the Jaldhaka at Bindu, where it enters India. Birds flock to these hills in winter. A picnic basket, a bird book, sunscreen lotion and a warm jacket would give you a perfect day here.
Walk or drive the 2 km to this feat of engineering excellence over the Teesta called
Coronation Bridge, built to commemorate King George VI’s coronation in 1937 by John Chambers, the last British executive engineer of the Darjeeling PWD. From the bridge, the Teesta River flowing along a deep gorge is a sight to behold.
A 15-min walk across NH31 towards Coronation Bridge leads to a beautiful grassy stretch on the banks of the
Teesta. The wide expanse divides into several channels and is an ideal breeding ground for migratory birds. The well-marked 31/2-km Purbikholatrek starts from the right bank of the Teesta, just before the Coronation Bridge, and takes about 2 hrs.
Mongpong, just north of Siliguri, overlooks the Coronation Bridge on the Teesta River. It
is usually treated as a chai halt along trips up and down from Sikkim. But if you stand on the forested ridge at sunset and watch the sublime beauty of the sal forests of the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and the Teesta, you’ll realise Mongpong is a destination in its own right.
A 15-min walk across NH31 towards Coronation Bridge leads to a beautiful grassy stretch on the banks of the Teesta. The wide expanse divides into several channels and is an ideal breeding ground for migratory birds.
Suntalekhola is the valley with a stream of the same name, where there is absolutely
no human habitation except the Forest Department cottages. The fairytale setting of Suntalekhola elevates you to far greater heights than the altimeter’s reading of 2,475 ft. Lovingly girdled by a gurgling brook and surrounded on all sides by towering mountains in varying shades of green, Suntalekhola is connected to the civilised world only by a hanging footbridge that shakes every time you take a step. It doesn’t get further away from it all than this.
Step into the surrounding woods, where there’s no sound save the rumble of flowing water and the rustling of leaves underfoot, lit by slanting sunrays playing hide-and-seek on the forest floor. The Suntalekhola stream emerges gently from the Neora Valley National Park here and lends its name to the place. The stream in turn got its name from the orange trees (in Nepali suntale means orange and khola, a rivulet)laden with fruit in winter, which dot the unending greenery. Idyllic.
The word Tinchuley Jhalong, The hill station is very near the Indo-Bhutan border on the banks of the Jaldhaka River, on the way to Bindu. Jaldhaka Hydro Electricity Project on the Jaldhaka River is a major attraction in this area. Bird lovers can enjoy a varied collection of hill birds as well as migratory water fowl here. Jhalang" is a village in the Kalimpong subdivision of Darjeeling district in West Bengal,Jhalong is very popular among adventure enthusiasts and those who are interested in nature vacations. Jhalong is situated on the foothill of the Himalayas and there are numerous activities that you can engage in. Nearby Dam at bindu attracts various hill birds as well as migratory birds. Trekking is a popular activity in the region and the main routes lead to Tangta and Todey. Jhalong is very populous among adventure enthusiasts and those who are interested in nature vacations. Jhalong is situated on the foothills of the Himalayas and there are numerous activities that you can engage in. Near by Dam at bindu attracts various hill birds as well as migratory birds. Trekking is a popular activity in the region and the main routes lead to Tangta and Todey.
Samsing, is a small hill village and tourist spot in the Malbazar subdivision of Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal situated at an elevation of 3000 ft in the foothills of Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts border. It is known for its beautiful landscape with green tea gardens, hills and forests, which attract a lot of tourists. It lies 18 km from the Neora Valley National Park. It is the home of more than 2500 people. Its climate is noted for fog and cool breezes and a high rainfall. It has lots of beautiful picnic spots and tourist place. Some of them are Lali Guras, Rocky Island and Suntaley Khola. Neora Valley National Park is in a distance of an hour from here. Here you can find the fusion of hills, plains, rivers, forest, tea-garden and villages. In fact,it is a cute tea garden inhabited by lovely and helpful nepali people. Many local people are associated with tourism / tea / timber - related businesses. Samsing is a progressive place as the people have always valued education and their cultures.The early settlers in this village as a tea plantation labours were two people one from Rangeli, Sikkim and other from Nepal Mountain region. They left their place when they heard the legend that in plane people pluck the money. It grows on tea plants.
Gorumara National Park
Gorumara National Parkis a National Park in northern West Bengal, India. Located in the Terai region of the Himalayan foothills, it is a medium-sized park with grasslands and forests. It is primarily known for its population of Indian Rhinoceros. The park has been declared as the best among the protected areas in India by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the year 2009.
Gorumara was a reserve forest since 1895. The park was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1949, on account of its breeding population ofIndian Rhinoceros. It was declared an Indian National Park on January 31, 1994. Originally as small as 7 km², Gorumara has grown by incorporating neighboring lands to about 80 km².
The park is located in the Malbazar subdivision of Jalpaiguri district, in the state of West Bengal in India.
In this regard, Gorumara is a significant watershed area between the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems. The park is very close to Jaldapara National Park and Chapramari Wildlife Reserve.
Lataguri and Chalsa is the nearest small tourist strip near Gorumara National Park, Privet lodge, Govt. lodge and hotel are available. Tourist may visit Gorumara national Park in day time. Day visit permission to the National Perk may be obtained from Nature Interpretation Centre ( West Bengal Forest Department).
Another attractive tourist spot is the `Rocky island nature resort` on the banks of river Murti. This is about 2 km from Samsing. The view of the river and surrounding forests are excellent from Rocky Island but tourist amenities are basic. Accommodation is arranged in small Tents for overnight visitors. The owners of this small resort are true nature lovers and have so far resisted any attempt to commercialise this unique place. majestic vacation is in regular touch with them and actively support their endeavour.
Jaldapara National Park
Jaldapara National Park is a national park situated at the foothills of Eastern Himalayas in Alipurduar Sub-Division of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal and on the bank of river Torsa. Jaldapara wild life Santuary is a protected Park at the Foot hills of Easern Himalayas in Alipurduar sub- Divition of Jalpaiguri District. Jaldapara is altitude of 61 mt. and is spread across 216.51 km2 (83.59 sq mi) of vast grassland with patches of riverine forests. It was declared a sanctuary in 1941 for protection of the great variety flora and fauna. Today main attraction of the sanctuary is Asiatic One-Horned Rhinoceros. The sanctuary holds the maximum number of Rhinos population in India after Assam The other animals consist of Bison/ Indian Gaur, Royal Bengal Tigers, Common Leopard, Leopard cat, Elephants, Samber deer, Barking Deer, Spotted Deer, Hog Deer, Wild Pig. Jaldapara is an attract for bird watchers. It is one of the very few places in India, where the Bengal florican is sighted. The other birds to be found here are the crested eagle, Pallas's fish eagle, shikra, Finn's weaver,jungle fowl, peafowl (peacock), partridge, and lesser Pied Hornbill. Pythons, monitor lizards, kraits, cobras,geckos, mosaic of vegetation and rich insect life. More than 240 species of birds are found in variety and about 8 species of fresh water turtles can also be found here.
The famous river of the region named as Torsha River traverses through this refrain forest sanctuary, which is all covered with lush greenery grasslands, river banks, tall grasses and constant flowing streams.
Elephant rides are the most important activity in the park and this is extremely popular among the visitors. You can go into the depths of the jungle and it can be a phenomenal experience. Jeep Safaris are also available in the park and these are a good way to see.
The nearby Chilapata Forests is an elephant corridor between Jaldapara and the Buxa Tiger Reserve.
Buxa in 1866, the Forest Department first took charge of these forests and the Buxa Tiger Reserve was established under project Tiger in February 1983. The area was demarcated into core and buffer zone only in 1986 and it wasn’t until 1992, when it was declared a National Park that the areas were brought under the administrative control of the Field Director. Buxa has an area of 745 sq km ,the largest forest in North Bengal and has the second highest tiger population in West Bengal after sunderbans.
The numerous vegetation patterns comprising evergreen, wet mixed deciduous foreses, and hill tracts complemented by riverine forests encompass a variety of animals. About 67 mammal species are reported to thrive in the reserve including 21 endangered species. The Bengal Tiger Panthera tigers is clearly the apex species of Buxa. Leopard Panthera pardus, clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa may also be occasionally seen by a lucky few. Indian civet Viverridae , sloth bear Melusus ursinus, wild boar sus scrofa and the Yellow throated Marten also reside in these forests. Gaur Bos gaurus, chital Cervus axis, sambar Cervus unicolor and the muntjac Muntiacus muntijac comprise the prey species. The Asian elephant Elephas maximus is believed to migrate between those forests and those in Bhutan. The Rhesus macaque Macacu mulatta, common langur Presbytis entellus, civets Viverridae spp and porcupine Hystrix spp are other mammalian species. The Malayan Giant Squirrel, blacknaped hare, flying squirrel, the mongoose and a huge population of bats and rats are some of the smaller inhabitants of those forests.
Totopara is a small village in the Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, India.
This village is home to the unique Toto tribe that is one of a kind in the world. The village is about 22 km from Madarihat, which is the entry point of the famous Jaldapara National Park, Toto-para name comes from the Toto tribes.
It is bounded by the foothills of Bhutan to the north, Torsa River to the east, and Titi river and the Titi reserve forest on the south-west separated by the Hauri river.
There is a single lane motorable road leading to this village from the National Highway 31 through Hantapara. The area of the village is about 8.08 km².
Totos were nearly becoming extinct in the 1950s, but recent measures to safeguard their areas from being swamped with outsiders have helped preserve their unique heritage and also helped the population grow. The total population In 1991 census, the Toto population had increased to 926 who lived in 180 different houses. In the 2001 census, their number had increased to 1184 - all living in Totopara.
As to the past history of the Totos writes Sailen Debnath, "The Totos are the descendants, most probably, of some fugitive tribe of Bhutan to have been driven out from the mountains by the early Bhutanese-cum-Tibetatans from the period of Sabdrung Nagwang Namgyal. They might have fled that country to take shelter in a cluster in the jungles of the Dooars. The physical appearance and skin colour of the Totos do not anyway confirm their Mongoloid origin. From this it can be surmised that the Totos might have been the offspring of some people of Indian origin to have settled in Bhutan and then driven out from that country to the plains of the sub-Himalayan zone of the Dooars. Or the Totos might have some blood mixture with the fugitive slaves of Bhutan whose forefathers had been dragged away to Bhutan from the plains and enslaved.
Ishpa - He is supposed to live in the Bhutan hills, and causes sickness when displeased. The Totos offer him animal sacrifices and Eu. Cheima - She keeps the village and its people safe from troubles and sicknesses. She is also offered rice, fowls and Eu.
The Totos have no priests and offer their worship and sacrifices on their own. Ishpa is worshipped in the open outside the house and Cheima inside the house.
Totos cultivate land. The Totos are not active farmers and hence do not cultivate a particular crop to a great extent. In these gardens they grow vegetables, potatoes and bananas, among others. Sometimes they trade with traders from the outside the village. Some Totos raise cows and pigs as an occupation.
At different stages of history, the Toto tribe has been moving away from a subsistence economy to market economy. Further, the transformations of the village from community ownership of land to individual land holding and from isolated tribal group to a multi-ethnic habitat have also taken place in the recent past.