Imagine sitting inside a Forest Bungalow in the dead of the night and feeling wild animals moving around its compound. The sounds comes so often through the silent night that you even start imagining shapes. All of a sudden a shape darts through the fence inside the compound and speeds away. It can be as a wild pig or even a leopard.
Welcome to Chilapata, a dense jungle near Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary at Jalpaiguri District. Chilapata is the home of elephants, one-horned rhinoceros, leopards and wild pigs. Chilapata was once infamous for dacoits, but now it is safe and a popular destination for tourists. The forest is 28 km from Alipurduar town and is hardly an hour’s drive. The West Bengal Forest Development Corporation (WBFDC) has set up an eco-tourism resort named Mendabari Jungle Camp at Kodalbasti which is 2 km inside Chilapata Jungle.
As we approached inside Chilapata from New Alipurduar Station on a cold December morning, we could sense the jungle getting dense. From the main road, our car took a sharp turn into a jungle lane and soon we passed by a watch tower. Another few minute’s drive brought us to a wooden bridge. The Forest Bungalow complex is just after the bridge.
The tourist lodge is perched sufficiently above ground with wooden support. A staircase takes you up. Entering through a small grilled gate you first encounter a balcony and then get to the rooms. There are two rooms – one double bedded and the other four bedded. There is another balcony in the back. We had booked both the rooms. After an early dinner, you need to lock this gate and not venture inside the camping ground for your own safety.
After checking in our rooms we strolled down to the bridge. There was a small stream flowing below it and we ventured down. The locals said that at night no one dares to come here on foot as leopards often come here for a drink. After lunch in the dining cottage, we decided to our ride in the jungle.
Soon our car was diverted into a mud-paved track thick with vegetation on the road itself, not to mention the dense jungle around. There was almost little sunlight getting in that area and despite it being 3:00 in the afternoon, we felt it was evening. Amidst typical sounds of jungle suddenly an animal rushed within the forest creating a bit a panic among the group. The light was low and we could not identify the creature.
We stopped at the Nalraja Garh – one of the largest secular monuments of Gupta Period so far surviving in West Bengal. Forgetting our fear of wild animals we stood in awe in front of the remains of a 2000-year-old fortress inside the dense jungle. We were told by our guide that this was the front gate of the fort and was built to drive away the intruders. There was an entrance and we took a venture inside as there was supposed to be many brick aqueducts there. However, with the passage of time the jungle has become extremely dense inside and unapproachable. We spotted some snake inside and decided not to venture inside anymore and returned back. The fortification of Nalraja Garh covers around half a mile of area, but at present it is almost impossible to venture the interiors.
The other interesting stop over was a watch tower beside the Torsha river. There are several trained elephants near the watch tower called “Kunki” by the locals. We spotted; rather the guide helped us to spot a rhino quite far in the river near a jungle of tall grass. I was having an adventurous idea to go through the tall grass jungle near the rhino to get a prized photograph. However, the guide warned me that such tall grass jungle is the favourite hiding places for the leopard. We were disappointed but the colourful sunset over the Torsha made us happy.
How to reach Chilapata
The two nearest Stations to Chilapata are New Alipurduar Junction (26 km) and Hasimara Junction (16 km). There are several trains from Kolkata to New Alipurduar Junction. Your best option could be Teesta -Torsa Express ( Reaches at 7:15 a.m.) from Sealdah or Kamrup Express (Reaches at 9:15 a.m.) from Howrah. As for Hasimara, there are only two trains from Kolkata. Out of these two Kanchankanya Express (Reaches at 10:46 a.m.) from Sealdah is a better option.
From the station, a car ride will take you to the jungle camp. Chilapata is open to tourists from October to May.
Staying at Chilapata
There are several private lodges like Chilapata Green Resort and Bamboo Village Resort on the outskirts of the forest. However, only Mendabari Jungle Camp at Kodalbasti (2 km inside The jungle) is located in the core area of the jungle
At Mendabari Jungle Camp double bedded room costs Rs 2000 each and dormitory charge is Rs 250 per bed. Presently food arrangement for breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided in the camp at an extra price.
For booking the Bungalow
For online booking, you can book through the website of West Bengal State Forest Development Agency
The website link for booking is this
DFO Wildlife Division III
Post- CoochBehar, Pin- 736101
Phone- 03582-227185, Fax- 03582-227513
Tourism Centre, Govt. of West Bengal
M-4 Building, Hill Cart Road, Siliguri
Tel : 91 353 2511974, 91 353 2516306, 91 353 2511979, 91 353 2432561