Dooars or Duars – The name is derived from “doors” as the region is the gateway to the whole of North-east India, Bhutan and the hill stations of the Darjeeling – Sikkim region. Dooars is a place where nature has kept its doors open. It is blessed with dense natural forests, lush green tea gardens, criss-crossed by river Teesta, Jaldhaka, Kaljani and other rivers. Dooars is not only famous for its natural beauty it is also famous for its wildlife sanctuaries, the most important of which are the Gorumara National Park , Chapramari wildlife sanctuary, Buxa Tiger Reserve and Jaldapara Sanctuary. This region is divided by the Sankosh River into the Eastern and the Western Dooars, consisting of an area of 8,800 km² (3,400 sq mi). The Western Dooars is known as the Bengal Dooars and the Eastern Dooars as the Assam Dooars.
Dooars is synonymous with the term Terai used in Nepal and northern India and form the only nitrate rich soil in India. The altitude of Dooars area ranges from 90 to 1,750 m. Innumerable streams and rivers flow through these fertile plains from the mountains of Bhutan. In Assam, the major rivers are the Brahmaputra and Manas. In northern West Bengal, the major river is the Teesta besides many others like the Jaldhaka, Murti, Torsha, Sankosh, Dyna, Karatoya, Raidak, and Kaljani rivers, among others. The average rainfall of the area is about 3,500 mm. Monsoon generally starts from the middle of May and continues till the end of September. Winters are cold with foggy mornings and nights. Summer is mild and constitutes a very short period of the year. The beauty of Dooars lies not only in its tea gardens but also in the dense jungles that make up the countryside.
A number of rare endangered species of animals like tiger, rhinoceros and elephant make their habitat in the forests of the Dooars. Other animals include different types of deer, bison, birds and reptiles. The main mode of transport in Dooars is roadways. Most of the places are well connected by roads. NH31 is the main highway of the area. Asian Highway AH48 is being constructed through the Dooars region. Regular bus services provided by North Bengal State Transport Corporation and Assam State Transport Corporation and other private parties run between all the important places of the area. Shared jeeps and maxi-taxies are quite popular in the area. There are some important railway stations in the area such as New Jalpaiguri, New Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, New Bongaigaon, etc. An important rail route between Alipurduar Junction and New Jalpaiguri via Malbazar covers almost the entire Dooars. Two important airports of the area are Bagdogra Airport near Siliguri. The area is dotted by several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries which attract a lot of tourists from all over India and abroad, making it an important contributor to the economy and also employer of a number of people.
The Dooars act as doorways to Bhutan; thus, the export-import industry also flourishes in the area. The towns of Jaigaon, Siliguri and Phuentsholing are important hubs of the export-import industry.
Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary situated in Alipurduar Sub-division of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal. This sanctuary was constituted in the year 1941 for the protection of Wildlife; in 2012 it became a National Park. Jaldapara is home to the Indian one horned Rhinoceros. The wildlife, in addition to one-horned Rhinos, consists of Royal Bengal Tigers, wild Elephants, Deer, Sambhar, Barking Deer, Spotted Deer and Hog Deer, wild Pig, Gour and a number of Birds, Peafowls. An adventurous elephant ride in the morning will take you deep inside the grassland for the real excitement. Please note the elephant rides are booked on the spot and cannot be reserved in advance. Jeep safari inside the forest is the other option of visiting inside the forest. Accomodation for the tourists visiting Jaldapara is arranged in the Madarihat tourist lodge and Holong tourist Bungalow. Jaldapara houses more than 160 rhinos, apart from numerous bison, deers, leopards and six Bengal tigers. Other animals found in Jaldapara include wild elephants, deers, swamp deers, hog deers and bisons. Some rare species like the hispid hare and the hog-badger are also found here.
Jaldapara is exceptionally rich in avifauna because of varied terrain, mosaic of vegetation and rich insect life. More than 240 species of birds – including Orioles, Barbets, Woodpeckers, Parakeets, Hornbills, Drongos, Cuckoos, Babblers, Brahminy ducks, and whistling teals – are found in variety of habitat- Grassland, water bodies, woodland. A wide variety of vegetation makes it a botanist’s paradise as well.”
Jungle Safari at Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
Elephant rides are the most important activity in the park and this is extremely popular among the visitors in Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. The best way to explore Jaldapara is by taking the one-hour elephant safari. A maximum of four people are allowed on each elephant. The safari from the Tourist Lodge at Madarihat is subject to the availability of elephants. The Jaldapara National Park authorities don’t provide vehicles for safaris, so you’ll have to rent one from the Madarihat Lodge or a tourist agency. A forest guard must accompany the jeep. The entry fee is Rs 100 per person for Indians and Rs150 per person for foreign nationals. Elephant Safari fees for Indians is Rs 500 per person and 750 for foreign nationals. The park remains open on all days of the week all days of the week from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM. Tourists can enter into the core area of the jungle and will get an opportunity to see the rare one-horned Rhino and Bison, Wild Elephant etc. The Elephant safari operates only in the morning, while jeep safari operates in the morning and afternoon session.
Bird Watching in Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary
If you are a nature lover Jaldapara will be tremendously appealing, for, it shelters a huge variety of birds. The sanctuary is also the last known habitat of the Bengal florican. So take a pair of binocs, park yourself in one of the watchtowers and enjoy. You can also walk around some areas just make sure that you have a forest guide with you. Jaldapara is truly a bird lover’s paradise. One can also view various other birds like Pallas’s Fishing Eagle, Peafowl, Crested Eagle, Jungle fowl, Shikra, Pied Hornbill, Patridges and many more.
A variety of birds, typical of grassland and open country, can be seen from watchtowers viz. Doves, Bee-eaters, Rollers, Hoopoe, Shrikes, Larks, Hill Mynas, Bulbuls, and Finches. Call of the Red jungle fowl is as common as the musical sound of crickets. Bengal Florican, Black partridge, Shaheen Falcon, Great Pied Hornbills, Forest Eagle Owl, Large Green billed Malkoha and White Rumped Vulture, Lesser Adjutant Stork are the endangered bird species found in the Sanctuary. Some fortunate visitors can see the Peacock displaying his full array of feathers during the breeding season.