Yup. Three cheerful Asian Open Bill Storks just greeted you :D This is surely not a dream. Or maybe it is. It's indeed a dream come true for many of the birders and bird enthusiasts out there. Let me tell you about this one.
This dream is centered around the Kulik Wildlife Sanctuary in Raiganj, West Bengal, India. Feel the contours of the dream.
The Kulik river has carefully crafted a beautiful oxbow lake inside the forest perimeters. Along the oxbow lake a deep forest has developed over decades to serve as the second home to one of the most majestic winged creatures ever- The Asian Open Bill Stork.
Apart from this, one can find 164 different species of birds (my amateur birdwatching eye could spot only 11) depending upon the seasonal timings. Sounds exciting right?
Okay then. Let's get down to the little boring but somewhat important details.
By road - Kulik WSL is located at a distance of 430 km from Kolkata and 185 km from Siliguri.The National Highway NH34 (infamous for footwide potholes and imaginary asphalt layering in parts :P ) connects Kolkata to Kulik.And if you've ever been to Darjeeling or Siliguri or Gangtok or to any of those Northerly places by bus or a car then you must have crossed this place.For the highway cuts right through the jungle.It is indeed difficult to imagine a forest with a national highway running through it ! The trucks are not exactly a part of the flora or fauna ! By Railway - Radhikapur Express(departing from Kolkata Station) stops at Raiganj.It is a 10-11 hour journey.Bookings can be done online at India Railways.
Place to Stay
Kulik , Raiganj is not a tourist-heavy place.Which means lodging facilities are limited.The best place to stay will be the Raiganj Tourist Lodge maintained by West Bengal Tourism Department.Advance Bookings can be made at WBTDCL .
By Air - Nearest airport is Bagdogra airport in Siliguri which is 180 km away.Another option is Kolkata Airport at a distance of 430 km.
Time to Visit
Keeping all these in mind , planning a trip to Kulik for a longer weekend can be made easily through the dimply-lit 15 inch laptop seated infront of you ! Make sure your wifi is on too :D The birds start arriving from early June.The nesting season begins soon.And a profusion of 70,000-80,000 migratory birds flock the forest during the breeding season.Ideal time to visit : October
to Early November. Now that all your plans are made, bookings done, you're ready to roll.
The Raiganj Tourist Lodge compound has around 30 trees and in each of these trees there are 10-20 nests. Most of these are abandoned now as the birds start departing from mid November and these pictures have been captured in late December.Within a span of one month, the abandoned nests manage to invoke an unearthly sense of melancholy for what had once been, a tree bustling with flocks of storks.The background score - a crescendo of the cacophony of a hundred birds all voicing their opinions simultaneously.
The gate leading to the sanctuary remains open from 10a.m till 6 p.m in the evening.If you happen to find it closed and you can't wait to get inside then I have a tip for you. Follow the barbed fencing along the highway and you will come across an opening, made solely for the local children involved in clearing of the fallen leaves and dusting the trail through the forest.
Okay now too much time spent with the birdies ! It's time to get down and explore the rest of the Sanctuary.The path is laid out in the form of cute colourful, eccentric bricks.They take you around a fixed path that encircles the entire area.Inbetween you can spot the ox-bow lake,some rundown watchtowers that are out of bounds because they're falling apart real quick.For music you can definitely tune into a huge band of frequencies generated by a profusion of insects and birds.An occassional truck horn might intrude if the driver encounters a particularly obstinate cow or a goat ambling on the National Highway.
This has to be the most heartwrenching sight ever.This clearly proves that we still lack the basic infrastructure to support these beautiful creatures.Do your bit to save them.Spread awareness like they spread their wings.And even if that results in lowering their deaths, then you can feel proud for doing good to this world.
His gaze should cheer up your spirits. The depth of his eyes equal the phantom depths of the mysteries still left in this world. His wings have given mankind, another new realm to conquer the infinite. The blue sky.
Two young guns sharing a private moment together.This picture describes what is meant by binary in this universe.
Dreams end. And we go on living happily ever after. It is during the short duration of our dreams that we explore a new kingdom complete with its own set of characters and colors and stories. This dream was of a special kind. Freedom found a new meaning, perched atop the wingtips of these storks. Time stood motionless as a testament to the thousands of kilometres these birds travel in their lifetime. Each one has a unique story a million miles long. And that sets each one apart from the other. Just like in us, humans.
For centuries and beyond.
This trip was first published on Lonely Tintin Diaries.