On trail of the One Horned Rhinoceros …. #wildlifeonearth


On trail of the One horned Rhinoceros

Photo of On trail of the One Horned Rhinoceros …. #wildlifeonearth by ABHISHEK SANYAL

With the winter chill still in the air early March - four adventure loving and nature admiring friends decided to explore the enchanting splendour of Mother Nature. With an intention of exploring the dense forests of North Bengal in mind, we were motivated by the thrills of jeep safaris and wildlife sightings deep in the Kingdom of the Wild!

Taking a break from our daily schedule of work, setting our respective Out Of Office messages on laptops, we were on our way for an exciting holiday in the forests of the North Bengal…popularly known as “The Dooars” or the “Duars”. Little did we know that this exhilarating and daring expedition that would be reminisced and treasured for a long time to come!!!

Although the entire trip was for 4 days, this story would primarily focus on our time spent at the Jaldapara National Park (1 day).

An Introduction to Jaldapara – Know before you go!

Lying in the undulating foothills of eastern Himalayas, Jaldapara was declared as a sanctuary in 1991. With the river Torsha flowing across its breadth, this rain forest sanctuary is mostly covered with tall swards.

Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary

Photo of Jaldapara, West Bengal, India by ABHISHEK SANYAL

The sanctuary encompasses flourishing vegetation and boasts of a rich variety of wildlife. Jeep Safaris and Elephant rides are the only ways you can explore Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.

Jeep Safaris and Elephant rides are the only ways to explore Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary

Photo of On trail of the One Horned Rhinoceros …. #wildlifeonearth by ABHISHEK SANYAL

Climate and best time to visit

Mostly warm and humid…. the best season to visit is middle of October till the end of February.

How to reach Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary

Rail: Madarihat, a small town located in the Alipurduar division of West Bengal is the entry point for Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.

Road: Jaldapara is connected by road with Siliguri and other places in North Bengal. North Bengal State Transport Corporation buses, Bhutan Government buses, minibuses are available from Siliguri to Alipurduar via Madarihat. Private Cars can also be hired at Siliguri town.

Air: Bagdogra is the nearest airport. (Approximately 140 Kms)

Places of accommodation

There are a few good accommodation facilities at Jaldapara. A couple of recommended ones are…

Hollong Tourist Lodge– It is only tourist bungalow situated within the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. Run and maintained by the West Bengal Tourism Dept.- It has very limited capacity with merely a few rooms but it is at the core of the forest and by far the best accommodation considering its location and viewpoint . The USP of this place is that it has its own Salt Pit which is merely about a hundred Mts. away from the bungalow.

Hollong Tourist Lodge

Photo of On trail of the One Horned Rhinoceros …. #wildlifeonearth by ABHISHEK SANYAL

Jaldapara Tourist Lodge, Madarihat – The Lodge is situated very near to the Madarihat Station and outside the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. It much bigger than Hollong tourist bungalow and has dormitories, conference halls and a variety of rooms including A/c and Non A/c. Run and maintained by the West Bengal Tourism Dept.- this lodge has a restaurant and one can also avail leisure activities at the Bar.

Jaldapara Tourist Lodge

Photo of On trail of the One Horned Rhinoceros …. #wildlifeonearth by ABHISHEK SANYAL
Day 1

As we reached our base at the Hollong Tourist Lodge – Jaldapara, our date was set up with man’s best friend in the jungles… Laxmi ,a retired patrolling Elephant, ready to take us deep inside the jungle.

Our mission was to track the rare One Horned Rhinoceros…

Introducing Laxmi… Our Partner in crime for today!

Meet Laxmi… over 90 years old and still going strong!!


Photo of On trail of the One Horned Rhinoceros …. #wildlifeonearth by ABHISHEK SANYAL

She has been a faithful employee of the forest department for a few decades now. Mind it… I use the word Employee as Laxmi’s efforts are billed full-time to the Forest Department and she enjoys all post superannuation benefits as well… a big thumbs up to the forest department guys for taking such good care of this gentle giant !!!

With us at ease atop her; she leisurely started venturing out deep into the forest… There were four Elephants in the group, including Laxmi – being the senior most and the group leader

“What’s the Route…?” Asked one of us to the mahout

“I do not know… It’s up to her (Laxmi) to decide” was his witty reply, with a smirk on his lips.

As she gradually penetrated deeper inside the forest, the eerie feeling of being atop an elephant slowly transformed into a thrilling one!

There you go… the first sighting… The Rare Himalayan Vulture


Photo of On trail of the One Horned Rhinoceros …. #wildlifeonearth by ABHISHEK SANYAL

The Himalayan Vulture or Himalayan Griffon Vulture (Gyps himalayensis) is an old world vulture in the family Accipitridae and is extremely rare to spot

How many Elephants do you have here? ”… asked one of us

“Four Females… for tourist safaris and a few more males for Jungle Patrolling, used by forest department officials”replied the mahout

“Why not male elephants’ for tourist safaris…?” we asked him

“Hahahaha…Coz you will not return home along with the Elephant, You’ll be left hanging from some tree…midway.., Males tend be very aggressive and are not used for tourist safaris” he said laughing out loud

Amidst this lovely conversation with the mahout , all of a sudden we detected the Elephants becoming quite animated, forceful and started making strange noises… much like heavy breathing ones

“The Elephants are talking amongst themselves… There is something ahead… might be a big animal. Watch Out...” The mahout said

As we emerged out from the shadows to an open area inside the jungle , we were astonished at what we saw in front of us….The Rare One Horned Rhinoceros

The One Horned Rhinoceros

Photo of On trail of the One Horned Rhinoceros …. #wildlifeonearth by ABHISHEK SANYAL

The highlight of Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary – The Asiatic One Horned Rhinoceros is right in front of us!

The Asiatic One Horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is also called Greater One-horned Rhinoceros and The Indian Rhinoceros) and belongs to the Rhinocerotidae family.

Photo of On trail of the One Horned Rhinoceros …. #wildlifeonearth by ABHISHEK SANYAL

Listed as a vulnerable species, the large mammal is primarily found in parts of north-eastern India and in protected areas in the Terai of Nepal, where populations are confined to the riverine grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Weighing about 3000 kilograms, it is the fourth largest land animal and has a single horn, which measures from 7.9 to 22 inches in length.

Laxmi - being the true darling that she was, made sure she went as close as possible to the mammoth Rhino; only so that I could manage the best shots of the one horned Rhinoceros that I possibly could have bargained for...

Photo of On trail of the One Horned Rhinoceros …. #wildlifeonearth by ABHISHEK SANYAL

As the gripping three-hour long safari culminated… we had to return to our base as the Elephants turned and made their way back to the Hollong Tourist Lodge.

Truly, atop an Elephant - a man’s best friend inside the jungle, a royal feeling of joy and exhilaration engrosses one’s mind as the gargantuan animal makes its way deep into the impenetrable forests, thereby making wildlife spotting more enjoyable and enthralling!!! A journey that is surely not to be overlooked if you ever plan to visit Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary

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