Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars

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It was a bright sunny day, and perfected to visit the Buxa tiger reserve forest. The word tiger lures many tourists to this forest, but as per the report, the sighting is rare. It’s not that the Tiger doesn’t exist, but the large expanse of the jungle with dense Sal trees gives the perfect hideout for tigers. Buxa reserve forest is one of the oldest settlements in North Bengal. With rich biodiversity and a great collection of rare orchids and medicinal plants. However, the most inaccessible terrain parts of Buxa hills are in the Sinchula range, which is still unexplored.

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
Way to Buxa Tiger Reserve

After a hearty breakfast, we drove towards Rajabhatkhawa – a small settlement at the fringe and the main entry to the Buxa tiger reserve forest. Rajabhatkhawa got its name from locals, as the folklore says that the king of Coochbehar once had his meals here. Since it’s the entry point, the tickets to enter the reserve forest has to be purchased from here. Hence we both got tickets for the Safari & drove the tarred roads that led to the core forest. 

Rajabhatkhawa Ticket counter

Upon entering the forest, the sound of cricket was deafening. Our forest guide confirmed that insects confused it at night since the forest was dark. Damn interesting! He further confirmed that wild elephant hardhats crossed from Bhutan & entered Buxa, so there is a high chance of witnessings them. I was elated upon hearing this, as I love elephants. 

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
Entrance to core Jungle

Upon crossing the Buxa more, we headed straight to Samtalabari- a small village from where the uphill trek starts for Buxa fort, which continues through Sinchula pass to Rupam Valley Bhutan. I was geared for my hike, took my water bottle, tightened my shoelaces & bought tickets from the village trek association & hired a guide.

Buxa More

 We drove to the foothills from the trek begins, and while climbing the steep uphill hike, I realised it was not easy. The route was steep at multiple stretches & full of loose rocks. I then understood the importance of the guide, who stretched his hand generously, helping all ladies trekkers to take support & move along.

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
Trek to Buxa fort

The viewpoint is 0.9km from the foothills, and along the way, there is a shaded resting area made for trekkers to sit & gather their breath. I reached the viewpoint and climbed the stone stairway to get the marvellous view of the five mountains stream that runs down to the plain, other than the canopy of trees of Buxa forest.

Buxa fort Viewpoint

I walked further ahead, enjoying the bountiful nature, from the flowing stream to wild orchids and the calmness of the serene forest. Along the way, I was lucky to find a tea stall & we halted for a hot cup, where our guide updated us that Buxa fort is located at an altitude of 2845ft, & the trek is 2.5km from the foothill. However, we will be able to see only the ruins. There is an exciting history behind the fort. 

Benches to Sit & relax

He continued this fort belonged to the King of Bhutan before being captured in 1865 by the Britishers. And Britishers used this fort to detain freedom fighters. Later, when Tibetan monks escaped Tibet due to the Chinese invasion in 1959, they used Buxa as a refugee camp. Subsequently, the fort was also used to imprison the members of the communist party.

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
Buxa Fort

While exploring the ruins of the Buxa fort, I entered the prison cell, where I saw a wall engraved with some words. The guide confirmed this was the reply to a letter from Rabindranath Tagore to the prisoners, which they wrote to him when he was in Darjeeling. I took some pictures & walked around the place for 20-25min before heading up to Lepchaka village.

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
Prison: Buxa fort

It was another 3km; I cross-checked with my Mom & Masi to see if we were good to take it. They were more than happy to continue as they were enjoying the wild forest. Our guide headed the route, & he said that this Village is inhabited by Drukpas, who are initially Bhutanese. But the view around the Village is stunning. We reached the place in an hour or so, & the panoramic view of the Buxa forest stupified me. I could also see the plains and several streams flowing down. It was a fantastic place to calm your sense.

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
View from Lepchaka Village

Upon reaching the foothills, we drove Buxa more & took a right turn and headed towards Jayanti. At a distance of 5km lies a small village named Jayanti along the bank of the Jayanti river. The Village is part of the Buxa reserve forest. Along the way, we crossed river Bala, which used to have a bridge that got collapsed. Only the ruins of pillars are left, though a reattempting to build the bridge is being done. But currently, we just drove across the river bed, which does not have water most of the year except for the monsoons.

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
Broken bridge on Bala river

The main attraction of Jayanti is the picturesque Jayanti river. Also known as the ‘Queen’ Of Dooars’, the river carves itself as a natural border between the hills of Bhutan and West Bengal. Upon reaching the spot, I could see a white rocky riverbed with a few thin threads of water stream flowing. Although the river bed was somewhat dry, the beauty was incredible. The place looked heavenly with the backdrop of Bhutan hills, dense Buxa forest, & a meandering river; the site looked heavenly.  

Jayanti River Bed

From the riverbed, many vehicles go up to the ChChennaiatchtower. However, we skipped the tower & drove towards Pokhari. The locals consider it a sacred place 4km from the Jayanti riverbed. The Pokhari lake was full of turtles & Magur fish, while the beauty of mother nature was alluring with forested hills & flowing rivers. I sat beside the lake, looking at the turtles and immersing in the natural surroundings. 

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
Pokhari Lake

There is another sacred place along the shores of the Jayanti river named Mahakal caves. It shares its natural border with Bhutan hills and is a favourite trekking destination from Buxa forest. Due to lack of time, we could not visit it. 

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
Jayanti River

It was almost our time for Safari; hence we drove back. As we entered the dense jungle, tall Sal trees marked routes. The Safari involves a 17km go through the jungle. The first spot was the nearby water body, where the forest guide confirmed that an elephant herd had just passed post-investigation. As we moved on the grassy land, a Bison jumped in front of our gipsy. And due to the sudden brakes, my head banged on the rods of the gipsy. I was petrified by the Bison gaze- alarming intruders- more than the pains, but he ran across. Pheww! that was a relief. 

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
Core jungle of Reserve forest

This Reserve has corridor connectivity across the border with the Phipsu Wildlife Sanctuary in North Bhutan. Spread over a vast area of 759sq km, on the lower foothill of the Himalayas,s where the terrain varies from plains to rugged hills of dense forest, majorly of Sal & Simur interspersed with Bamboo groves. The aura of the jungle, with millions of wild souls. It only comes to the heart rather than the eyes, as soaked in richness as they are. It was a soulful experience. 

Buxa Tiger Reserve:Exploring the Queen of Dooars
Trail of Sal trees

Buxa was declared the 15th tiger reserve in 1983. And due to its extensive biodiversity, the Reserve became a National Park in 1992. Earlier it was well known for its dolomite mining, but it was stopped post the announcement of the  Reserve. The drive through the forest was thrilling & scary, as one needed to be alert to wildlife. Over the walkie-talkies, it was confirmed that  18 elephants herd are at the saltlick of 26 miles.

Ourgipsyy was turned toward the  26thmile, and we drove past the jungle to reach the site. I was astonished by the persona of the wildness. Most of the elephants had left, but there was a mother elephant & with her kids still sucking salt. I quietly went upstairs and sat down, watching this wildlife beauty in wonder. It was getting dark & the howling of barking deer started. Our guide suggested a leopard be nearby. He requested us to leave as the forest was not safe at night.

We drove back to Buxa, where our vehicle was waiting for us. The jungle was a chorus of green that sang the hymn of creation’s soul. With threads of divine dreams, I drove back to my resort. Upon reaching, dinner was served, and my bed called me for a peaceful sleep after a venturesome day.

How to Reach.

By Air: 

The nearest airport is Bagdogra; from the airport, hire taxis to reach Lataguri, Murti or Jaldapada.

By Rail:

The Alipurduar is the nearest railway station to Dooars. You can get off at New Mal Junction, closest to Gorumara National forest. Murti & Lataguri is 17km from the station. Suppose travelling to Jaldapada, better to get off at Hasimara station, as the distance is just 11km or Madarihat, which is only 7 km. And for Buxa Tiger Reserve Alipur Daur, Rajabhakhawa, the entry point to the forest is only 11kms. Another alternative is NJP since it’s well connected with major railway heads. You need to hire private cabs or take a shared taxi from the station to reach these destinations.

By Road:

Dooars is well-connected via road with NJP station & CoochBehar. Buses, private cabs, and shared taxis ply to Lataguri, Murti, Jaldapada, Hasimara, Mal Bazaar & Rajabhakhawa. You can also take a private cab or a shared taxi.


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