Break From the Law travel blog

The pond at Holumba Haven.

Holumba Haven Guesthouse.

Holumba Haven Guesthouse.

Holumba Haven Guesthouse.

The bus we rode today from Kalimpong to the Jaldapura Wildlife Sanctuary.

I am lifting Vikki's backpack up to the roof of the bus.

An old building at the bus terminal.

A statue of Gandhi at the bus terminal.

Bicycle rickshaw drivers photographed during our bus ride today through the West...

We drove past many tea plantations today during our drive through the...

Bicycle rickshaw driver we spotted during our bus break in the West...

Our bus took a break here while driving through the West Bengal...

Rhino statute in front of the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.

Registering at the entrance of the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary this afternoon.

Vikki and I at the onset of today's afternoon jeep safari at...

We saw this Indian one horned rhino from our jeep while on...

We saw this Indian one horned rhino from our jeep. A fascinating...

We saw this Indian one horned rhino from our jeep. A fascinating...

We saw this Indian one horned rhino from our jeep. A fascinating...

Typical landscape in a part of the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.

Wildlife obervation tower in Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary which we went up in...

Me, Vikki & the couple from Calcutta with whom we shared our...

Vikki & I on a low level of one of the observation...


This morning we took a rustic bus from Kalimpong that was heading to Jaigon, the Indian city that borders the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing. However, we did not to proceed all the way to Jaigon today. Rather, we are taking a breather here at the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary in an area known as the Dooars before we continue on to Jaigon the day after tomorrow to cross the border there over into Bhutan. The Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary is renown as one of the best places in India to spot the rare one horned rhinoceros on safari, and we wanted to try and see one while we are in the area.

Today's bus journey to here from Kalimpong proved to be a beautiful and scenic drive through a region known as the Dooars. Whereas Darjeeling and Sikkim - and Kalimpong, albeit to a much lesser degree - had much more of an “Asian” feel to them, driving through the Dooars felt like we had been dropped smack dab in the middle of vintage India. The local residents again became more Indian as opposed to Asian in appearance, bicycle taxis began to appear and villages along the road took on an Indian feel in their outlay and vibe. What must have been dozens of tea plantations lined the road. For the first time in weeks, we felt like we were really in India.

As luck would have it, the entrance to the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary - which lay on the outskirts of the West Bengali town of Madirhat, and the government-run Jaldapara Tourist Lodge - were both within only about 200 meters of the two lane highway we were traversing this afternoon. At around 2 p.m., some 5 hours after leaving Kalimpong, our bus driver stopped directly in front of the small road leading to the tourist lodge, climbed onto the top of the bus and unloaded our bags. We walked over to the Jaldapara Tourist Lodge and learned that not only did they had space for us, but that we could also do a jeep safari this afternoon leaving shortly thereafter at 2:50 p.m. Better still yet, the jeep safari would cost each of us the equivalent of about US$4.00 per person - and that was with us paying the higher rates charged to foreigners. Having paid through the nose on numerous safaris in Africa, this came as a very pleasant surprise.

So less than an hour after stepping off the bus, we found ourselves in the back of a jeep with an Indian couple - BK and his wife from Calcutta - driving along the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary’s dirt roads in search of wildlife. Our timing was impeccable!

On the initial part of our game drive, we saw a number of spotted deer, peafowl and other birds. The routes for the jeeps within the sanctuary are limited, and a good portion of the safari consists of driving from one observation tower to the next. After about an hour inside the park, however, from the vantage point of an observation tower we observed several one horned rhinoceros in the grasslands adjacent to the tower. The real highlight, however, came toward the end of our game drive when we saw - from a distance of perhaps only 10 or 15 meters away - a one horned rhino standing in a clearing. The rhino seemed to remain in place for some time, providing us with several minutes to observe it in detail and snap numerous photographs.

This evening I am writing this entry from the comfort of our room at the Jaldapara Tourist Lodge. The rooms are quite nice, with each room having a flat screen TV as well as a panoply of cable channels. For the equivalent of less than US$30, foreign guests get a room and full board (i.e., 3 meals per day) for 2 people. Indian citizens pay even less than that. Quite a bargain!

We are heading out on an elephant safari early tomorrow morning. That will be a first for me!



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