I have been to Dooars a couple of times, with family, with friends and with office colleagues. People often mistake Dooars to be a single forest location but in reality, it’s quite a huge zone with many individual forest zones and small hill towns which one can visit during day trips.
It was in the year 2011 that I somehow managed to convince my seniors to have our office annual All India IT Conference at Dooars and to make it much better we managed to get a very good forest resort at a steal considering an offseason.
Things were on track and we were in for a surprise when we landed in New Jalpaiguri Station as we could see Kangchenjunga range from the station itself. This was a record of a sort since in my many visits in the past this was the first time I had seen it so clearly and that too from the station.
The schedule was for a two days of official planning and discussion and the last day was dedicated for local sightseeing. The two days of office work was really stretched and we finished them by midnight leaving us little rest so most of us were looking forward to the last day.
The place where we were staying was at that time known as Rose Valley Resort (now known as Chocolate Hotels and Resorts) and was the only resort right next to the Gorumara forest. Its beautiful location was equally complimented by the wonderful landscaping around the resort. Being right at the edge of the forest we were asked not to venture out at night as there were chances of an encounter with wild elephants.
Somehow all of us were actually hoping to see wild elephants in the forest, this is the reason why our local sightseeing was cancelled and we opted to go deeper and selected to visit Jaldapara – Holong – Chilapata. All these places are said to be hotbeds for elephant sighting.
Unlike my other visit to this region somehow for the first time, I managed to see very few wildlife, the only real wildlife we spotted was a lone Leopard during one of the forest safaris. That too it vanished within few seconds, we tried our level best to track it down but couldn’t.
As far as elephants, we did see several but all captive tamed elephants which are kept under the watchful eyes of the forest department. However the scenic beauty of the Dooars is unparalleled to any other forests in India, it has its own charm which mesmerises me every time I visit it.
Disheartened we pack our bags for our return trip to Kolkata, we had our tickets from New Jalpaiguri station thus needed to drive back to Siliguri from Lataguri. There are different routes back to Siliguri and we opted to return via the Coronation Bridge as it’s quite beautiful.
It was evening and the sun was about to set beyond the horizon, our short trip was finally over and we were returning to our home. We were travelling in two separate SUV’s as were twelve in number, the vehicle that I was travelling in was in front while the other one was a bit behind us.
It’s a practice that I follow to always have my cameras around my neck during such long drives as I keep clicking along the way. It may be my intuition somehow that I preferred to take the seat behind the driver so as to have a clear view of the incoming traffic.
The journey was going smooth and then my driver suddenly saw the vehicle coming from the other direction in the distance using his cars headlight dipper function. My driver being very experienced slowed down as he was expecting something which the car coming towards him wanted to be aware of. The driver whispered that it must be the luggage tied above the roof which might have come loose and the driver from the other direction may be alerting him to this.
And then it happened…. Suddenly my driver slammed his brakes and uttered “Elephants….elephants….elephants”. Before we could understand anything we were completely surrounded by a herd of wild elephants. The other car which was travelling behind us had braked far away.
Luckily for me since I have my cameras with me I started taking photographs and shooting videos. Suddenly I hear a loud sound of a trumpet and I realised it was the elephant right in front of me suddenly change course and dashed towards me. I somehow managed to run back to the safety of the car and stayed inside. Luckily for me the elephant did not come all the way but was just showing its strength, its then I realised that there was another female elephant on the other side of the road completely hidden behind a tree and to accompany her was another young baby elephant. The elephants were actually trying to protect the little baby elephants that’s why they were so aggressive.
We waited for some time till all the elephant cross the road and after all of them have crossed did we finally proceed. This was perhaps the best way to see wild elephants, really wild and in the real wild forests of Gorumara. All our previous disappointments of not seeing much wildlife during this trip were completely erased as this was something which I would never forget in my life.