Visiting the Dooars region and not visiting Gorumara National Park would be like visiting Agra and not visiting Taj Mahal. Gorumara is one of the main tourist attractions when it comes to the tourism around Doors region. Most of the hotels, resorts and jungle lodges are located around Lataguri which is in a stone throw distance from the Dooars safari entry points.
My first encounter with Gorumara was in the year 2011 when I went for the first planned holiday with my family which included my wife and my one and a half-year-old daughter. Since my daughter was quite small thus all my planning’s were kept in mind that my young daughter needed to be fed and rested at regular interval else if she falls sick our holiday will no longer be fun. This is the same reason all the sightseeing tours and the safari tours were planned on separate days giving ample time for us to prepare well.
I have already mentioned about my earlier blogs about the day tour you can do in your Dooars tour, in case you have missed them you can check them out here:-
These are not the only ones as there are few more but since I have not visited them thus have not blogged about them yet, will keep adding to the list as and when I visit them.
Coming back to Gorumara it’s quite a dense forest, spread across 80 square kilometres this park is a designated Indian National Park. We took the train and got down at New Mal Junction which one of the nearest rail head to Gorumara. Our accommodation was booked at Tuskers Den which was just a walk away from the main forest office.
If you are planning for a safari at Gorumara then the best timing would be either in the early hours of the morning or in the evening. Animals usually rest during the peak day time and are difficult to spot.
As per new guidelines, no diesel vehicles are allowed into the park and you have to hire Maruti Gypsy which has open hood and are perfect for safari. These are easy to spot as all of them are green in colour. Normally the rates are fixed for the safari so you do not have to bargain much. Just check with a couple of them to ensure you are getting the right bargain.
Once finalised the safari vehicle will take you to the forest office where you need to purchase a safari permit. Along with this, you have to take a guide. The charges for the guides are fixed and mentioned in the rate chart. Apart from this you also need to buy tickets for your cameras. Please note that for video cameras the rates are different and needs to be purchased additionally. To sum it all you need to hire a safari vehicle, hire a guide, buy park entry tickets and buy camera tickets.
There are different entry points to Gorumara and this is where the guide comes into the picture, it’s his responsibility to take you to the Rhinos or Elephants the main attraction of the safari. Unfortunately, most of the guards are ceremonial in nature and have no clue whatsoever. This is where you need to tweak a little bit, promise them a good tip if they manage to show elephants and rhinos. What they usually do is to call up the forest office on their cell phone and take the report on the last sighting and thus take you to the spot.
Once the vehicle enters the forest you will feel the real difference, all around you will see tall trees and shrubs. It’s so dense here that even if an elephant is standing right next to you it would be impossible to see them. Gorumara itself is quite a large forest area thus, it has much more to offer than elephants and rhinos, you will see various species of birds, monkeys and of course creepy crawly insects.
There are several small streams and the best bet to have an animal sighting would be near them as most would come for a drink. If you book the Gorumara Forest Bungalow belonging to West Bengal Government then the added advantage is that you will be able to spend the night inside the forest which is an experience in its own. No other hotels or resorts give you that feeling at night. Additionally, you will be able to go on Elephant Safari which is only conducted by the forest department and priority is given to its residents before others.
There are also several Watch Towers from where you can get a panoramic view of the forest and rivers in front and your best chance of spotting animals. Spending some time at the tower is also recommended.
As mentioned earlier about tipping the guide to show elephants and rhinos well unfortunately or fortunately our guide could not manage to track any wild elephants on his own so on the offer of being tipped he called another experienced guide called Thapa who happens to have a close relationship with the local officer. Thapa tells our guide that the main elephant herd is not in the forest area and has come out to a village nearby.
At once our safari jeep drove towards the village and after driving for a couple of minutes we reached a point beyond which the vehicle could not go. Thapa the experienced guide was standing there and pointed us to a field nearby. With no demarcated paths, I started running with my camera amongst the tall grass followed by my wife. What I noticed later that my daughter was not with my wife’s but instead Thapa the senior guide was carrying her on his shoulders so that we could run and catch a glimpse of the elephant herd.
Next, what I saw is beyond what my photographs and this blog can explain, a big herd of elephants rampaging through the village outskirts and have come inside the cultivated lands for food. The bigger male elephants were in the outer periphery guarding the herd and the female elephants along with the baby elephants were in the centre.
The villagers were using firecrackers to keep them away, it was a site straight out of a movie. The villagers were loading cracker bombs in a slingshot and lighting them and throwing them towards the elephants. With each of the blast, the elephants were trumpeting showing their displeasure.
The local villagers were asking us to keep a distance and to keep a clear path to run back if the elephants decide to attack. We were at a safe distance but in front of the majestic elephants always felt small.
In the meantime, the forester had arrived along with is assistants. The forester looked exactly like Shikari Shambhu minus the hat. Wearing a magenta shirt and a Double Barrel .375 Magnum slung on his shoulder. Apparently whenever the elephants enter the village outer limit it’s the duty of the forest officer to come to the spot and check the situation. They are not allowed to shoot the elephants and mostly use warning shots to scare them away.
All this while the forester did not notice me and suddenly he turned towards me and shouted “Who are you? What on earth are you doing here? Do you think this is a safari? These are wild elephants on the rampage, please stand back along with your family”.
Then he looked towards Thapa, “And you must be the one with the most brilliant of idea to bring tourist here..” Sheepishly Thapa managed the situation by talking his way out confirming that he really is the boss when it comes to guides at Gorumara.
Finally, the safari was over and we saw much more than what we had bargained for, Thapa was specially tipped for his service along with the promised tip to our original guide. The safari was over but the memory stayed on forever. Hope you have enjoyed my Dooars series of blogs, keep watching this space will be back with more such adventures.